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Working in Norway For Members

What is Norway like for tech and IT workers?

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
What is Norway like for tech and IT workers?
IT workers at Visma, the Norwegian softeware giant, in Oslo. Photo: Visma

Norway's tech and IT sector is small compared to that of neighbouring Sweden, and much less international, but with decent salaries and some good employers, there are also some advantages for foreigners.

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What is the industry like? 

In 2022, there were 93,058 IT jobs in Norway, compared to 208,555 in neighbouring Sweden, so the industry is comparatively small.  

There are a few sizeable Norwegian IT firms, like Visma, Cognizant Oil And Gas Consulting, Experis, and Kongsberg Digital, and international IT giants, such as Microsoft, Tietoevry, Accenture and CapGemini, also have offices. 

"It's a very small industry here in Norway, so it's worth not burning any bridges behind you," says Asia Wojtalik, who works in sales. "But there's loads happening, it's definitely not a snooze fest." 

Salaries for top programmers are not as high as you might expect in the US or some other countries. 

"Salary-wise, in my field, it is lower than what I'd get in the US or Brazil, considering the cost of living, so, I considered other criteria when I decided to move," Lini Abe, a software architect, told The Local.

"From what I can tell, in America if you are in the correct position you can make millions of dollars a year, whereas in Norway it is all pretty flat," Marianne Morgan, a project manager from the US agrees. "My boss probably doesn't make that much more than I do, and I am reaching about the top of my pay scale for my position." 

The advantages of working in Norway, on the other hand, centre around the much better work-life balance, job security and labour laws. 

"It is about ten million times better in Norway," Morgan said of the working environment, compared to that of her native US. "When I was a consultant there were stretches of time where I worked 12 hour days, but that is the exception to the rule. As a regular employee in a regular company, I work my 7.5 hours per day, if that." 

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"I feel much more respect as an employee in Norway. There isn't this pressure to stay late just because the boss stays late. My boss also leaves the office at 3pm or 4pm every day."

"In my experience, it's fantastic working with Norwegians because they are professional, and instead of everything being hierarchical, they appreciate a flat structure of communication," says Sherry Reina Hochbaum from New York. "I can speak openly with everyone and my input is not only heard, it is taken into consideration and valued."

How easy is it to get a job? 

Right now, the industry, like Norway's economy as a whole, is in a bit of a slump, meaning there's less demand for IT workers in general and also less need to recruit internationally. But if you have specialist skills, or skills in high demand, you still might get hired from abroad. 

"I was headhunted to come to work in Norway, and I've been here for the past four and a half years," Abe says. "As my skill is very specific, there are a lot of positions available, and recruiters are always contacting me. I'm not sure if it is the same with other skills within IT."

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Getting work can be tricky for foreigners already in Norway, especially if you are just starting out.

Hochbaum spent a year applying for over 150 positions before she got her job in support at one of Norway's largest IT employers. Oana Vinţan, from Romania, has more than nine years of experience in product management and has yet to find a job after seven months in the country, while Facundo Alfredo Carrizo, a product designer from Argentina, has been looking for work for more than a year. 

Once you get your foot in the door, it gets easier.

"As a programmer, I struggled quite a lot to find my first job," says Parham Barazesh, a programmer from Iran. Today, after like four years of experience in Norway, I don't have much trouble finding a job." 

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What are the barriers for foreigners? 

Norway is a small and fairly homogenous country, and employers tend to be risk-averse and go with what they know, this normally means Norwegian programmers with some experience or IT graduates from the country's top universities. 

"Everybody knows someone," says Jerome Pasion of the scene in Trondheim, where he studied at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. "They hire and recommend each other and there is alma mater rapport already established, so it's really difficult to break away from the NTNU or høyskole circles. It also doesn't help when Norwegians are risk-averse. It is always a gamble to hire people who were not brought up in the same culture." 

"It's tougher for foreign workers," agrees Hochbaum. "Competing with people who have native language skills, degrees from Norwegian universities, and pre-existing citizenship is automatically more compelling. But I do know there aren't enough resources, so looking for outside workers is also happening more and more."

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Morgan said all the jobs she had got had involved networking except the current one. 

"Almost every job I have gotten in Norway has been due to a connection of some sort," she says. "Only my most recent job was not via a connection, exactly, but by now I am very experienced in this market."

How important is the Norwegian language? 

For the big Norwegian IT companies or the Norwegian arms of international companies, English is the main working language, and the same goes for many smaller startups or IT firms. Many big firms will have international employees from India, Eastern Europe, and the rest of the EU. 

"The big companies have English as their official language, especially because we work with international teams," says Abe. "However, there are a few people that make xenophobic comments about 'the need to speak the language to integrate'". 

Barazesh agreed that it was possible to get by with English but said that learning Norwegian increased the number of opportunities. 

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"I don't speak Norwegian fluently, but there are a lot of IT companies with an English working environment. It's probably going to be hard to find a job in a Norwegian-speaking company, but I'm not targeting them at all until I improve my Norwegian. I assume if you want a management role that is more in touch with customers, you'll need to know Norwegian." 

Kyle Danny, a Java developer from South Africa who works for one of Norway's most prominent non-governmental organisations, said that learning Norwegian had been key to his career success. 

"I put the effort in to learn the language as soon as I arrived in the country, and it opened up a lot of avenues, socially and jobs-wise," he says "Language-wise I work in Norwegian, as it seems sensible to me and I only have Norwegian colleagues." 

What are the best ways of breaking into the market? 

Networking, networking and more networking. 

"My first job came through a friend of a friend who was going on extended maternity leave, and her company was looking for someone to take over her job for the extra time," Morgan reports. "It was a tech company that needed someone with fluent English skills, and as a highly educated American, I filled the basic requirements." 

Hochbaum said that her local friends and Norwegian husband had helped perfect her Norwegian language CV and that she had also drawn on their contacts as much as possible. 

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"I'm married to a Norwegian. He works in IT, has friends who work in IT, and has family in many industries. All of that got me one interview, but not the job," she remembers. 

She said "perseverance and learning the local language and culture" were also key. 

"Even if you end up working at a startup where everyone's speaking English, it helps to integrate into society and show employers that you care and will fit well into the team." 

She also recommended getting additional education at a Norwegian University, which, as well as boosting your qualifications, can help get connections and make applicants look more Norwegian. 

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