Callum Thomas

Chief Executive Officer

Thomas Thor Associates

July 21, 2021

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Ep 324: Callum Thomas - Chief Executive Officer, Thomas Thor Associates
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Bret Kugelmass
We are here today with Callum Thomas, who is the CEO of Thomas Thor. Callum, welcome to Titans of Nuclear.

Callum Thomas
Thanks, Bret. Thanks for having me.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, so you know, as we do on these episodes, we'd love to get to know you a little bit, how you got into the industry. But let's just start off with where you grew up.

Callum Thomas
I grew up in the UK, about one hour north of London place called Milton Keynes, which is not a very famous city, but a lot of Formula One teams actually were based around there. So that's probably the thing it's most famous for, yeah, the middle of kind of the South of England.

Bret Kugelmass
And do you know what that town like historically? With UK towns, it's always so interesting to hear their history, because some of them are just so old, and get back to different industry focuses. Do you know what the historical industry was there?

Callum Thomas
Well, Milton Keynes is a new city built in 1975. But there's a village which it took the name from, but I know not much, not much, I don't think is famous for in history. But the area is near North Hampton, which is famous for making shoes back centuries ago. So there's quite an industrial area, but they decided to build a new city that was halfway between London and Birmingham. So that's where I grew up.

Bret Kugelmass
And where do you start to study?

Callum Thomas
I went to- so I did like a finance and business degree, not really knowing exactly what I wanted to do and so it seemed like a good general thing. I think I knew I'd start my own business at some point. But how I was going to get there and when, I really didn't know. It seemed like a safe thing to study to give me options.

Bret Kugelmass
Where did your early career take you then?

Callum Thomas
After university, I went to work for a big recruiting company in London, which is international. I was there for 10 years, so I did four startups for them in different countries and in Europe, and had a great time really learning the business for 10 years, and starting in London, and then Amsterdam after that. That was my first 10 years.

Bret Kugelmass
When you said you did four startups for them, what does that mean?

Callum Thomas
They were a recruiting company working in different sectors, including energy, but also pharmaceutical, IT, some public sector work as well, government work. So they would build businesses in different countries to access those markets and I was one of the people building these companies in different countries in Europe.

Bret Kugelmass
I when you say building, you're like adding staff, you're trying to- where did you sit in terms of, is it how to add staff or strategically who to add? Or where does that come into play?

Callum Thomas
Yeah, well, I guess there's the internal aspect, which is building the team of people to do the recruiting and go out and build the relationships. And then there's the service delivery itself, which is working out what an industry needs, and then meeting the needs. So there's, I mean, related to human resources, is there a skill shortage? Is there a diversity issue? Are they looking to hire internationally? Are they looking to attract more people into the industry? What are the challenges? What are the rare skills that they're looking for that are struggling to find? And then how do we find those? And then doing the legwork to go and find those people and then providing that as a service to the industry.

Bret Kugelmass
Can you tell me about a particular period of time or a set of activities that you had to take on that was particularly challenging in this regard? But was there a specific industry or specific company that you were just having a really tough time but figured out how to battle through it?

Callum Thomas
Yeah, I mean, in the early years, it was it was really, I mean, I started my career in 1999. When I came in the tech sector, it was absolutely booming. And then it was just about finding enough people. There was just a massive shortage of people and there were so many companies trying to grow from scratch or trying to grow their tech startups that there was just a struggle to find people. Then it was a case of looking internationally and bringing people from other countries where they've got the skills they need, and then bring them to wherever it was the UK or the Netherlands or the US or Canada. There's always, there seems to always be a solution to the talent shortages. It's just a case of how flexible can you be? Can you bring people from other countries? Can you bring people from other industries? Are you willing to provide some training? Or do you need people to be up and running immediately? And of course, most organizations, they want someone who's 100% perfect for the job who can hit the ground running who is an amazing cultural fit as well. And, unfortunately, in competitive industries, it's not really possible. Something has to give. But often it can be just taking a wider view, and hiring different people from different places and then train them up into your industry. And that's a lot of the work we do is working out, okay, so if the perfect people are not growing on trees, then what's the next best thing you can do? How can you bring people in and which other industries have got compatible skills that we can cross-train into nuclear in this case.

