6,000 km in 60 Days: How Joerg Used Cycling to Bring People Together
Joerg is the Managing Director of IBM’s Client Innovation Center (CIC) in Germany. He’s responsible for turning the wheels of the CIC into higher gear, from creating strategic direction and building the right talent team, to running the day-to-day operations for our clients, with a focus on nurturing an inclusive culture where everyone can bring their authentic selves to work.
Between the 30th of April and the 1st of July, Joerg cycled a whopping 6,000 km in just 60 days. Throughout this time Joerg connected with 10 countries including Germany, Austria, Italy, and Sweden (just to name a few!) and visited 14 IBM locations, where he hosted “Come Together” sessions for fellow IBMers to meet and mingle and partake in cycling activities.
Joerg set out to organize a variety of events for IBMers to network and give back, including these Come Together cycling sessions, along with a Peace Tour and a Sustainability Tour. Joerg was motivated to bring IBMers together given how much time was missed interacting socially during the global pandemic. The Peace Tour say groups of IBMers protest the war in Ukraine and collected donations for Ukrainian people, while the Sustainability Tour highlighted the urgency to protect our planet against CO2 emissions, which is why Joerg chose to cycle rather than using regular motorized transport.
We recently spoke to Joerg about his inspiring journey.
What inspired this idea?
The original reason for my two month-leave of absence was due to a message I received from my father before Christmas. He told me he was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and was only given six months to live. I had planned to spend the last few months with him, but sadly he passed unexpectedly before I had a chance to go back. I already had my leave of absence approved, so I brainstormed what I could do in this time that would help me, our colleagues, and IBM as a whole. This is where I came up with the idea to cycle.
What motivated you to make this idea a reality?
As the global pandemic continued on, it continued to create separation of our IBMers due to remote working and reduction of social contacts. I wanted to do something that would inspire people to come together, and the best way I thought I could do this was with live meetups, activities, and events in our European countries to encourage IBMers to join and celebrate our Come Together gathering.
Alongside helping to nurture our work relationships face-to-face, I thought I would take advantage of this opportunity and protest the war in Ukraine and collect donations for the Ukrainian people during a time of hardship. I also spent time emphasizing the urgency to protect our planet against CO2 emission, and I can proudly say I saved 1.86 tons of CO2 during my trip!
What were the biggest challenges you faced, physically or psychologically?
The biggest challenge was crossing the Alps between Milan and Bern. In only one day, I crossed three passes: St Gotthard (2107 m), Furka (2430 m) and Grimsel (2165 m). I was able to complete this through a combination of technical assets, physical condition, and mental strength. During the climb on the Furka and Grimsel, I was alone because the road was not open for motor vehicles, which was very challenging both physically and emotionally.
Fortunately, I did not run into any big issues that would have delayed my visits to our other IBM locations. I only experienced normal breakdowns such as changing tires, brakes, chains, and a few repairs due to minor mishaps.
What was it like to meet your peers from other IBM locations who you only knew from video meetings?
It was amazing to meet them and their teams in-person! I knew some of them only from Webex. Every location had organized a warm welcome for me when I arrived. Everywhere I went, I met very positive and friendly people who wanted to know more about my journey and how they could support me. It was so inspiring!
This reflects our IBM culture of inclusion and belonging, and I’m very proud to be a part of it.
Did you have support from individuals both inside and outside of IBM?
Definitely! I posted a lot of what I was doing on my LinkedIn account, including my current position and the locations I visited, as a way to spread awareness. It was very motivating for me to read all the supportive comments and feel the interaction I was getting in real time.
My ride was also very visible in the app we use at IBM to communicate with colleagues, and I received a ton of positive reactions about the tour. IBMers are always so supportive, which is just one of the many reasons why I love working for IBM. It truly feels like we are one big, welcoming family.
Do you think your journey inspired other colleagues to undertake similar challenges?
I hope so! My intention was to inspire people to do the same. and duplicate this approach in their countries. I was very happy to see this in Italy; our colleagues there used the approach (t-shirts, logos and branding, etc.) for their own bike ride event in June in Bari. It was so great to hear it was a big success!
Do you think this bike ride helped you professionally and personally?
For sure! I think the combination of sports, fun, a huge sense of accomplishment, and being able to do things together with fellow IBMers was amazing. It was an ambitious challenge for myself, and I was happy to complete all the requirements.
Beside the experience of conquering many challenges with hard work and ambition, it was fantastic to meet fellow IBMers in 14 locations across Europe and share experiences and rejoice how great IBM is to work for.
We are IBM and we are proud to be IBMers!
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