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The allure of the north

Norwegian tech is attracting international talent thanks to a combination of professional challenges, gorgeous nature and high-quality public goods.Published 13 Mar 2023 (updated 29 Feb 2024) · 5 min read
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“The most important things for international talent coming to Norway are professional challenges and global impact, followed by access to unique nature and Norway’s strong environmental image,” says VP of Strategy and Business Development at ICT Norway, Fredrik Syversen.

Syversen mentions companies like Cognite, reMarkable and Kahoot! as examples of Norwegian brands with a global footprint that are being noticed internationally.

“Norway is generally considered a good place to live. For example, some of our employees at Cognite’s office in Austin, Texas, want to move to Oslo because they have become convinced that Norway is a better country to live in when it comes to social benefits, school systems, flat hierarchical structures, etc.,” says CEO John Lervik of the tech unicorn Cognite.

The pull of paid parental leave

Norway tends to be at the top of most global lists when it comes to income equality, happiness and healthcare, notes Lervik. This is one reason why Norway is now on the radar of some of the world's sharpest minds.

"The competition for talent is global, and we are proud to recruit brilliant people who have worked at global innovators like Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft,” says Lervik.

While they are attracted by Norway’s high standard of living and less rigid organisational hierarchies that allow employees to have a genuine impact, financial factors remain important.

Family fishing
Norway is known for an excellent work-life balance.

“Being able to offer employees competitive compensation, including share-based incentives, has been crucial in attracting top talent to work at Cognite,” points out Lervik.

Founded in 2016, Cognite quickly made a name for itself as a band of digital disruptors helping to transform legacy industries. The Cognite team is taking the industrial world by storm with its technology, which includes everything from robotics and 3D to advanced data operations and analytics in the cloud.

Today, Cognite has employees from over 60 countries and is attracting top talent from tech giants.

“Cogniters are smart, passionate builders and problem solvers who enjoy working as a team. We have bold thinkers and domain experts at the helm who are driving the innovations that help our customers to do more,” says Lervik.

“We are proud of the brilliant minds we have recruited. Our competitive advantage lies in our combination of world-class tech knowledge and industry expertise.”

Unique industrial strengths

Lervik thinks Norway has a chance to become the best in the world in a number of areas if it leverages some of its unique strengths. Norway has world-leading specialised expertise in a number of industries, including manufacturing, energy and fisheries. By combining this with software expertise, Norway can create the world’s best technology – transforming industries globally, while making them more sustainable.

“We have to act now if we are to achieve that position,” says Lervik.

He emphasises the importance of sustainability and changing the way we run our businesses today.

“We are on a mission to create technology that drives legacy industries towards a sustainable and green future. Our efforts are being noticed by both talented professionals, as well as other key stakeholders such as industrial companies and financial investors,” Lervik insists.

Fredrik Syversen believes that there is great value in Norway being seen as a green and environment-friendly country.

“Norway has a green image and is especially attractive to those who are in the process of establishing themselves. Although, of course, the job itself is the most important thing, it’s almost equally important that Norway is seen as a country with beautiful nature that we take good care of,” says Syversen.

“But,” he adds, “one thing that many people are not aware of is that Norway is also a lucrative market for starting and running tech companies. We are very competitive financially.”

Welcoming highly skilled professionals from around the world

Norway strives to provide a warm welcome to highly skilled individuals who arrive in the country. The portal Oslopolitan offers a wealth of Information, as does the Oslo International Welcome Center, whose mission is to welcome and develop international talent from a local perspective.

“We offer relocation support and focus on more tailormade programmes for individuals,” says founder of the Oslo International Welcome Center, Jørn Lein-Mathisen.

The centre offers advice, mentoring, mingling and networking events, helping newcomers to quickly become part of the community. The centre just wrapped up its pilot programme, and Lein-Mathisen is excited for the future.

“The Oslo International Welcome Center has an extensive network. We help foreign professionals to make connections, which can otherwise be hard to do when one has recently arrived in Norway. We listen, offer understanding and try to help in whatever way we can. Our goal is to help the community of foreign professionals to adjust to Norway and to learn to love the country as much as we Norwegians do,” he says.

Team working, writing on board

Advice from a Norwegian unicorn

Cognite’s John Lervik offers three concrete pieces of advice for how growth companies can attract talent and build great teams:

  • Give employees the freedom to innovate. “We are a flat organisation at Cognite, which means that everyone is encouraged to innovate and contribute. This not only gives Cogniters great pride but takes advantage of all the brilliant skills and minds working here. This freedom is very attractive to candidates.”
  • Surround yourself with the best. “As the CEO or leader, it is never the objective to be the smartest person in the room. At Cognite we always aim to hire the most talented people out there who will push boundaries and develop new solutions that the world hasn’t even thought of yet. New talent appreciates teammates that are also leaders and innovators.”
  • Focus on a purpose. “Today’s workforce is conscious of picking jobs that are meaningful and fulfilling and contribute to something that is bigger than themselves. It is therefore important to articulate and identify the company’s purpose. Purpose defines why you do what you do, and that motivates candidates to join.”