Bret Kugelmass
You mentioned nuclear. When did nuclear first came across your radar?

Callum Thomas
Well, I mean, I hadn't really, I'd obviously heard of nuclear energy. But before I started, Thomas Thor, I didn't really know much about it. When I started my company, I wanted to do something that was doing something good for the world and clean energy was something I was really interested in. I assumed that it would be wind and solar, that's where the demand would be. I mean, with everything in the media and in the public psyche about renewables, I just assumed there must be millions of jobs in this area and there must be a real problem to find the best people. And this is in 2009, when we started the business, and it just wasn't the case. A lot of companies in wind and solar were subsidy-driven and they were hiring a lot of people early in their career. They were- their main kind of jobs were in manufacturing and installation, and then some maintenance. So there wasn't this huge density of experts required. There were loads of people rushing to work in the industry, and the companies, they amazingly kept on going bankrupt. Germany put a load of money into solar and then companies kept going bankrupt. When we took away the subsidies, they couldn't stand on their own. So I started to look at renewables and I go, well that doesn't make sense. That's not where our business is going to be. I looked at other forms of clean energy, and very quickly found nuclear and just realized that it was just a huge, huge opportunity. It just ticked all the boxes. It's a truly global industry full of experts with skill shortages and high mobility of people in the industry, and it's creating low carbon electricity. It just seemed like the ideal place. The more I researched into it, the more I looked into it, the more I kind of realized this is where the destiny was taking us.

Bret Kugelmass
Amazing. And how come you decided to start your own firm? What was going on in your life that lead to that conclusion that that was right next step for you?

Callum Thomas
Well, I think when I was seven years old, I knew I was going to start my own business. I was already kind of doing it when I was at school, so it was always my path. But to start in this particular area, I think it's just, I spent 10 years in a company which was extremely successful, but it was transaction driven. Much of the staffing executive search recruiting industry is transaction driven and it isn't as professional as it should be in many countries. I just felt that was just a shame. My approach was always relationship driven. I knew if I really wanted to do it, how I thought it should be done, then I needed to start my own company. And so that's basically what we've done. I'd learned the ropes. I always knew I was going to start a company and it was just taking what I learned adding in the bits that I thought were kind of missing and then then off I go.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, but you make it seem easy. I mean, you were at your previous company for 10 years. That is not an easy decision to go off and do your own thing. I mean, there's risk involved. Where were you living at the time? Did you end up moving? I want to hear about the struggle.

Callum Thomas
I moved from London to Amsterdam to start a business for them here in Amsterdam. Do you know what, for some reason - and I know because I speak to a lot of people and certain people helped me when I started my business that I'm really, I spend a lot of time and effort helping others that are starting their businesses is really important to me - and for some reason, because it seemed to be my path, it wasn't really a struggle. I kind of knew two years out that I was going to do it, so I prepared for it, financially prepared to give myself some time to create a business plan and not be under pressure. I think it could be extremely stressful to start a business and be on the clock, where the clock is ticking, that you have to have the income coming in, it has to succeed. That's incredibly stressful. So I tried to give myself at least a year to get through that point. And I just did- my approach to everything has always been ask people. If I can't find someone else who's done something that I'm trying to do, then there's something wrong. Am I truly a pioneer doing something for the very first time? Or is there something wrong with what I'm trying to do, and I take the same approach. I spoke to everyone I could possibly speak to, in all generations, about starting businesses and just listen to their experience and what went well, and what they would have done differently. And then when I wrote the business plan, it just felt right. I then teamed up with… who are the two of the other founders and then we got cracking in the beginning of 2010. What was tough at the beginning was I didn't really know that much about nuclear in 2009. I knew it was a form of clean energy. I knew that it had huge advantages and that it had a massive reputation issue. And it was quite, it felt like quite a closed industry, I think at the beginning trying to get in and get trusted. And I think, reflecting, probably the first five years of our business was spent building trust, building our reputation, becoming known and becoming known as an organization that is credible. Took a while. And I actually quite like that in a way, because it gave barriers to entry. But your question about challenges the beginning, that was a challenge. I remember going to the first nuclear event and it being quite intimidating, really, not really knowing anyone and not really having spent- they all seemed to have known each other for decades. And now I know that's actually the truth. So it took a while to crack that, but I just took the approach of finding friends in the industry and getting their opinion. I hadn't spent decades in the industry, but I built relationships with people who had, and then they've kindly gave me their insights and their perspectives. And that kind of kept me on the right track.

