An Introduction of Sorts

Here is the very first of our weekly blog entries, an insight into the journey of our newest team member, Mr Christopher Von Roy.

Concannon Connection: A multi-hemisphere operation!

We value change here at Concannon Connection. Our ideas are constantly evolving in response to the people and organisations we are working with.

One such change has seen our small UK based team grow into a multi-hemisphere offering. Please welcome Christopher Von Roy and Luke Concannon, our very own Team NZ! Leading our technical & creative development, Chris and Luke have some exciting projects lined-up, including a Concannon Connection podcast.


Hi, my name is…..

Hi, my name is Christopher von Roy and I just wanted to formally introduce myself to everyone reading this blog. Through forces beyond our control, Luke Concannon (the guy with the wonky teeth) and I crossed paths on a football pitch about 2 years ago.

We were playing for the same team in the South Island of New Zealand, for a little team called Golden Bay Association Football Club. There was an immediate connection which manifested itself seamlessly on the pitch. Both Luke and I played as dual-alternating striker and number 10 role, feeding each other passes and scoring goals by the dozen. Whether you believe in telepathy or not, sometimes when kindred spirits play sports together, something magical happens.

Of YouMatter Reports, New Zealand Post, letter filing and other Misdemeanours

After a year and a half of playing football together and hanging out, Luke asked if I wanted to come help out at Concannon Connection. My first tasks were mainly data entry and helping create YouMatter reports for various clients in the US and UK. A funny coincidence about us, is that both Luke and I had worked for New Zealand Post, him in Wellington and I in Golden Bay. We both spoke about the puzzling work of filing thousands of letters a day, having to remember who lived where and where the allocated slots were on the filing cabinets.

Riveting stuff huh?! We both agreed that the filing was the most fun aspect of the job because of the consistent rush of endorphins you would get when you found a letter whose slot you immediately recognised – a bit like playing Memory, the game where you turn over two cards at random and then eventually you have to match identical cards. Of course you might sit back and say that we are romanticising the job, but without a doubt, if you have a good memory, you would love this task too.

And of course there were days you would get up and go to work, dreading the mail bag and the subsequent “run” because it was raining or windy, or worse, both. But all in all, being a post person is a worthy occupation that makes you feel fulfilled at the end of each day, you've delivered all that you had to. I enjoyed it particularly, because it was the first job I had, where at the end of the day, you didn't take the work home with you. I was used to occupations where we had tasks to do, a project, that needed to be finished by a certain time, so until you had actually completed the task, it was always on your mind and you never really got a chance to switch off when you got home at the end of the day.

What's YOUR Superpower?

If someone would ask me what my superpower was in a vocational sense, I would say writing. I have always loved writing, whether fiction or nonfiction. When I first moved to New Zealand I worked as a medical writer for the world's largest scientific publisher.

I enjoyed many aspects of the job, though as you can imagine an organisation like this has its own “house rules” when it comes to writing. We were instructed to never use negative language (like “but” or “not”) when describing a new medication that was about to hit the market. This was because the drug companies making these medications were largely funding many of the publications we were drafting. This house style affected my writing in many ways, after 4 years working there I found it difficult to write creatively in my spare time.

Realising the risk I may lose my creativity altogether, I left that job and started training as a science teacher for secondary schools. I tried teaching for a whole 6 months and realised it wasn't for me. I had heralded teaching as the noblest vocational pursuit one can undertake, but the reality was a bit different. It's never good when you put things on a pedestal, especially when the reality is far from this truth. Teaching is hard work. Another funny coincidence was that Luke had also trained as a teacher for primary school children in Wellington and when we discussed this, it turned out he also found similar reservations as to the actual job in reality.

Back when stool was fashionable

So, back to the beginning: I was born in Stockholm, Sweden and moved to the USA when I was 6 months old. In the US I attended a Montessori school before my family moved to Berlin, Germany when I was 6. We then moved to Munich when I was 11 and I finished high school here. After living in Germany for 12 years, I ended up reading biology and biochemistry at the University of Bristol. When I graduated I was conscripted into the German Air Force for a year. The 3 month boot camp was grueling on me both physically and mentally, I was an ardent pacifist and disliked anything to do with the military. After 3 months of training you get selected to go anywhere in Germany they deem fit, to work a military job for the next 9 months. When it came to deciding my fate, my superior officer asked me that one fateful question:

“Do you enjoy working behind a microscope?”

