Professional pride as a driving force

After nearly 10 years as a hairdresser, Svein Olav wanted new challenges and more predictability. Today he works with polymer composites and manufactures parts for combat aircraft and missiles. The transition between the two occupations is not as great as one might think.

The qualities required to carry out the job he has today are in many ways compatible with the hairdressing profession. Manual labour according to specifications with focus on accuracy and details are important. Therefore, it is no coincidence that several of Svein Olav's colleagues have backgrounds from a wide range of different handicraft professions.

In 2014, he was hired by Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace to work with polymer composites and lay-up for the F-35 programme. Composite materials is a collective term for mixed materials where the best properties of each component are utilized. The material is valuable and must be handled with care in the manual casting process. Lay-up is the first process in the production line, and the defect margins are minimal and will affect the product and other cross-sections in the further processes.

“My job still involves creating something with my hands, and every day I go to work with the aim of doing my very best. Professional pride is just as important, regardless of what I do.”

After six years of employment in the company, he seized the opportunity to secure a formal competence when, as a practical candidate, he completed a certificate of apprenticeship in polymer composites. As a requirement, you need 5 years' seniority before unskilled workers can take the certificate examination. If you come in as an apprentice, you can take the examination after just two years.

Today, Svein Olav works with lay-up for missiles for the F-35 aircraft. A more demanding and heavier product due to its size, but he really enjoys it. The physical working environment is comfortable and quiet, with modern, bright and exceptionally clean premises, in order to ensure product quality.Svein Olav Haugo Credit N.Frilseth - KONGSBERG-15.jpg

He believes that a variation in tasks and with a combination of individual work and collaboration with colleagues is healthy. He is also aware that the good working environment is a result of the dynamics and relationships that arise from challenging, supporting, giving constructive feedback and learning from each other.
An important motivational factor is the opportunities to suggest improvements.

“The fact that you feel heard, and that my input can actually influence the way we work, gives me a greater ownership of the work I do, and forces me to think more for myself and work more efficiently,” says Svein Olav enthusiastically. “This also gives you a special sense of pride in your work.”

And trust is something he values.
“That a manager has respect and trust for his employees is absolutely essential for us to do a good job. Detailed management is stifling for creativity,” states Svein Olav.


At the moment, Svein Olav is educating within practical management at the vocational college, Fagskolen i Viken, in parallel with his full-time job and working two-shifts. He credits his wife for inspiration to seek out new opportunities and the courage to push his boundaries – and his employer for making it possible.

“I am so grateful for all the opportunities the company gives me, the trust they show and the support they give. I have so much to thank Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace for,” he says.

The 39-year-old does not deny that it’s challenging to go back to school and juggle both work and family. But with support and inspiration from his family and the facilitation from his employer, it is manageable. His end-goal is the important driving force.

He does not regret leaving the hairdressing profession in favour of defence production.
“Everyone has a right to defend themselves, and with the world that we see today it feels meaningful to be able to contribute as part of a safe and strictly controlled industry.”

And for others who are considering applying for a job as a skilled worker in Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, Svein Olav has a clear message:

“At Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace you get an interesting and safe workplace with the opportunity to work with exciting, high-tech products in world-class industry. Our main goal is to develop products and solutions that work in very demanding situations and to be able to do that we need dedicated employees who want to make a difference.”