Bjørn’s nephew is his boss

From “torpedo guy” to instrument technician: Bjørn Solberg (49) started working in the production department at ClampOn back in August 1997. Now, one of his nephews is his boss, a position Bjørn did not want as he prefers the hands-on approach.

Bjørn Solberg (49) started working in the production department at ClampOn in August 1997. Now, one of his nephews is his boss. “I don’t have any problems with that at all, as I do not want that job myself. I do not want responsibility for personnel or having to attend meetings all day, I prefer practical work,” says the instrument technician.

If you walk through the production department of ClampOn, past the ESD checkpoint and around the corner after the line of workbenches, you find Bjørn Solberg’s workspace behind glass walls. Shelves filled with carefully labelled and sorted electronics take up a big part of the office. A huge microscope is the centrepiece of his desk.

“People say that after sitting behind a microscope for 18 years I must grow tired of it, but I do not. New electronics is born all the time,” says Bjørn, bagging an electronics card he just inspected.

Coincidences led Bjørn, who hails from Knarvik outside Bergen, to ClampOn. At 15 years old, he started working in a canned food factory in the little village Bjørsvik. He worked in all areas of production and became the go-to-person when the machinery stopped working, which happened quite frequently. “I am glad I got that experience, I learned a lot,” says Bjørn, and takes off his work glasses.

At age 20, he left the factory job for military service. Being a “torpedo guy” in the Royal Norwegian Navy piqued his interest for what happens under water, and after his service he worked for five years as a truck driver in the oil industry, transporting equipment across the country.

The big truck was his workplace until 1992, when several disc prolapses in his back forced him to think of alternatives. “I knew that I would not be able to work as a driver for the rest of my life. So I went back to school as an adult and studied service electronics,” Bjørn recalls.

His electronics teacher happened to be the father of Geir Instanes, the Vice President of ClampOn. When Instanes needed people for his then newly started company, Bjørn got a call from his old teacher. A recommendation and an interview later, he had a new job.

Since then, Bjørn has been an instrument technician at ClampOn. He is responsible for inspection, testing, and modification of electronics, as well as flagging demand for supplies. “Throughout ClampOn’s journey from being a small start-up to becoming a medium sized business, I have been able to help develop my own workplace. In the beginning, we were only four people in the production department. We had a little corner of the office with a six metre workbench where all the production took place. It was cramped and hectic, but it required us to be effective and precise straight from the start,” says Bjørn.

Nowadays he gets to work with two of his nephews, Eirik and Martin Kjelstrup Solberg. The former is currently a Project Engineer in the Project Department. The latter is ClampOn’s Production Manager, which means he is in fact Bjørn’s boss. “I opened the door for them, but they had to work their way up themselves. It has worked out really well; they are definitely not putting our family to shame. We share the same goal and mindset: Be effective and get the job done right the first time.”

Getting things right is a big part of Bjørn’s job. He works closely with the Research and Development Department, building prototype electronics, often from scratch. “I find it equally exciting every time we try something new. After 18 years, I have still not grown tired of this job,” he says.

The oil and gas industry is currently struggling, and Bjørn predicts a few years without growth. Still, he is optimistic about the future, and believes the tide will turn eventually. “We are going to spend this period of time well so that everything works optimally for when the rush happens. Because it will happen,” he says as he picks up his glasses from his desk and puts them back on to get back to his microscope.