Bret Kugelmass
Tell me, I mean, so you started off with a few co-founders. What were the types of roles that you were looking to place initially? When was your- how deep into the journey was your first real success that you could hang your hat on? And also, how did you answer the question when you're trying to offer your services, but you haven't made that first nuclear placement? How do you answer the question from the customer? Like, have you done this before? How do you build trust?

Callum Thomas
Good question. We only work in the nuclear industry. That is 100% of what we do, so we gave ourselves no choice. We knew it was gonna be difficult. We knew that other organizations do nuclear and other things and a lot of them can't be bothered with nuclear, because it's just hard, things take a while, and compared to the other industries they might recruit for, it's hard work. We gave ourselves no choice. That was one thing, but you're right. I mean, I remember going into our first clients and yeah, we had to tell them, We're new, but we've basically identified there's a huge opportunity. We are experts in recruitment. There was nobody, no organization focusing on just nuclear, serving the nuclear industry in the world. So it makes sense that we bring these skills that we've honed across other industries, and focused them 100% like a laser in the nuclear industry. Some people decided to take a chance on us. At the beginning, some didn't, and now they do. So we had to earn that.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, of course. What were the initial roles? Were they business roles, were they technical roles?

Callum Thomas
Well, normally, because at the beginning, we've gone out and said, Look, just try it. Try us out. And so, of course, they would try us out on the hardest possible roles. I'm sure they won't mind me mentioning, but one of our first clients was in Belgium, part of the ENGIE group, Tractebel. They sent us out to find out safety case analysts who were able to speak different languages, work in different countries. It was like a wish list of a pretty impossible combination. And we managed to find some of these people.

Bret Kugelmass
Were they from outside the industry? I mean, often now is that your strategy? Or you found people inside the industry?

Callum Thomas
No, with the safety case, they had to have the nuclear experience, that's what made them particularly difficult. Whereas other areas, some of the areas in management, some of the areas in I&C, for example, as a technical area, we can get people from outside of the industry, but often-

Bret Kugelmass
It's interesting, just to dive into that point a little bit, that they had to be within the nuclear industry, because I feel like there are plenty of other industries that have to produce really thorough safety documentation, such as the airline industry, or even like oil and gas doing some offshore platform stuff, or just in general, I guess oil and gas. I know nuclear loves to tout the safety, but other industries do this, too. They tout the safety, they say, No, no, that's our number one priority, we're going to start off every meeting with a safety meeting. And then, no matter even if they're nuclear, they can't be an expert in every aspect of nuclear safety. There's going to be something that they focused on in their career, the containment building, or health physics, or systems, or probabilistic risk assessment. It seems like, even for a safety case manager or analyst, you could really pull from outside the industry, train them up on that the specific nuclear aspect that still apply the best practice from wherever they came from.

Callum Thomas
Yeah, you're right, you're right. But the preference of organizations is to have someone who fits 100% of their criteria. A lot of our time is spent taking a list of 16 absolutely essential criteria for the person, and then trying to work out which of the three that are really essential. Often having previous nuclear experience is one that starts off in essential bracket and isn't necessarily essential. But there are, I mean, probably the safety case, some of that work, where they've worked with the regulator, and they've written safety cases before in nuclear for the regulator in that country. It's pretty hard to convince that you can bring someone else in. Of course you can cross-train, but then it just takes more time. I was gonna say, so basically when we were getting started, we were tested out on all of these virtually impossible people to find, and then we just buckled down and managed to find a few of them, enough of them to kind of say, okay, we haven't seen that before so thank you. And then we built the relationships from there and got more kind of bigger relationships, and quite frankly, slightly easier assignments.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, of course. And then with these big companies, I assume that they've got quite a few staffing needs. Is the idea that, if you're able to do one for them, then they've got five more ready to go that month, or it takes a while to build trust? It's like, okay, we'll give you one here, three months later we'll give you one there.

