Who you are?
I'm Thomas Huxley. I'm from Norfolk Island which is now part of Australia since they removed its independence in 2015. (Norfolk Island is 15,500 kms away from Skellefteå which probably makes Thomas one of the residents of Skellefteå furthest away from their original home).
What do you do?
I am a front-end web developer for Hello Future. That means I make the part of the website that you see. Front-end development, to paraphrase an analogy on the Sideways Dictionary, is like walking around a city. You see the pavement, shops, car parks and trees. What you don’t see is the underground heating, the water and sewerage, building foundations etc. I make the part you can see.
Why is someone from Norfolk Island in Skellefteå?
Why not? I have had a fascination with the Arctic Circle for more than ten years now. I think it's the 24 hours of darkness, 24 hours of daylight thing. It's something different. I went to Narvik about 6/7 years ago in early August and I went to the cinema and came out about 11 o'clock at night and it was still light. I was like 'what the bloody hell's going on'? It really threw me. I thought that's quite nice, I'd like to try that for a period of 12 months or so.
But it really is a long way from home. I'm going to Brisbane for 2 weeks next week and that's four flights to get there from here and Norfolk would be an extra flight on top so it would be 5 flights. It's 27 hours to get to Brisbane as it is.
How did you end up here?
I was originally moving to France for a year. I got a working holiday permit and I was looking for jobs and extended the search to northern places and then I saw Hello Future. I thought, ok, may as well give it go. The next thing I'm talking to Leif Rehnström and we chatted a few times and four days before I left for Paris he called me up to offer me the job. And then we had to start the whole visa process which took months. But I finally made it.
What are the biggest differences between Norfolk Island and here?
There are ways in which they are very similar. Certainly, in terms of walking down the street and seeing people you know, that's very similar. But the main difference is the climate. Norfolk is very temperate. It doesn't get colder than 10 degrees. It doesn't get warmer than 30. It's possibly the perfect place to live for climate. But here it's different. However, it doesn't bother me. It doesn't bother me at all. I mean, the snow is such a novelty.
What are the plus points of living here?
I like being able to walk to work and the affordability of accommodation. That's a really nice thing. I could not afford to easily rent in Australia on my own unless it was a tiny, tiny place nor could I ever consider buying in Australia. We have a huge housing bubble. It's a bit like London in that regard. So, it's nice to be able to even consider those options but it's nice to walk through Nordanå on the way to work - it's very pretty with or without the snow. Plus, the job is great. I don't think I would find easily a job like this in Australia. I don't think they really exist.
It's particularly Hello Future - I love it that it's so flexible. I can come when I want. I can leave when I want. If the work's getting done, no one's really asking too many questions. It's a very flat structure in the office as well. Then there’s that term, 'adhocracy' that Leif uses. It's a way of working that's characterized by flexibility, employee empowerment and an emphasis on individual initiative. And it's great that I don't feel stressed out of my mind every day. It's very pleasant to work here.
What are the downsides of Sweden?
The conformity bothers me a little. I sometimes feel a little bit pressured into putting a Christmas light in the window because if I don't I'm going to be shunned by society. I do feel that the whole 'lagom' thing is a bit constraining. Sometimes I want to shout, 'Be an individual! It's ok. You can do it!' But, hey, that's about it, complaint-wise.
How do you find working at The Great Northern?
Awesome really. It's a great building. And there are lots of other companies and people that are doing interesting things. I've not seen anything like this in Australia, or at least they would probably only be available to people that work for the Facebooks and the Googles. I don't think there are many things like this around. There are a couple of incubators in Brisbane but they would not be anything like this. Even in Paris. I spent a couple of months there. I didn't come across anything like this and hadn't heard anything like it. It's a bit of a rarity.