My job

Found new challenges in the defense industry

Tom-Erik Holmen is Manager Business Development at Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace. After 12 years in the Norwegian Armed Forces, this was the perfect career progression for Tom-Erik.

  • Text:Ove Ronny Haraldsen

    Photo:Håvard Bjelland / Bergens Tidene and Ove Ronny Haraldsen

What does your job involve?

“My job involves selling and marketing the NASAMS air defence system, and other air-defence related products in Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace’s (KDA``) portfolio. You tend to be responsible for specific countries and regions, which means that you have to go out there and hold meetings and briefings, respond to enquiries, attend trade fairs and events, and market the product to the best of your ability.”

“Selling an advanced defence system like NASAMS is not a one-person job. The marketing department very much relies on support from the rest of the organisation, particularly when it comes to technical aspects, industrial cooperation, logistics, training, and legal and financial discussions.”

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NASAMS is the world’s first operational Network Centric Short to Medium Range Ground Based Air Defence System.

“When you get to the point in the process when it is time to submit an offer, the role then becomes one of managing the team that is responding to the enquiry. The team is made up of software and hardware engineers, technicians, ILS and training specialists, lawyers, economists, specialists in industrial cooperation and offset, and other relevant parties. You then continue to manage the process until the contract is signed, and then the project passes over to the project department which will be responsible for the actual delivery.” 

What is your background?

“I joined the Norwegian Army straight from school and I was there for little over 12 years. I started serving in the Garrison of Sør-Varanger on the border to Russia, and then spent several years in the Telemark Battalion. I had four deployments to Afghanistan, then the Norwegian Military Academy and served in His Majesty The King’s Guard before joining KDA.”

"I think that KDA is the perfect choice for people with a military background", says Tom-Erik Holmen. 

Why did you want to work for KONGSBERG?

“Well, firstly it looked like a stimulating place to work, with a lot of opportunities. When I left the Army, it was important for me to find a company where I could use the competence and knowledge I had acquired. I think that KDA is the perfect choice for people with a military background.”

“There were also family reasons behind my job change. I was born and bred in the city of Kongsberg, my wife is also from Kongsberg, so it meant we could settle down in our home town.” 

What do you like best about your job as Manager Business Development?

“You get to meet a lot of different people and you get to promote the best military systems around; you must use your full range of skills. Not just your specialist skills, but also your leadership and presentation skills. The job is extremely varied and you learn about a lot of interesting cultures and organisations.”

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Tom-Erik Holmen had four deployments to Afghanistan during his career in the Norwegian Armed Forces. 

“It’s not a typical nine-to-five job. There is a lot of work, which can be challenging at times, with short deadlines, and you tend to be responsible for multiple sales assignments, so when you think you should be in the office responding to enquiries, you might find yourself caught up in a trade fair or in meetings with customers in a completely different part of the world. That usually means long evenings working in your hotel room in order to respond within the deadlines. But it is a very exciting job, which provides opportunities and challenges you would never get elsewhere.”

What are your goals in this job?

“Apart from selling systems to customers, at the moment my goal is to develop my skills in the air defence field. I didn’t have any previous operational experience in air defence systems, so learning about NASAMS has been a fairly steep learning curve. It involves not only the operational concept, tactics and procedures, but also everything to do with the technical solutions and NASAMS system as a whole.”

“I also need to be able to understand the business so that I can make the right decisions at the right time. What I like about Kongsberg is that they give you the time and the opportunities to become good at what you do.”

“You get to meet a lot of different people and you get to promote the best military systems around. The job is extremely varied and you learn about a lot of interesting cultures and organisations", says Tom-Erik Holmen. 

What is your best work memory?

“I have been at KONGSBERG since August last year, so I don’t have an awful lot of experience yet. But the first meetings, demonstrations and briefings I had with customers stand out as really exciting, what did they actually want to talk about, was I well enough prepared…everything runs through your head when you haven’t done it before.”

“After a few months in the job, we were in Jakarta in Indonesia at a trade fair, where my job was to present and demonstrate NASAMS to large groups of the country’s senior Armed Forces personnel. I was thrown in at the deep end and had to learn on the job, but basically, you just get on with it. It doesn’t take too long before you’re experienced enough to be able to get the message across to customers. That was exciting and educational. It was an incredibly steep learning curve for a few days, but it is tremendously motivating when you know that you are marketing a world-class product. You just have to be willing to jump in with both feet and have a go. That’s how you learn, and that is also how you improve for the next time.” 

Do you have a hidden talent?

"I don’t really think I have an awful lot of hidden talents, to be honest. If I must say something, I would say I tend to be able to keep calm under stressful situations, which is a useful skill in both my former job and now.  I am also not too bad at the high jump for someone with a relatively heavy body. I played basketball, and was very keen on the now almost forgotten sport Telemark skiing in my youth, so I used to do a lot of plyometrics training.”