Callum Thomas
Yeah, it depends. It really depends on how many people they need, and also depends on how hard they are to find, because if an organization can use their own methods, their own internal function, or advertise and find people, then that's the preferred route. Whereas, if they're struggling to find people, then they'll come to us. They may try it themselves first, and then come to us afterwards. That quite often happens, which means it can go in kind of fits and starts sometimes. But yeah, it depends on the type. If there's a new build project, roles can come through like 50 or 80 a time. And if it's a smaller organization, it can be one or two a year. It really depends on the organization.

Bret Kugelmass
The first example you mentioned was European-based. You're based in Europe. I assume that you serve nationwide, but how long did it take before you moved from a more local model to a more global model?

Callum Thomas
Pretty early, really, because we recognized that this is a global industry. And that we needed to be a differentiator, that we could stand by, in that we have these global capabilities. First five years, we were based here in Amsterdam. Now we have offices in UK, Finland, France, the UAE, Canada and the US. Now we're quite spread out.

Bret Kugelmass
How many people work for you right now?

Callum Thomas
It's just under 100 people.

Bret Kugelmass
Absolutely amazing.

Callum Thomas
Just working- I mean, our mission is building and sustaining the global nuclear workforce, so we have 100 people whose entire days, months, years are focused on bringing people to the nuclear industry, from other industries or recruiting people from within the pool that exists.

Bret Kugelmass
What a success story. Between you and your partners, how did you divvy up responsibility in those early days and then at what point did you personally take a step back from the like, I have to actually roll up my sleeves and do the recruiting myself to I can now manage and grow a team and have other people do the cold calling?

Callum Thomas
Yeah, I mean, I feel like I've done every single job in the organization, because I tend to do a job and then hire someone to do that job and then backfill. At the beginning, I was running all of our back office and finance function, and my colleagues were going out and meeting people in the nuclear sector. And then the next big thing I was leading was around our resourcing capability. If we're promising people we can find the experts that are hard to find, we need to develop a world class machine to be able to do that. A huge amount of work went into developing a global resourcing function to uncover these people with rare skills and look into which other industries, like you just said, looking into industries like aerospace, or rail and places like that, looking at some of these other huge infrastructure projects, where we can get people. A lot of that work goes in in there. But at the beginning, we were all doing everything, really. And then as we got a little bit bigger, my focus became very much external focused, talking to people in the industry and understanding what the challenges are around human resources, and then working out what we could do to support.

Bret Kugelmass
Tell me about that a little bit, because I'm sure the challenges changed from 2009 to 2010 timeframe for a whole bunch of reasons. I mean, because first they thought there was going to be a Renaissance and then Fukushima. Let's fast forward past those early days and talk about maybe the last five years. What are the pressing challenges today? What are the trends that you see in terms of hiring and moving people around?

Callum Thomas
Yeah, it's interesting, because we started in 2009, '10, so the word "renaissance" was the word of the moment, and then Fukushima hit and a lot of people took a step back. And now it turns out 10 years on that actually, that was an amazing example of how safe nuclear is, but it took the world a while to see that, yeah, as you well know. And it caused a lot of a lot of upsets. I mean, we were on the verge of a huge piece of work to support the Swiss new build program, which is gathering pace there. It was quite a developed organization that was starting to look at the new build, and about to really ramp up and then they stopped. And they haven't started it back ever since. Yeah, you're right, after Fukushima, there were a few years where it was really, I guess, public perception was kind of recovering. And it really has, it did recover quite quickly, actually. But it was quite a difficult time, I think, for the nuclear industry. In the last five years, I mean, I've been tracking it now for 12 years very, very, very closely and I've never seen so much enthusiasm, support for nuclear, as I do now.

