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Face to face meetings are back - Jack Herod gives us an insight into his recent trip to visit Lonza

Jack Herod26 August 2021

Having recently spent a few days in Switzerland on a client visit with Lonza, I thought it would be worth sharing a brief summary of my trip. For anyone considering accepting a new project in Switzerland (especially with Lonza), or for anyone that fancies hearing about what I got up to, this may give a slightly better insight.

A good place to start would be landing in Geneva, avoiding all the unnecessary, boring travel details to and from London Luton airport. So, arriving in Geneva was a very welcome site especially with the captain announcing the local weather to be sunny and 24 degrees, making the descent over Lake Leman all the better.  Heading from Geneva airport to Visp is a very straight forward yet scenic train journey of about 2 hours, initially passing around Lac Leman and eventually entering the mountainous valleys of Valais.

One of my first surprises on arrival at Visp was the proximity of the Lonza facility to the station. If you are joining Lonza for the first time, you have absolutely nothing to worry about in terms of searching for the facility. On the platform at Visp train station you have two options signposted: left to the centre of Visp, right to Lonza. As I had arrived in the evening and had no meetings scheduled until the morning, I took the left.

Here you can see the trainline from the main entrance to Lonza
Here you can see the trainline from the main entrance to Lonza

The hotel in which I stayed was a 15-minute walk in a straight line from one side of town to the other. My walk took me through the cobbled streets of the centre, which was reasonably lively for a Monday evening, with most diners eating outside. By the time I had arrived at the hotel to check-in, it felt as if I had scoped out the majority of the main street of town. I dumped my bags and headed back down the hill to grab something to eat. I decided to have a wander around Visp, free of my luggage and get a better feel for the small town. Eventually, I settled on a restaurant I had been recommended by one of the contractors I had introduced to Lonza. Not forgetting I was away on business, whilst I sat outside of the restaurant waiting for my food, beer in hand and catching the last of the sun in the square, it did feel very much like I was on holiday. The first time in a while. I can further pass on the recommendation of restaurant National.

The following day, Tuesday morning, I got up, grabbed breakfast at the hotel and headed back down the hill to Lonza. Again, I cannot stress the ease of arriving on-site for the first time. Simply walk to the train station, through the underpass and you are at the Lonza main entrance. Here I waited for Julia (one of the contractors I have introduced to Lonza) who I had planned to meet at 8:30. It was a slightly awkward but comical wait, as having never previously met any of my contacts at Lonza in person, I ended up smiling through my mask at every female Lonza employee I thought potentially could be Julia. Naturally, when Julia walked in, I obviously recognised her, but the mask situation hadn’t helped.

Julia was kind enough to give me a tour around the area of the facility where she operates which is where I also met up with a handful of the managers I have and continue to work with at Lonza. For obvious reasons, I won’t go into further details. What I will say is that from my first and overdue face to face meeting with a manager, client visits are invaluable. From a recruiter’s perspective, catching a manager on the phone for more than 10 minutes is often considered extremely lucky and we appreciate every second of time spared to receive feedback, discuss upcoming requisitions, project details etc.

Having a half an hour or more face to face (through a Perspex screen) conversation with a hiring manager is again, invaluable. Certainly, with the managers I met, there was no sense of rush, no strict time pressures and a generally relaxed approach to the meetings. This format resulted in productive and informative consultations allowing me to leave each discussion armed with a plan for working together moving forward. The connection as well as the information you can obtain in one face to face meeting far outweighs what is possible to achieve even over multiple MS Teams meetings. As much as I appreciated the time the managers were able to give me, I felt there was also a sense of appreciation and respect reciprocated for the effort I had made to come and meet them on site.

For lunch, I took the option to go for the authentic experience and ate in the Lonza cafeteria. Meetings were similar to the ones just described continued with various managers in various locations into the late afternoon.

One of the parts of my trip I was most looking forward to was rendezvousing with a few of the contractors I have placed with Lonza. I had arranged to meet with those who were available and onsite and go out for dinner in Brig. Brig is only 7 minutes away from Visp via train, which runs every 10 or so minutes at peak times. If I were working at Lonza, I would live in Brig. Brig is not a big city but is more sizeable than Visp with plenty of restaurants, shops and more. Not taking anything away from Visp as it is beautiful, peaceful and convenient if you are working for Lonza, but Brig is a bit livelier and is more my style. I again followed recommendations from several people which in this case was to try out the Britannia Pub. I was slightly sceptical about being British and spending one of my two full evenings in Switzerland in a so-called British pub, but on arrival, there was nothing British about it. It was great. One by one the people I had spoken with countless times over the phone rocked up to the Britannia. Everyone was super friendly, got on well and I hope, enjoyed the food and beers as much as I did. Meeting every one of the contractors, sharing dinner, drinks and the evening with them was the highlight of my trip. Like meeting the managers at Lonza, only so much personality can be conveyed via the phone and getting to know each of the contractors a bit better was amazing. I will continue to work with each of them now and in the future and I definitely look forward to meeting with them again. I’m proud to have introduced such an interesting, inspiring and diverse group of people to Lonza. Bunch of legends.

Tuesday evening had flowed almost too well but with further meetings on Wednesday, it was time to head back to Visp. It turned out all of us were headed to the same part of Visp so an obligatory nightcap and goodbye ensued.

Wednesday morning mirrored Tuesday giving me the opportunity to meet a few more managers I hadn’t yet spoken with. My return journey was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon/evening.

I can’t say enough about the beauty of Visp and the surrounding areas, from the historical buildings to the views for days. Even though when I picture Switzerland as a country I think of incredible mountain scenery, for some reason it still came as a surprise finding myself in the middle of it. One thing that stood out and something I loved about my visit to Visp was the complete contrast you find on either side of the train line. Anyone who has worked with Lonza understands the volume of work that is conducted daily. My previous mention of managers rarely having spare time, the importance and impact more recently regarding the manufacturing and production of the Moderna vaccine, as well as the wide range of services and products developed, gives you an idea of the pure activity happening here. However, while Lonza never sleeps, somehow on the other side of the train tracks, literally a stone's throw away, the tranquillity of Visp remains.  

For anybody who has read this post and thinks a career in Visp or with Lonza sounds appealing and would like to know more, please feel free to drop me a message and I will happily look at setting up a call. Similarly, if any managers who have read this have any requirements in the Life Science sector and would be keen to explore my extensive network of fantastic candidates, get in touch.

Finally, I’d like to say a massive thank you to Nigel & Neil our Co-Founders and Sasha our HR for facilitating this trip and making everything possible during this time. I know everyone is eager to get on a plane and visit their clients again, so I feel very fortunate. Hopefully, this trip will be the first of many.