It takes a village

On International Women’s Day, we catch up with Anne Christiansen, Vivaldi’s Head of Office HR & Culture.

Born in the US to a Norwegian immigrant family, Anne moved to Norway as a 26-year-old. She followed her mom who returned to her home country after many years.

Anne’s first job – as a Receptionist and later Reception Manager for McKinsey & Co – was a great start in a foreign country but nowhere near technology.

So how did she find herself working in tech?

After leaving McKinsey & Co where she spent 6 years, she was working in a local butcher shop, making the daily dishes for sale and also doing the basic butcher shop duties.

“I could walk to work in 3 minutes and my daughter could walk to and from school and come see me at my job. It was a wonderful nitty-gritty period in my life.”

Right around that time, Anne was contacted by Lars Esholdt, a headhunter whom she knew through McKinsey & Co.

“He said to me: ‘I know you are happy there but there’s this company, just meet them.’

Anne did and fell in love with the team.

“I felt they needed me to take care of them and the employees, and that is a good feeling.”

The company was Opera Software.

Before joining, Anne had a meeting with Jon von Tetzchner.

“It was in the evening, and he had to interrupt the meeting because he had to have his call with his daughter who was getting ready for bed. I must admit the priority impressed me. I thought he was a kind man, and I would be lucky to work for him.”

The Opera years 

Anne spent 10 years at Opera.

“We had such a good time together as a team! Every year I would send an April Fools email, and every year someone would fall for it. One of my favorites was when I said we were going to economize and start getting food from the same companies that supply airlines with food. One of the exec team sent me an email and said: ‘Anne, do we really have to do that?’”

Anne suspects that what made her accepted with the employees was that the first thing she did was fire the cleaning company they had.

“As a response, they came in and stole all the toilet paper. We had a lot of fun with that one.”

The rise of Vivaldi 

For Anne, it has been a dream come true to be a part of Vivaldi.

“I still need to pinch myself. I do not think there is much change to the culture we had at Opera. It’s the people that make a culture, and that has just been a natural evolution here too. We are about half and half now ex Opera employees and employees from other companies.”

Anne says that the reason people join Vivaldi is Jon.

“It is a pleasure to work for Jon. He is just the nicest man in the world. He cares about everyone he has ever worked with and does work with, and we consider our Opera alumni our friends. We try to make sure that everyone that comes into Vivaldi feels they are valuable and respected and at ease.”

One thing she always says is that everyone should remember that the Vivaldi family is number 2.

“We respect and understand that family always comes first. We try to include them as much as possible.”

Asked about the highlights of what she’s achieved at Vivaldi, she’s adamant.

“I have achieved nothing on my own. It has been a collaboration with the best gang in the world to work with ever! It takes a village you know.” 😊

Women in tech  

“At Vivaldi, we are 11 women in total, out of 44 employees, and we would love to have more women of course. We have very talented women and programmers too, but we do not get many applicants that are female actually.”

The last woman applicant was our summer intern Vilde Solvoll who is coming back to Vivaldi again this summer.

“So there is a job to be done at the education level when young women are choosing their career path in my opinion”, adds Anne.

In any case, Anne doesn’t think in “male/female” terms when it comes to matters concerning Vivaldi.

“I see no challenge in that. We know that we have some of the best talent in the world. Gender doesn’t enter into it.”

And her advice to women considering a career in the tech industry?

“I would advise any woman interested in the tech industry to go for it. You will be valued more than you know. Personally, I never look back, and I am so lucky to be where I am today. I would do nothing to change my path.”

Beyond work

What does Anne do when she’s not at Vivaldi?

“I love golf unconditionally! Home improvements are also something I love working on. And I love to cook. The best book I have ever read is Beloved by Toni Morrison. There are a couple of sayings from there that have just stuck with me. One is: ‘Eating berries that taste like church’. I love the connotation that shows what church meant to someone in the slave years not so long ago. I highly recommend reading it.”

“I love my pets too – two cats and a doggie named Kaja. Kaja is on the photo we took for this story. We call her the HR dog because when I moved to the US, she lived with Hahn, my colleague in HR. But Kaja is not the only office dog, we’re a friendly bunch – everyone’s welcome.”

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