Benchmark women making a difference in Aquaculture – Silje Sveen

In the second of our series of interviews with women leading the way in aquaculture, Senior Quality Manager Silje Sveen tells us about all of her different hats at Benchmark, the strong women in her family who influenced her career in aquaculture and how she maintains a good work/life balance.

Tell us about your current role

My current role and main hat in Benchmark Genetics is as Senior Quality Manager, responsible for the Quality Management System, ensuring it is maintained, updated and used as intended. I am responsible for ensuring that we comply with the requirements of our certifications (Global GAP, Organic), executing internal and external audits, and working closely with the Quality Management team in Benchmark Genetics, and the Quality Coordinator at SalmoBreed Salten. I also work closely with sales, production, fish health, marketing and more. I am also the health, safety and environmental representative for Lønningdal and the offices, and the safety representative and employee champion. Some extra hats.

Silje with Rudi R. Seim (Head of Fish Health) at SalmoBreed Salten, checking out premium quality of Atlantic SalmoBreed ova

What made you decide to study Fish Health?

My parents are salmon fish farmers, and I have literally grown up by the net pen. I have always been fascinated with the biology of fish. Me and my sister used to fish a lot (outside of the net pens) for our cat, while waiting for our parents to finish up their work, and I always had the job (voluntarily) to take the guts out. Being a fish farmer is really hard work, and the worst is when fish die, as often there is not much you can do that you haven’t already initiated, so working for increased robustness and better fish health has always been the goal (and here I am – in perfect surroundings!).

Silje grew up by the net pen

What excites you the most about your job?

Learning a lot – every day – and working in close collaboration with knowledgeable and fun people, who really want to make a difference and see the business develop.

What do you think your biggest challenges are?

Personally, I’m very time-optimistic, and a yes person – so trying to be more realistic is always a goal and a challenge, especially after having kids.

What recommendations would you give to upcoming female leaders?

Be prepared for your tasks and hesitate less if you have an opportunity in front of you. Sometimes it’s good to just jump into it.

When you compare your country to others, what would you say about diversity in business?

Since Norway is one of the best countries in the world to live in, I think we have come a long way regarding inclusion – but we should always focus on having greater diversity, because there is still a way to go in certain segments. At Benchmark Genetics, we have a great diversity in nationality and I think we are not far from being 50/50 in gender.

Who has supported you on your way?

I have always had a lot of support from my family, they simply love that me and my sister are working with salmon in this fantastic future-oriented industry. There have always been strong, hardworking women in my family. My grandmother was also a fish farmer and did well as a politician, and my mother is the CEO of the family business (my mother is the brain, and my father is the muscles) so the females in the family have always worked hard and achieved their goals. I also met the love of my life at age 17, and we are still happily together, and of course he has given me the support and trust I have needed to get where I am today.

Silje at a Halloween party with her mother and sister

How do you manage a good work/life balance?

By having a lot of hobbies! My green garden genes wake up at springtime, and then in the autumn the knitting and sewing takes over. And throughout the year I like to try out new recipes (together with my partner), find good life hacks to be more sustainable and have fun with the kids. This is a perfect recipe for keeping my mental and physical wellbeing in balance.

Silje and her partner fishing for catfish

Is growing digitalisation an advantage for women in business?

I would believe so, and hopefully yes – increased flexibility with digitalisation and managing all the duties at home without feeling guilty, I believe this can help women to accomplish their goals and pursue new opportunities.

If your life was a book, what would be the title?

Positivism, rationalism and a dash of self-irony

Which decade do you love the most and why?

There’s a lot of good music and cool clothes from the 60’s, but as I’m a child of the 80’s, there is nothing more funny than going to a bad taste party in my mother’s 80’s clothes!

What’s your favourite aquatic animal and why?

I simply love the lumpsucker, they are super sweet with their strange appearance, but actually very adapted to their way of living, being able to take a rest simply by sucking on to a stone/surface. So, this fish shows us not to judge by the appearance😉. It is also the male who takes care of the children, so this is also a bit untypical and shows their flexibility.

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