When the giant multinational IT company IBM decided to open a Centre of Excellence for Oil and Gas somewhere in the world, Norway was the obvious choice. “The Norwegian Oil and Gas industry is one of the most daring and advanced when it comes to implementing new technology. That is why industry solutions are first developed and rolled out here, before we market the ideas to the rest of the world,” says Ingvild Grimstad, IBM Norway spokesperson. Norway’s unique characteristics and strengths appeal to a broad range of knowledge-based firms, from ICT industry leaders such as Hewlett Packard and IBM, to global consulting companies such as Accenture and Capgemini.
Some companies, such as Texas Instruments, have purchased businesses originally established by Norwegians, like Chipcon, which was acquired by Texas Instruments in early 2006 and designs short-range, low power wireless radio frequency transceiver devices. Others, like the search engine companies Google and Yahoo, use Norway as their Scandinavian research offices, to take advantage of the country’s strategic location and highly competent workforce.
Norway’s appeal also serves to keep home-grown companies, such as Oslo-based Opera Software, happily ensconced in their northerly quarters. “Norway is quite a good location for us,” says Thomas Ford, Communications Manager for Opera Software. “There is a lot of mobile technology here, it puts us in close proximity with our partners, such as Nokia and Sony Ericsson. And Norway has a lot for us, there is a lot of technical talent here, a lot of smart programmers and developers.”
Nevertheless, the growth of the ICT industry in Norway is such that Norwegian and international firms alike are on the hunt for skilled employees – and in some areas, there simply aren’t enough workers to meet needs. But this is another area where Norway stands out: it’s easy for businesses to bring international workers to Norway, because workers are attracted by the country’s high wages and standard of living, its unparalleled scenery, and its family-friendly work policies.
Russel Davies works for IBM as a chemicals and petroleum consultant. While his home is in Aberdeen, Scotland, Davies spends three work weeks of every month in IBM’s offices in Stavanger or Oslo. He loves everything about his northern work placement, particularly the work environment itself.
“I think Norwegians have a fantastic work ethic,” he says. “They work hard when they’re at work, they stop at a sensible time, and they have respect for family life...I love it.”
© Opera Software
Pine’s coworker, Chilean Christian Uribe, who is Opera’s Team Leader, Quality Assurance for Mobile and Devices, agrees. Uribe also says he’s been pleasantly surprised by the fact that his varied work experiences – in Chile he was educated as a lawyer, for example – are seen as strengths that he brings to his employment, rather than disqualifying him from working in the technology sector. “Even if your education doesn’t map directly to a technology industry, they are very open to evaluate you in terms of what you can do with your education,” he says.
And because the ICT industry is so global, foreign workers don’t have to worry about learning Norwegian – English is the language of business. Nevertheless, Pine and Uribe are studying the language of their adopted land – which has resulted in an unexpected experience for Pine.
“One of the most surprising things is how hard it is to get people to speak Norwegian to me,” he says. “Everyone speaks such good English, when they hear that I’m having a hard time they’re always willing to switch.”
Outsourcing in a Globalized World
Anders Lier works in Norway for Capgemini, a Paris-based company that specializes in consulting, technology outsourcing and local professional services, operating in more than 30 countries. Lier travels regularly to India to recruit the country’s top ICT professionals to come to Norway to work as Capgemini ICT consultants.
He says it’s a relationship from which everyone benefits. Because there simply aren’t enough ICT experts in Norway to serve the market demands, professionals have to come from somewhere. ICT professionals from India speak English and are highly motivated. Capgemini also works hard to integrate its Indian workers into the Norwegian company, Lier says.
“It’s our obligation to make them feel welcome,” he adds. In recognition of Divali, the Indian Festival of Lights celebration, “we just had a Divali party with all the spouses.”
Hewlett-Packard’s Norway office also has an international flavour, with a range of nationalities represented throughout the company’s hierarchy. Rajpreet Singh Pannu has worked for Hewlett-Packard in Norway since 2000, and has lived in Norway for 14 years. He says one of the positive aspects of living in the country has been how well his children have been accepted in Norwegian schools.
“My children are Sikhs, the boys wear turbans, but the way the kids have grown up, they really feel a part of the local culture,” he says. “When I talk to my colleagues in the US, I realize that the focus from the (school) leadership teams is better here.”
Ingvild Grimstad, IBM Norway spokesperson, says that Norway, like other countries, will continue to see more and more skilled workers coming from across the globe.
“You have the phenomena in Norway that we sometimes have a lack of heads, of resources, when it comes to doing the job,” she says. “A lot of the big globally integrated companies based in Norway can compensate for this by using resources from all over the world. We have a contract with Statoil where we operate their application systems, partly from India and partly based in Stavanger. This is a development you will see more and more – it’s just a part of the flat world and globalization.”
Hewlett-Packard Norway has workers from across the globe, here seen celebrating the company’s 40th anniversary in Norway.
© Trond Haugen