After running Veolia’s biggest MRF in Europe for four years, Jake Woolfenden joined TrueCircle early on, bringing with him his in-depth knowledge and understanding of the recycling industry.
We spoke to Jake about his day-to-day, what motivates him, and how he ensures he’s always performing at his best.
Nearly a year. I joined in November 2021.
My official job title is operations manager, but this role has changed a lot over the last year, which has been really exciting.
In the early days I was involved in the initial business development meetings with our first customers and designing our dashboards, to now being more focused on things like our hardware installation process, improving how we interact with clients to communicate business objectives, and improving internal operations.
There’s also lots to do on the product side — we have created these amazing dashboards and we want to make them as simple and intuitive as possible. We want to understand all our users’ pain points, and make our dashboards the cornerstone of every recycling plant in the world.
We’re about to do a new install for one of our existing customers — UPM, in north Wales. TrueCircle AI has been such a success that we are going to install some new cameras for one of their other plants. This new install comes with a little bit of a technical challenge, but that’s exciting.
So they don’t currently have space to fit TrueCircle AI around their existing operation. We are working closely with their local engineering team to find solutions. And as long as they can make space for us in their plant, whether through adjusting conveyor belt sizes, maybe chopping and changing a few processes, our hardware team will be able to tailor our design to make our vision systems fit perfectly. Once we have the space, the installation will be easy.
What’s unique? I think we have a really good company culture.
We all work really hard, and at the same time we do very regular team activities. Today, we did a midday run along the River Thames, which is definitely not something that we could do in my last company! We also have team socials every month — like tonight, I’m joining an online game event with some of our remote engineers.
We all come from different backgrounds. Some from finance, some are software engineers, some come from startups, or from big consulting firms. We’ve all come together to use what we have to work toward a really important goal — helping the world to fight climate change and reduce the amount of plastic waste going into the ocean. Everyone is driven towards that, and it’s amazing to see how much we have achieved in such a short period of time.
I used to work for Veolia, which is a big global waste management, water recycling and energy company. I ran Veolia’s biggest MRF in Europe for four years.
Yeah, I think there are lots of issues that need to be tackled better in a recycling plant, and with a little bit of data,insights and focus, a plant can make huge efficiency strides.
Whether it is for an individual site, or a wider group, there’s so much improvement that we can make, and this is absolutely our core focus right now. We have the right team here at TrueCircle to build products which will really make a huge impact on the efficiency of recycling.
This is just the beginning, and I believe things are going to change very fast. It’s already happening, and in three to five years, the recycling industry is going to be unrecognisable.
Wow — there are so many things. The installation at AM Recycling was very special being one of our first customers. We installed two really big vision systems on their paper lines and have a great relationship with the site.
I’m also super proud of the dashboards we’ve designed for our customers. Using my experience running one of Europe’s biggest MRFs, I had a very clear idea of what exactly a plant operator would need. Me and Sam, who’s a Product Manager here at TrueCircle, worked very closely on designing our very first dashboards. I was amazed at how quickly we were able to move, producing our first prototypes in 3 or 4 weeks. Since then we have constantly improved and iterated our dashboards and they are practically unrecognisable from our original prototypes. We have got them to a place where they are the best on the market, which is something we get told by our customers all the time. So that’s pretty cool and I’m proud of that.
Yeah, so I do something called the Pomodoro Technique.
Yes, that’s the one. The original technique is to use a tomato-like clock.
Because I’m used to working in a MRF where you work 19 hours a day and everything is constantly going off, I’m very hyperactive. You have to be on your phone all the time, it’s very difficult to focus on your work. So I used to do this thing where I would turn off all my email notifications, my computer, my phone and I’d set a 25 minute timer.
I’d work very consistently for 25 minutes and then you have a 5 minute break.Then go back for another 25 minute slot, and take another 5 minute break. It’s really good and helps you focus on the task.
I also try not to do more than 3 big things in one day, so you focus on getting three things done properly. I think anything more than three is too ambitious, and you’ll feel deflated when you get to the end of the day. If you have three targets, you do three things really well and you achieve it. You feel good about yourself at the end of each day.
Yeah, I do!
So my first target is to finish a pricing mechanism for one of our customers. My second target is that I want to hand over a specific dashboard to one of our customers in Ireland. The third target is to finish editing the copy of a video to showcase a new client relationship we have recently established.
Yeah. I’m excited to see the video.
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