I replied of course, after all I was a biology graduate and my favourite subject had always been microbiology. So the military brass decided to send me back to Munich to the German equivalent of the Centre for Disease Control or as they called it: Das Zentrale Institut der Sanitaetsdiesnte der Bundeswehr Muenchen (ZinstSanBW). I arrived on a cold January morning in my ill fitting military garb (yes, the ladies at the military uniform store had gotten all my measurements too small, so I looked a complete moron when in uniform; trousers too short, hat ill fitting etc.,) walked through the daunting gates of the facility and showed my ID. The man behind the desk had this strange wry smile on his face when I presented myself, as if he knew something I didn't. He gestured me to follow him to the second floor. The first thing I noticed was the smell, it reminded me of a boys changing room that had never been cleaned. We walked past the first lab, which had a sign above it that read “Blood Analysis,” a couple of paces further the sign “Urine Analysis” appeared, then “Saliva Analysis,” lastly, all the way in a darkened corner of the corridor hung a lowly sign I couldn't quite make out. Upon closer inspection, especially with my guide's finger pointing at the sign, the wry smile evolving into a full blown laugh. I was like what the hell?

“Stool Analysis”!

Oh yes people, for nearly 10 months I analysed over 500 000 stool samples from the entire southern German military. Anyone who was sick or worked in a kitchen had to send me their poo. The worst days were the warm ones, you know what happens to a stool sample when it has been lying in a hot van for a couple hours? I'll spare you the details, but yes, it expands, like most things that heat up. Taking the cap off a warm stool sample is akin to removing the pin from a grenade, except that that grenade is stuck to your hand and full of shit. Ahhh the glory days. I was good at my job and received one of the only promotions of anyone in my rank in the entire conscripted part of the German military. I had also lasted the longest in the job, most recruits would claim mental illness after only a week in the stool lab. I even got a scientific paper out of it as I had discovered a previously unknown strain of salmonella in one of the samples. Salmonella indianensis, a strain that had never been recorded outside of the US.

These little guys were my bread n butter…

These little guys were my bread n butter…

Yes I was famous of sorts, famous for poo. But how do you put that on your CV?

Imagination in a fancy Genetics Lab, playing scientist and writing

Well, actually it really helped me, after praising recommendations from my superiors, I managed to secure a postgraduate spot at the prestigious Imperial College of Science in London, to read Immunology and Infectious Diseases. Our graduating class of 1999 was the first Masters of Science degree in Immunology in the whole world! It has since become a very popular degree. I worked in HIV research on the REMUNE vaccine at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, spending 8 hours a day in a negative air pressure CAT 3 laboratory, trying to investigate negative impacts of the current therapy used and also assessing the effectiveness of the vaccine in protecting patients from recurrent infection. I will stop there, as I can see myself falling into the old house rules medical writing crap I left those many years ago.

After Imperial I was scouted by Source Precision Medicine, an American start up biotech company, and spent the next 2 years working in a state of the art genetics laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. It's strange, working at the cutting edge of science was always a childhood dream of mine (one of many) but just as with the teaching, when I got there, I found out it wasn't what I had made it out to be in my mind.

Sometimes you just got to give things a go, to see how they make you feel as imagination only takes you so far.

Long story short, I have had several jobs over the last 20 something years, I also worked as cancer specialist for a large pharmaceutical company, covering all of New Zealand. I lasted two years in that job, it was the highest I had ever been paid but it was the most miserable time of my life as I spent most of it on oncology wards with dying patients whom I couldn't really help. To prevent me from falling into the abyss I began writing a blog, this blog turned into my first book. The book did pretty well on Amazon and at one point I was in the top 10 for best political humour books on Amazon! A feat I am still quite proud of. I quit my job and moved to Golden Bay after this, to write a book about Ernest Rutherford (who was born here) and his little known friendship with Albert Einstein.

Passion leads to golden futures

Whilst living in Golden Bay, I also took on another part time job for a local company called HealthPost - these guys specialised in the online sales of natural health products (read: vitamins and supplements). They put me in charge of their social media and blog writing. I enjoyed my time there as I was basically left to my own devices, crafting strategies out of thin air and implementing them. Due to my blog writing, I was eventually offered a lucrative contract to ghostwrite a book about shark conservation in New Zealand called “Shark Man” (it was about a TV show of the same name) for Penguin Random House. Sharks are another one of my big passions and I was heavily involved with a grass roots activist campaign to get shark finning banned in NZ waters, after years of hassling parliament, the government implemented a ban in 2014.

This is how I found my way into working for NZ Post, and how I met Luke Concannon. I don't know if Luke saw potential in me or he was just so bedazzled with my ridiculous footy skills but either way, after doing data input for Concannon Connection for 2 months, he eventually asked if I wanted to come and do some social media and blog writing for the company, so this is how I ended up here.

Luke and I will be working together over the next months to bring you a pertinent 1000 word blog article every week, accompanied by a vociferous social media campaign to put Concannon Connection into the heart, mind and soul of any industry leader who want to raise the performance of their operations and have fun along the way.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Cherie, whose daily inspiration is enough to infuse the whole planet with passion and optimism. That woman's attitude is infectious and I for one am glad to have met her. I also wanted to say thank you to Luke for believing in me and being such a good friend.

Love you guys and oh, we are going to be doing podcasts as well, so brace yourself CC business community, you ain't seen (or heard) nothing yet!!

Next Week’s article:

“Job Titles: Do we really need them?”

Chris von Roy3 Comments