Women in tech: Leaving Silicon Valley for Norway

Photo: Maria Amelie
From left to right: Monica Iacob, Lorian Leong, Erica Gibson, and Caren Quah hail from all over the world, and love working for Norwegian companies.

Maria Amelie
Planet Entrepreneur

“I have been here three times for vacation before, and one of my best friends is living here. I love Norway. I am embracing the culture and have already started my Norwegian course. So far so good,” said Erica Gibson when we met her at Telenor headquarters in Oslo.

Back in Silicon Valley, she worked at an innovation center at a large medical system. Gibson was previously a professor of anthropology and women’s and gender studies at the University of South Carolina.

“When this opportunity became available, I thought this is such a pivotal point in Telenor’s development. It seemed like a perfect timing to join the organization and help create an open and accessible culture of research with my new colleagues,” she said.

Exciting challenges
Monica Iacob, like Gibson, studied social science. She majored in psychology and was going to be a therapist. However, after graduation she started to look more into user research and product management. Originally from Romania, she moved to France and Switzerland and then to Norway. Many of her new colleagues at Microsoft in Norway could not understand how she moved from the lovely south of France to Oslo.

“I moved for personal reasons, and I really enjoy living here. People are nice and genuine, and it is great place to live,” says Iacob.

She is now working as a head of My Contacts at Telenor and leading a multidisciplinary product team.

“To move to a new country and get a new job was a great opportunity for my personal development. It was not important whether the company was international or not. My biggest motivation is the challenge of building something useful that brings real value to users.”

She adds that several things surprised her when she moved to Norway. For example, how digitalized the nation is compared to the rest of Europe.

“There are apps for all kinds of public services. It makes life so much easier when everything is done in two-clicks on your phone. It is amazing.”

Work-life balance
Lorian Leong is a product manager in Telenor. Her journey into tech and Telenor started with social science, business studies, and a career in music industry. At one point, she joined a music tech startup and became a techie. Leong started working with smartphones and apps and writing tech research papers in her spare time.

Leong is from Vancouver and has before worked in Copenhagen and London. Her advice to people who want to move to Norway is to think well about what they would like to do after work.

“You should really think what you like to do in your spare time, because in Norway you often finish work at 4 or 5 p.m.,” says Leong.

Caren Quah is a global citizen and has lived in Seattle, London, and China. She was working for Microsoft as a Senior Program manager on products like Skype, Bing Search, and VOIP platform for emerging markets. Now she is living in Singapore and works on Telenor’s intrapreneurship program Ignite.

Quah explains that she appreciates the flexibility of her working schedule, especially since has a nine-year-old son.

“Companies who value work-life balance are practically non-existing in Asia, so I am really lucky that Telenor is in Singapore. For example, I have the luxury to sometimes work from home and do conference calls on video, and everybody gets four weeks’ vacation,” says Quah.

This article was originally published on Planet Entrepreneur at planet.telenor.com/2017/03/08/why-women-in-tech-are-tempted-to-leave-silicon-valley-for-norway.

It also appeared in the June 2, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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