As a young university student, Berit Kristensen stopped by a job center in Norway, looking for employment. She didn’t really know what she wanted to do, so when an accounting position in a local plumbing company opened up, she thought, “Why not?” She had always been good with numbers, and since her childhood dream of joining the Airforce was cut short due to height requirements, this seemed as good an opportunity as any. So she jumped right in.
This attitude of “just doing it” has been
the guiding principle in Berit’s career
For the next five years, Berit learned everything she could about the business, building her role from the bottom up. “I had no idea what I was doing,” she said. “I just did it.” This attitude of “just doing it” has been the guiding principle in Berit’s career.
Jumping into the Telenor world
Berit applied for a position in Telenor in 2001, for a job she didn’t really understand. She thought it sounded interesting but it was a type of business she had never even heard of. She was intrigued. “I applied and got the job,” she says. From that moment on, Berit began learning the business of Telenor Global Services (TGS).
“I had never really considered going to Asia.
I was born in Korea and then adopted, so I’d
really only lived in Sweden and Norway,
with a Danish passport”
And once again, she dove in head first, learning everything there was to know about global telecom wholesale. She continued in her Oslo-based role until 2009, when an opportunity arose in Hong Kong as the Asia regional head for TGS.
“I had never really considered going to Asia. I was born in Korea and then adopted, so I’d really only lived in Sweden and Norway, with a Danish passport. But I was asked to move to Hong Kong to set up the new office there. It was scary, but I wanted to try.”
A city of strangers and an unknown culture
Berit left her Oslo home and moved to a city of strangers. Her first instinct was to reach out to the Norwegian business community in Hong Kong.
“That was an interesting experience, as I think I was one of the very few expat women there, and I just wasn’t used to being the only woman in a room full of suits. But as with everything when it comes to relocating, I got used to it.”
“I learned very quickly the importance of relationships
when doing business in Asia. You need to put yourself
out there, be brave and meet people”
Berit says that the next five years in Hong Kong flew by. She explored, she made friends and she threw herself into the culture, learning about the local customs and how to do business in the region.
“I learned very quickly the importance of relationships when doing business in Asia. You need to put yourself out there, be brave and meet people. The relationships you make are the differentiating factor in Asia,” Berit explains.
Make yourself uncomfortable
For the first six months in Hong Kong, Berit says she attended business seminars and meetings almost every day.
“I did it because it made me uncomfortable. I did it because I never would have done it in Norway. So that’s why…I wanted to put myself in a situation in which I had to walk into a room where I didn’t know anyone. I was forced to start talking to people, make connections and build relationships over time.”
She explains that in her business, the global wholesale industry, there are so many people offering the same things – thousands of competitors. That’s why relationships are so important. Trust and a strong reputation for reliability make the difference.
The first of many changes
When the offer came to move to Singapore in 2014, Berit didn’t hesitate. She was ready for another change. Shortly after her move south, the Global Wholesale entity in Telenor merged with the roaming business. This was the first of many changes that Berit says have been coming ever since.
“I’m curious. I like it when
things are a bit open-ended”
“For 15 years in Global Wholesale, nothing really changed. It was business as usual. Then we merged with roaming and shortly after that, we got the new strategy. Now everything is turned upside down and our key focus is on the digitalization of business. Once again, I am in completely new territory.”
Berit explains that they are changing their way of work in Global Wholesale and exploring new ways of running their business. She is proud of their achievements to date, indicating that their earnings have surpassed that of one of the Telenor business units, and that they’re soon going to surpass another.
It’s time to explore
“There’s a lot of excitement in my job today. It’s a new set-up, new thinking and a new strategy. It almost feels like I’m starting all over again.”
Once again, Berit is jumping into a new challenge in uncertain territory. She doesn’t know exactly what the future of her business will look like, but she is ready to start exploring the possibilities.
“I’m curious. I like it when things are a bit open-ended,” she adds.