Bret Kugelmass
Globally, you're saying globally.

Callum Thomas
Globally, yeah. And it's not just people from the nuclear industry - which it has been historically now - it's all kinds of people with environmental motivations, or political motivations, or economic motivations are thinking, Okay, this is a solution. If you can iron out some of the challenges, then it's a massive solution. I think in the last five years, your question, what kind of themes in the last five years, I think the industry still struggles with a branding issue, which has come up in a lot of your podcasts, I know. And people think that you need to persuade people to join the nuclear industry or support, but from a human resources point of view, we don't find ourselves trying to persuade people, Oh, it's a good industry, you really need to join. When we start talking to people who have got experience in technical industries or regulated or safety-conscious industries, they already know about nuclear. They may have not spent any time looking into it, really, but they know it's there and they are very open-minded. We've actually had a lot of success attracting people in from other industries. The issue is nobody knows about it. The human resource, the theme is that the industry is great operating in its own world, but just a lot of people don't know about it.

Bret Kugelmass
Okay. So we were talking about, I want to pull apart two things that you were saying there, because one of them is that, to bring technical people who are outside the nuclear industry, there's not much convincing that needs to happen. I can actually see how it's quite easy to convince a like a steam process engineer from oil and gas to go over to nuclear. They get it, they understand systems. They were never really afraid of it to begin with. I think the more important critical roles, which I think you were alluding to a minute ago, is this marketing and branding aspect, where I think it's even more critical that we bring outside skill sets into the nuclear industry, because nuclear industry has historically just been so terrible at communicating their value to the world. And I've got different theories on why that is, some of it, I think, is by design. But I'm wondering, it's like, okay, either way, it doesn't matter. We need to bring in the best branding and marketing experts from outside the industry into the industry. How have you found that process?

Callum Thomas
Yeah, I mean, we're not- I can't say we're responsible for bringing all of the people in communications into the industry. One thing I will say, I mean, there are some really good people that have moved from other industries into nuclear in this space. The challenge I see is starvation of resources, because if you look at what other industries spend on communications, external relations, outreach, it's absolutely huge compared to what the nuclear industry spends.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, like a notable percentage of overall budget revenue, you're talking 10%, 20% of all revenue that comes in goes to marketing, branding, and communications going out in other industries. And the nuclear industry, you're talking like, 0.01% percent or something.

Callum Thomas
Yeah, exactly. And that's it. So, whereas the industry could and should be hiring more people in the commerce space, there isn't really a central capability, because it's one of these areas, that we all, everyone benefits from it. It will be awesome for it to be a collective effort. And there are some collective efforts and of people in communications and marketing and nuclear industry. But that set of people is probably not big enough with enough resources and enough power to actually do what really maybe needs to be done.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, I mean, I think some of the people who are best at communicating it have zero resources. I've seen organizations pop up that are really just grassroots effort, or maybe they've got a little bit. Maybe they were able to get a grant for $100,000, or something here and there. But I still don't understand why the major nuclear players, each power plant is producing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year. And some of these guys might manage dozens of power plants. I don't understand how they don't have a 200 person marketing team. A lot of times I find they've got like, two or three people, they've got an outside communications firm they rely on. And, oh, everyone's kind of stuck in a 1990s mindset of how things are done. What's going on there?

Callum Thomas
Yeah, I mean, I don't- I can't answer that question. I don't know. I mean, my insight is looking at the industry as an active participant in and really enthusiastic participant in the industry, I can see kind of what the need is, but it's very easy, isn't it, to throw stones, it's very easy to say the industry needs to be more- I hear that a lot, the industry needs to do more. The industry doesn't really exist as a collective kind of entity. Anyone, any kind of thought of the industry should do this needs to understand that there isn't really- I mean, you've got the World Nuclear Association part, which is part of the industry, but it's not really set up to do that kind of thing. You've got the IAEA, which is not really set up to do that kind of thing. There isn't- the industry as a collective doesn't really exist. But I will say there is some good work going on with some of the bigger organizations. I think you're exactly right, I think, there are some of the best ideas that come in with zero budget. We just did a project here where we went to the School of Communication Arts in London, and we gave their students a brief and we asked them to re reimagine how nuclear could represent itself in the build up to COP26. We gave it to about 50 students. This is a professional arts school, which generally feeds people into the advertising space. It's a very interesting group people to give it to.

