Reflections of Stavanger Panel Discussion | Tone Indrelid

Tone Indrelid, Outpost Focal Point at Norske Shell, Norwegian teacher at Learn Norwegian Today and intercultural trainer at Tone Indrelid Consulting, reflects on Diversify’s recent panel debate ‘Stavanger Panel Discussion: Job Creation for and by Immigrants and Internationals’.

I felt a little nervous attending Diversify’s Springboard Stavanger event last month.  For the first time in 15 years, I walked into a room full of internationals; immigrants; expats; global nomads; utlendinger – the labels are many – feeling like an outsider. 

‘I’m no longer one of them, I’m not sure I really belong here – I feel awkward!’ I thought, taking a seat at the back of the room. You know, for easy access to the door. Surely, we’ve all sat next to the exit at some point in our foreignness. 

I didn’t leave, though. I may have repatriated to Norway and I may have felt separate from everyone else in that room, but only for about 3 minutes. That’s how it took me to remember a wise friend’s advice to always start with similarities. Start with what we share, sort out our differences, and move back to similarities. That way, we can create something together. 

Listening to the panelists, I note what we share. Our global experience, our global mindset. A willingness to adapt. Flexibility and grit. Entrepreneurialism.  

We also share an understanding of what some of the pain points are for skilled global nomads in Norway:

  • Information: ‘You can’t get information from anyone,’ one panelist stated, and I nodded. The first time I heard this, I didn’t understand. Norway is one of the most transparent countries I’ve ever lived in and everything is available online – from visa application processes through information from public offices to job listings and CV advise. It wasn’t until I needed that information in English that I realized some of it only exists in Norwegian.
  • Language skills: Norwegian opens doors. It is key to accessing information, to integration and, unless you arrived on a short-term international assignment and work in an English-speaking environment, to securing employment. Learning Norwegian as an additional language can, however, be challenging. Many say they struggle to prioritize time and money short term, to plan for a long-term outcome. I think planning is key – plan what arenas of your life you need Norwegian for, and how this new language combines with whatever other languages you speak. Being multilingual means, you have many legs to stand on. 
  • Cultural skills: How to network? How to present oneself? How to highlight expertise and experience? What to expect from a meeting? Different cultural environments, be it countries, companies or sports clubs, have different cultural codes – more or less formal rules for accepted and familiar behavior. Learning to understand those codes can help us communicate and interact in a more efficient way. 

I’m super thankful to Diversify for bringing Springboard to Stavanger. Our little city prides itself on being international, but perhaps we could do a better job at supporting our internationals? There is, I think, most definitely a need for a community where we can share experience and information, and create development, together. 

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Chisom Udeze

Founder of Diversify, Diversify Consult, HerSpace & The Annual

Chisom is an Economist, a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Strategist, and a 3 times founder of impact driven companies. She has over 14 years of experience working with organizations like the European Commission, The United Nations, ExxonMobil and The Economist Group. Chisom is analytical and a data enthusiast. She is passionate about interrogating the cross-sectoral relationship between society’s inhabitants, resources, production, technology, distribution and output. She efficiently and effectively unlocks complex systems, interprets data, forecasts socio-economic trends and conducts research.

Having lived and worked in 7 countries across 3 continents, she is highly adaptable to different circumstances and people, and thrives in uncertain environments.

As the founder of Diversify and Diversify Consult, Chisom and her team work with companies, institutions, governments and civil society to develop sustainable DEIB strategies and embed measurable diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace and society. In addition, in 2022, Diversify launched the Diversify Nordics Summit, the largest conference in the Nordics that gathers cross-sectoral stakeholders to amplify DEIB in the Nordics and beyond.

In 2020, she founded HerSpace, a diverse and inclusive co-creation community for all genders, with particular focus on women and non-binary people. In 2022, HerSpace launched HerTech, Women in Tech incubator, for women-led companies, with a focus on the inclusion of diverse founders. 

Chisom is a thought-leader in DEIB and a passionate advocate for mental health and wellness. She writes often on DEIB and justice related topics, some of her work is published on Forbes.

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