The CrossFit nerd

Nicolai Abildgaard Fischer, 29 – Project manager, Green Fuels and Energy
“Working out together has made us better colleagues.”

Studying the technique behind something new and learning how to do it in the best way – that’s what motivates this COWI nerd, whether acting as project engineer or practising CrossFit. He actually started training a team of COWI colleagues – and that’s made them even better colleagues, in his opinion.

I only discovered CrossFit five years ago. I had completely lost interest in weightlifting and was looking for a sport that was more social minded that I could throw my energy into. I know many think that CrossFit is an introvert sport, but we often do buddy workouts where two or three do the same workout, and that’s so rewarding from a social perspective.
The first month, everything hurt and it sucked. But then I was totally hooked. You just have to get past that point. What motivates me about CrossFit is that you can choose a number of approaches to the sport: You can focus on either the strength, technique, endurance or gymnastic element. That also means that if you’re starting to get bored, there is always another aspect of CrossFit to dive into. In fact, I think that’s what my sport and my job at COWI have in common.

The need for acquiring new skills

You see, I apply my need for constant developing and acquiring new skills in both contexts. In December 2020, I got a new role, going from technical procurement to engineering lead, responsible for all technical aspects. That means I have to familiarise myself with a new situation and come up with a solution in areas where I have no immediate background – but where I can utilise my technical insight.

I began my career in COWI as a student assistant and re-joined the company when I had completed my degree in civil engineering. I worried a bit if I was able to shed the role as student assistant, but that went just fine. I’m currently seconded to Energinet, working on the Baltic Pipe project. I’m the technical manager for the Zealand section of the natural gas pipeline, which will span all of Denmark.

The project is huge and highly complicated because of the many stakeholders, which results in interesting challenges in terms of both planning and execution. The best work days are when my technical competencies are challenged and I learn something new – and when I get to be social with my colleagues. I find social contact very insightful and it motivates me in a way that puts a smile on my face.

Working out together has made us better colleagues

That’s why it was really awesome when a bunch of my colleagues suggested that I show them what this CrossFit thing was all about. It resulted in eight or nine months of us working out every Friday in COWI's inhouse gym.

I prepared workouts for them, and teaching them was quite a radical change for me. Communicating the technical aspects while showing them how to do the exercises without getting hurt – that was exhilarating. Plus, it was great fun to see what each of them were good at and follow their progress.

I think that working out together has made us better colleagues. Something happens when you engage in a common activity that has nothing to do with work, and having seen each other dripping with sweat and pushed to your limits in the gym fosters a new tone of communication. I find it easier to talk with those colleagues and that makes cooperating easier. So, in that sense, it’s been a type of teambuilding.

How do you define being a nerd?
“That’s someone who knows a lot about a subject that they are deeply passionate about. I’ve always considered myself a nerd in whatever I happened to dive into. I’ve always been interested in technical things – for instance, growing up, I used to play computer games, and the same motivation was in play: Exploring how I see things and getting to understand things.”

Which nerd do you admire the most – and why?
“Someone like Elon Musk comes off pretty nerdy and it’s cool that he has the courage to dive into something that no one else has ever done before. I like the idea that it doesn’t have to generate a profit straight away. And all of a sudden, what he does makes sense.”

What do you want to get better at – and why?
“Muscle up is a CrossFit exercise that’s had me frustrated for a long time. I need to raise myself over an iron bar, using my arms, and you need the right mix of technique and power to do that. So, I need to practise my technique to expend the least amount of energy on getting up – in order to do several consecutive muscle ups.”

These weeks, we celebrate our ingenørds. The smart, the fun, the great colleagues. Do you want to join us? Then check out our vacant positions in Denmark.


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