Labeled as the "Oil Capital" of Norway, Stavanger is home to many big oil companies. In fact, it just recently hosted perhaps the biggest energy forum/trade show within the energy sector - ONS 2008. Like many other foreigners, I'm now also working within the oil industry, after much deliberation.
With a development background and thinking all along that I'm best suited in an NGO and non-profit organisation, never in my dreams would I have thought of working at a private company. Let alone working at a huge oil corporation.
I was to learn later that it could be truly exciting and stimulating. Whether I admit it or not, I enjoy the freedom of doing things independently - no sleepless nights worrying about project budgets, no donors watching our backs, no headaches thinking when is the next pay day (if paid after all!), and no administrative and bureaucratic pains.
With my current employer, big perks speak loud -- comprehensive health insurance, competitive salary, career progression opportunities, travels, full maternity leave, computer and mobile phone, etc.
However, small perks even speak louder. Flex-time (home office days), 5-week holidays, daily supply of fruits, endless supply of tea and coffee, subsidised cafeteria with diverse menu every week, yoga classes, discounted gym memberships, access to seaside and mountain cabins, etc. These are the simple things that matter most. And I appreciate that my company offers these benefits.
And of course, there are the intangible elements. The encouragement, appreciation, and recognition given. Learning and training opportunities. Interesting people. Company values.
Since I entered the company six months ago, I've witnessed the company donating to various organisations, hosting concerts and seminars, organising "run for fun" and social activities, while making business deals across the globe.
I would be naive to say that there is no office politics and that people completely trust each other. Of course there's room for improvement in regards to teamwork and departmental cooperation. The company could be better in managing people and money. Occasionally, competition between colleagues can be stifling. These are the times I wish I was back in the non-profit organisation with a cause -- there where people hold strong principles and they make the best of available resources to deliver services to the people they serve for. There where creativity, integrity, sincerity, and passion are needed to survive. There where huge salaries and other personal benefits sometimes become meaningless when lives are at stake. There where you get real satisfaction for doing something good for the society, for the world.
At the end of the day, I can only hope for the best. I would like to believe that my company leaders do care for the environment. That the company sincerely believes in its values and its people. That it seriously thinks that we are not only part of the problem but also part of the solution. That we continue to meet the world's energy demands in a sustainable manner, with the least carbon footprint, and give back to the society and world at large.