Bret Kugelmass
How did you get involved in that, though? I don't understand the connection between your organization and that.

Callum Thomas
I think it's really, I mean, I think as a general advocate for the industry, and if I see something that could be done and isn't really being done, then my natural inclination is to do it. It was one of my colleagues that came up with this idea. She knew that the School of Communication Arts takes briefs from companies and industries and then they spend, you've got 50 people spending two weeks of their lives dedicated to thinking about the messaging for nuclear. And so we sponsored it, we gave a donation to the school and we said, Look, go ahead and come out with that. But we haven't done this, there's no real commercial gain to Thomas Thor for doing this. We just thought, what a great thing to do and we partnered with EDF. The two of us gave a donation to the school and then they came up with the project. But it was awesome, because what it showed us was, at the beginning, these 50 people were all in their kind of early 20s, I guess, very, very cool, very hipster, very advertising, and none of them really knew about nuclear. At the beginning, when we gave him the brief, after we finished, they had an internal meeting, because a lot of them had ethical challenges to actually working on this. Then, by the end of the project, every single one of the 50 was not just pro-nuclear, but was enlightened. What it showed us was, one of the things it showed us was that, if people just spend the time, I mean, they've gone out and done their research online. Very quickly, they became pro-nuclear. Their initial stance was anti, but then just a little bit of self research and then they were done. It made me think the best thing the nuclear industry could do is just stand back and let people do their own research. Instead of trying to give people information, let's just encourage people to do their own research and generally, the positives far outweigh the negatives when people do their own research. But they came up with a load of pictures, we got about 20 or 30 pictures or video, including a song about how nuclear doesn't really kill anyone and vending machines kill more people than nuclear. I think you'll see that song being released soon. Someone's got a hold of that and is producing it. That's an example of something that came, it was just a real kind of, from nothing initiative that then led to a huge ripple of - more than a ripple, actually - a wave of enthusiasm were circulating their ideas, and some of them have actually been tried before by people, like Generation Atomic and others are just completely new and just great. And it just gave us an insight into how people think who've got nothing to do with the nuclear industry. A very rewarding, very interesting project.

Bret Kugelmass
It's amazing, I'm glad you told me this story. Yeah, that's pretty interesting. It's so funny. The part that you mentioned, though, about someone having ethical challenges up front. It's like, okay, you're going to school to learn how to do something. You should be given a hard challenge, even if it's not something you do in real life. I don't know, if my professor told me l, and I was in a marketing class, like, figure out how to make the coal industry seem clean, I wouldn't say I have an ethical challenge with that. I'd say it's a school exercise, it's a chance for me to really flex my creativity. It's like, do it, don't complain.

Callum Thomas
It worked out beautifully. And I think it's, there str all sorts of- I mean, your question about why are we getting involved in that, because that's not core to our business, I think we're in the people business. Anything around attracting people to the industry, giving people pride about the industry they're working in, we're involved in. We're involved in loads of initiatives like that that are really getting, communicating with people, creating awareness in new and creative ways. I think, because we're quite a small company, we can just do stuff. We're not really held down by layers of bureaucracy, or procurement and all these different competing interests. If you're a big company that has nuclear interests, but also oil and gas, and also renewables, you've probably, within your organization, you've probably got a lot of a lot of conflict. There are people that don't necessarily see things the same way. And so I understand why it's difficult for big organizations to do things, sometimes. But there's, as you said, there's a lot that can be done just with a bit of bit of energy and some ideas and then then a can do attitude.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah. How has your organization responded to COVID and everything over the last year or so? Were you guys always remote? Or did you have offices where people came into the office?

Callum Thomas
I mean, I'm in our office now and I'm the only person here.

