Christian’s career journey is perhaps not a typical one. In 2008, after more than a dozen years immersed in academia, Christian published an article on algorithms in a well-known industry publication. That article stirred up a lot of interest from various companies.
Trapeze Group was one such company that reached out to him to ask if he would be interested in applying his expertise to real world problems. Trapeze was looking for someone who understood algorithms, could do some teaching, and was interested in doing implementations.
And so began his career journey with Modaxo. First with Trapeze as an implementation consultant, and then progressing to take on new roles and opportunities in operations and management. Today he now provides management and oversight to four different brands (PLANit, Malmator, Holmedal, and Trapeze Group) primarily focused on demand responsive transport on demand public transport, including taxi, in Northern Europe.
Does Christian miss the academic life? While he has always enjoyed the theoretical aspect of algorithms and logistics surrounding people transport, he’s even more passionate about putting that science into practice.
“People transport has an enormous impact,” he says. “If you do it right you affect a lot of people, and if you do it wrong, well, you also affect a lot of people.”
His wife is a nurse so he sees first-hand what good transport means to the patients that need to travel to and from the hospital.
“You see some of the people that are being transported and they really are not well. The least you can do is to make sure that they get a safe journey.”
Christian sees demand response transport (and its various forms) as being one of the most intense things to deliver. “It’s literally that if the system is down for a few hours it’s in the newspaper. It touches a lot of people. It’s super complex. It’s highly dynamic,” he says.
So great algorithms must be the most important part in delivering good demand responsive service, right?
“Only partially,” says Christian. “When I came out of university, algorithms were everything. If you had a good algorithm, what could possibly go wrong?”
What he’s learned over time is that the algorithm actually only plays a small part. It’s much more about people than it is about systems. He has seen some systems work brilliantly when they are set up, but fail in practice because they didn’t take into account the people factor. “It’s the people and the organization using the software and it’s the people it’s servicing that has an impact. Research is about 15 years ahead of practicality,” he says.
When asked what makes a great transport system then, Christian muses, “I think the best transit systems are the ones you don’t notice. Because if you don’t notice, that means it’s working.”
Christian feels the industry needs to do a better job in attracting people to work in people transport. “We have a great story in people transport and what we do. Not just for the individual, but the difference it makes for the environment, for the people living in cities… all of these things,” he says.
His career advice to people just starting out? “If you like working for a higher cause, so to speak, than people transport is a great place to be. If you choose people transport it will make sense now, but it will also make sense in 20 years. It’s never going to go away — and it will always be important. Well, until we invent teleporting perhaps, but I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon,” he jokes.
Outside of work, Christian likes to spend time on his own personal form of people transport — his sailboat. Sailing is a very popular past time in Denmark where he was born and raised. Denmark boasts about 8,500 km of shoreline to explore. In fact, in 2020 he spent three full weeks with his wife and two boys sailing along the East Coast of Denmark. But it begs the question: Did he use an algorithm to plan the most efficient route?