Despite having plans to become a vet, Dahlen was drawn into the seafood industry through summer jobs she took in Norwegian fish processing factories while she saved money to go backpacking. Now an ingrained industry advocate, she is focused on transforming the economic situation of the Norwegian whitefish industry and creating a sustainable future for the industry she loves.
IntraFish: How did you enter the seafood industry and why? What drew you to it as a career?
Ingvild Dahlen: When I was finished at high school, I was looking for a job, saving money for a backpacker trip. My sister is seven years older than me, and she studied aquaculture at the University of Nordland, in Bodo. She was then working at salmon producing company Follalaks (today Cermaq), and got me a job at a processing factory for salmon, in Hamaroy, Nordland. I worked there for half a year, before I got a job at a pelagic processing factory in Bergen, this time by a study friend of my sister.
I traveled for a few months, and when the time came to choose a study, my sister highly recommended me to go to the University in Nordland. I already then had a good network in the industry and enjoyed the jobs I had, and figured “why not?”. So I started a bachelor's degree in fishery economics at the University in Nordland.
My original intention was to become a vet!
Even though I have an economics education, I choose to continue in the seafood industry based on many factors; a combination between practical and theoretical perspectives. I get to meet a wide range of people from all over the world, from fishermen, CEOs, factory staff, suppliers, retail customers, industrial customers and so on. It’s challenging and everyday is different.
IF:What do you aim to achieve in the sector?
ID: I would like to contribute and build the sector in a sustainable direction, so the global population can enjoy healthy seafood and what the ocean gives us, for many more years.
Today I am a part of the white fish processing/fillet production industry in Norway. This sector has been struggling to achieve acceptable profit for many years. It would be a pleasure to contribute to change this, and bring forward the traditions and history this industry has in Norway. It is an industry I am proud to be a part of.
IF: Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
ID: In 10 years I see my self still working within the seafood sector, either in Norway or some other place in the world, still working towards my aims mentioned above, together with experienced colleagues that are as passionate about the industry as I am.
IF: In your view, what are the seafood industry's biggest future challenges?
ID: Well, it is different challenges depending on what part of the industry you're in, but I do think that sustainability, stability and predictability are key words for many parts of the industry in the future -- how to continue to grow in a sustainable way, both biologically and economically, how to achieve a more predictable future for all stakeholders in the industry, so that everyone can feel some kind of security in connection with future investments. Some of this is possible to achieve with adjusting governmental framework, or at least “stick to what you have decided” and not changing the playing rules too many times.
But some things connected with Mother Nature are more challenging to change, and that means the industry needs to become more flexible to changes, to maintain business/profit. The consumer also needs to understand that our “main supplier” is nature, and that it is not always easy to just push the button and get the exact order delivered.
IF: What kind of people does the industry need to face these challenges and take it forward?
ID: Some of the challenges mentioned above are related to areas outside the industry, but I think people with an ability to work and find solutions in a continually changing environment, will enable us to face these challenges and take the industry forward.
IF: What could current leadership in your sector learn to be better at?
ID: I think current leadership needs to be better at an equal focus on working experience and academic experience. This industry needs both kinds, and both experiences needs to be equally appreciated and used in combination.
IF: What is the perception of the seafood industry as a career choice amongst younger people, do you think?
ID: That is difficult to answer. I think it depends on in what part of Norway you ask the question. If you ask a young person in a big city, far away from the areas where the actual industry is located, most young people will have little, or no knowledge about the industry. But if you ask a young person along the Norwegian coast, I think many of them find it an interesting industry and consider a career within it would be interesting. Besides this, I do think most people in Norway are familiar with the fact that salmon is “big business” in our ountry.
IF: What is the single best piece of career advice you have ever received?
ID: I have gotten a lot of good advice from may people around me during my career. But my sister is always the one I turn to in need of advice, and she once told me “just go for it!”. In situations I have been doubting what to do, due to being scared, insecure and not sure if I will manage the task, she has always said “just go for it!”. And in fact, I have never regretted any decisions I have made in connection with my career. It usually turns out well in the end, and in most cases I have learned a lot and had good experiences. My parents always say “every single person in the world can contribute with something good”, and that is also an important thing to keep in mind.
IF: What would you being doing professionally if you weren't in your current role?
ID: I would most likely be working in a position where I could continue to promote the industry I am so proud to be a part of, either within marketing, sales or production -- to get more people to taste, like and enjoy healthy seafood, and /or to contribute to the industry so that it continues to be an interesting industry, that people are proud to be a part of.