Bret Kugelmass
Classic, classic CEO founder.

Callum Thomas
Right, but I live very close in my defense, so this is my home from home.

Bret Kugelmass
I'm sure that's by design as well.

Callum Thomas
Yeah. And there's people, there are some people where you just can't see them downstairs. We were remote way before the pandemic. We've had people working around the world. Very early in our journey, we mirrored the nuclear industry, and we went local, wherever the industry was. We've had people working full time, remote part time from home for a long, long time. So actually adapting wasn't that difficult. It was just an acceleration of what we were already doing.

Bret Kugelmass
And what about your own recruiting? How do you recruit recruiters?

Callum Thomas
I mean, we have a division internally for that, that does it. It's probably the most, if not one of the most, important aspects of our business. We recruit on values. We are looking for people who meet our values, which is fairness, diversity and inclusion, our core values of the business. Collaboration, credibility, and excellence are our values. We're looking for people who are naturally good at working together. We've got people from a nuclear background. We've got people from a technical background in science. We've got people from a business background or psychology, from all sorts of different types of people, because we can teach people our processes. In a couple of years, people can really get up to speed. We hire some people who have got very strong experience in in human resources, or recruiting and other sectors. And we hire some people earlier in their career who just are a really good match to our values, and we take them on the journey and train them up. Being in Amsterdam is actually- here, when we when we're based here, it's a real advantage, because it's a really international place. And even people that don't want to live here are often quite happy to relocate to Amsterdam. That was quite a draw at the beginning. But now it's really the fact that we're flexible. We have people, if someone wants to move to a different country for life reasons, quite often they've stayed with us and they just work remotely. We've managed to hold on to good people by being flexible.

Bret Kugelmass
And tell me about language differences, since you're a global organization. Is just all business conducted in English, or how does that work?

Callum Thomas
Well, we've got, I think at last count we had something like 21 different nationalities across our business. We just released, we just did a video internally where everyone said, I am Thomas Thor in their own language. And it's quite, this career made me realize how many languages we've got. I mean, English, generally, we're using English and French as the two core languages within our business. But then we do have people who are speaking Arabic or Russian, maybe Chinese, although we don't really have that much Chinese language capability. We may have people working with external stakeholders in different languages, but internally, we're using English as a core language. And then some of the French dominated entities might use French sometimes, but pretty much English is the working language.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, I'm glad you brought up Chinese for a second there, because it seems to me that the world is - the nuclear world - somewhat divided between the East and the West right now. Obviously, there have been projects and collaborations and the French went over to China to build a plant, Westinghouse went over China to build a plant, but things are changing geopolitically and have been for the last few years. The Chinese are kind of really moving forward with building a lot of plants, where some of the Western countries are having a real, real tough time getting new projects started and completing projects. Do you see a like a bifurcation in the nuclear industry between the East and the West and just kind of in the many conversations that you've had, can you offer any insight as to what you think is going to happen over the next 10 or 20 years along that parameter?

Callum Thomas
I mean, through work with the IAEA, I'm quite often working with Chinese, Russian, French, and American people all in the same room. Over the years, have had quite a lot of experience with that. I think Russia and China have been investing for a long time, internationally. Now we see the US really accelerating the efforts to get involved internationally. And I think that will make a big difference to the industry. I mean, ultimately, it's competition, isn't it? I mean, selling big nuclear reactors - and then maintaining them - to countries, that's big business, and so it's competitive. I think we'll see all three, and we could throw France in as a fourth, really, and maybe South Korea as as a fifth. But probably the three, you know, the biggest will be the US, Russia and China. I think the market is big enough, I think there are countries that will buy and they'll buy first from Russia or buy first from China, or they'll buy first in the US. That's okay, if it works out, but what it does mean is that it brings politics into proceedings, and I think in the next 10, 20 years, if the nuclear industry really grows, it'll become another one of those industries that's really political. We see that in countries like South Africa, where it's been, was it Russia that were going to build, or then it was US, and France. If a country is looking to build a nuclear infrastructure, then they get courted by the big countries and I think we'll see that continuing. It will be good See some joined up working. But I personally, I don't know what you think I can't really see at the moment.

