Person behind the pen

Who? A curious school drop-out who is passionate about working, and holds a great interest for exploring the world, cultures and challenging established points of views. Humanist with dedicated interest for the people and societies around me. With my own personal mission to contribute towards a better world. Small steps taken every day.

Why? A former colleague (thank you, Bente!) challenged me to start writing about my life & thoughts as a young entrepreneur – and I can guarantee that this blog is nowhere near a fashion blog.. I hope that my readers can see that there are so many exciting career paths across the ocean industries where you can work in a global context, with exciting technology, people from all continents, urgent environmental issues and contribute towards a low-emission industry that transports 90% of everything. This blog is about how I think and react on the world around me, whether its work related or more personal.

How? I have always been one for taking independent choices. Stubborn, always asking the “why?!” and “what if?!”s, refusing to follow the flock without knowing why or exploring what’s down the alternative path.

I didn’t fit well into a school where learning the correct answer by heart was more important than understanding and investigating how things was connected – or how knowledge could be applied in our everyday life. So at 16 I chose to leave school, starting to work and moving out from my parents’ home – taking responsibility for my own future both financially and practically.

Where: I spent 7 years from 16 – 23 in a small farm-house from the 16th century, without running water. My original plan was to become a equi-therapist (chiropractor for horses), as I used to spend every spare hour in the racing stables from the age of 9. One thing was for sure – I´d never ever end up working in an office; as it sounded very square. But after some hard working and quite varying years consisting of stable work/farm work (including building fences & driving tractors), phone sales, kindergarden, behind Shell station & bakery counters++, I got rid of some piercings and at the age of 18 I entered my first office job. And finally discovered it was no way near as square as I had thought.

Thanks to a mix of superb colleagues in TopTemp Recruitment who gave me my very first chance to prove myself, a year of secretary studies, and some years in the Norwegian Valuers´ & Surveyors Association, I entered the maritime industry completely by chance. And 12 years down the road – what an experience it has been! One of Norway´s biggest – yet least visible – industries.. A few years went by, enjoying loads of exciting challenges within the Wilh. Wilhelmsen Group. Forever grateful for all the people there who gave me opportunities to grow and take on new responsibilities even though I didn’t have the education, formal background nor industry network.

After almost 5 years I needed more uncertainty & challenges not to become complacent in a corporate head office environment. I wanted to get out into the real world, get my hands dirty and see how the industry was from a different perspective. And so, without contracts, strategy plans, risk analysis or a business plan, I started my own company January 2011.

Why on earth?? I was extremely fortunate, being at the right place at the right time I assume, and with great support from a number of people whom I couldn´t have done without. Balancing several long-term assignments, amongst it establishing and branching out YoungShip International from being a local Norwegian association, and project mgt and concept development of a branding & recruitment project for the joint Norwegian maritime industry, called “Ocean Talent Camp 2013”.

I took nothing for granted, and was extremely grateful and excited for the fact that I had this opportunity to truly test my abilities & limits (the sky?). Being your own boss poses challenges and the liberating feeling of freedom. Even though the days can be both long and hectic, it is just something different – building a company from scratch. Not to mention being able to select which priorities and values I wished to work towards. And which projects was “no go”.

My first autumn as independent, I spent travelling to places like India and Nigeria – and spent 2 assignments and several months in Lagos working for an offshore shipowner. In focus was crew and personnel, working with QA, process improvement, system development, training and anti corruption framework. Also dealt with negotiation of supplier contracts. Loads of fun and stretching the comfort zone!

And then? The following spring my father got terminal cancer and passed away exactly 3 months later. I took time of from work to take care of him, and those months are some of the best in my life, talking through everything and being able to return all the care and love he gave us through our childhood & youth. Absurdly, following this intense period I was awarded Shipping Personality of the Year 2012 just a week after his funeral. Following his death, I succeeded him as Chair of our family’s real estate companies, all 3 in pretty bad shape. So during the following year, I prepared myself to become a first-time mom, started the turn-around processes for the family business and ran my own company. And also enjoyed and explored having the world’s most gorgeous baby to take care of – which for me meant combining taking care of him and getting work done at the same time. Which meant, basically, returning to the practice shared by women of different tribes and societies throughout the world for thousands of years… The ultimate work-life-balance, where family, children and business are all integrated.

The year after his little brother arrived, and I signed in at Nor-Shipping, lifting the leading maritime event week Nor-Shipping into a new aera, where both a sustainable and a digital shift makes waves in the global shipping industry. With the opportunity to set these shifts and my passion for diversity, transparency, next generation and entrepreneurial mindset on the agenda, we were the first to establish our strategy on the UN SDGs, and also brought digital disrupters across entrepreneurs and other industries in.

Following Nor-Shipping 2017, I had emptied my Duracell batteries completely. Working round-the-clock with massive pressure to deliver in front of everyone – and with a 25% cut in funds plus reduced resources – became too much. I had panic attacks and lost all my self confidence, and it was quite a rough period. So I spent some months just being me, doing nothing more than basic living, while recovering and finding my self-confidence and strengths again. Paddling and just being with the kids was probably my best medicine, combined with a really good physiologist.

What now? Today a mother of two fantastic and crazy little toddlers, I enjoy re-discovering the world through their eyes. I wake up every morning with inspiration and dedication, knowing that I can contribute positively towards a fantastic industry that is the core blood-stream of our globalized world. Onwards I’ll be working with tying entrepreneurs and the tech community of Oslo closer to shipping, as well as pushing sustainability into business and promoting exciting stories from the melting pot of Oslo. However, I’ve also learned that I need to make sure not to overuse my energy.

Follow this blog to get inside my head, and to challenge my views. I enjoy good discussions!

– Birgit


2 thoughts on “Person behind the pen

Add yours

  1. Dear Brigit,
    I had a great pleasure in reading your insightful writing on your professional path to become what you are now. The best thing is that you can share your inspiring ideas with “your Tribe”. I am one in this tribe. Another aspect I am reflecting on is the mention of the care provided to your dear late father. This led me back to my own experience with my dying father while completing my high high school. As you mentioned it I also experienced one of the best time with my father although he was dying. He was thinking more about my future…
    He took financial arrangements so that I could continue my studies. I was then attending a college, College Saint Francois de Sales run by Belgian priests of The Don Bosco Society with the support of the Belgian Technical Cooperation. It was at my surprise to learn that he made all these arrangemeents during his last days in life..
    I will come back to other aspects later!
    I wish you a nice day!

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