Bret Kugelmass
I think it'd be tough. I also think that, I mentioned language barriers, I actually think that should not be underestimated when it comes to essentially projects deployment, I know in the UAE there were a lot of challenges there that just came from all the different languages on-site. And even like getting the operations set up. I think that was challenging. I mean, obviously, I want to see a lot of international collaboration,, but I do think there are some real tough problems in terms of engineering delivery when you mix too many languages, too many cultures all at the same time. Which is then another, like, just added layer of problems for very big projects, because when you do these massive scale nuclear plants, the gigawatt plus plants, sometimes you have to go in mixing and matching, especially across the supply chain across different countries.

Callum Thomas
Yeah, and that's the opportunity. I think the reactor vendors, really, you're choosing one or the other. But when it comes to supply chain, the big organizations are all working with each other generally. And that's where you see that real collaboration. I think the UAE, you mentioned, is a really good example. They came up with their own version of English, which they adopted for the plant, just to be sure that people understood what was meant when you said a certain thing. They actually have their own language really, albeit a modification of English, but it's a great example. I've seen a presentation of how they did that, and the benefits that they made. And I mean, having worked with that program for a while and seeing it develop, I think it's an amazing example of collaboration, multi-national, multicultural collaboration. It's a fantastic example. And it was never something they strove for, it's just something that happened. Okay, we're gonna build four nuclear reactors in the desert and we need the best skills in the world to come and oversee this project and get involved in this project. And that was their starting point. They didn't think, Okay, we need to bring people from different countries and take like a UN representative view to it. They've just built this melting pot of great talent and they've really benefited from that. And of course, it's difficult for people who are using it for whom English is a second or third language, and that will fare into it as well. Like Kazakhstan is building and they're just going to build the Rosatom reactor, because it's next door, they've got strong relations, the languages are very close. It works.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah. Tell me more about what you guys are looking forward to next as you kind of look into the future? What are some areas or issues that you think are important?

Callum Thomas
For me, I think the future workforce is where my head is that at the moment. I'm part of the Next Generation Nuclear Industry Council in the UK. We're running an exercise called the Future Workforce Consultation. We're looking for people who we want to keep in the industry in 2030 and beyond, or people we want to attract to the industry. And then we're asking them, what do you think of the industry now? What do you want it to be like? And how do you think we could get there? And then we're trying to understand what would attract people to the industry, or what would keep people in the industry if they're already there in 2030, and that's tied into bring the diversity into the sector that we all want to see and keeping the retention at a really high level. That's on my mind. My mind is thinking, let's engage with these people. Because a lot of people are talking about the future, without engaging with the very people who are that future. That's what I'm trying to do is understand the people that will be leaving the industry in 10 or 20 years, what do they see? Where do they want it to go? And then I'm getting involved in where they're going. And diversity and inclusion is a huge part of that. And I've been involved in setting up a not-for-profit initiative called Inclusion and Diversity in Nuclear and we're really making strides, I think, in moving from talk to action in those areas. For me, the future workforce is one that's representative of the societies where, where the industry is based in, in every country. And I think that's where I see the future. It's bringing the right people into the industry together, and representing the societies where it's based, and then getting them to collaborate and thrive. And I think that's- the industry, a lot of people comment that it's not that diverse, especially in Europe and North America. And so there's change there. There's real change. And I see that, I see Net Zero 2050 is something that nuclear can play a huge role towards. The workforce that are in the nuclear industry will be instrumental to whether that happens or not. And so my head is all about, I mean, I'll be 73 years old and 2050, and I fully intend to be accountable for what I've done until that point. And my contribution will be around the people. It'll be around bringing the right people to the industry, keeping them there, and helping to create an environment that's inclusive and fair. If I can do my bit in that, then I'll sign off on myself in 2050 when we hit net zero.

Bret Kugelmass
Callum Thomas, thank you so much for your time today. This has been awesome.

Callum Thomas
Okay, thanks, Bret.

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