International Women's Day has been celebrated on 8 March for 110 years. Reason enough to introduce four strong women from Kulzer. In a short series, they tell us what makes their jobs special, what has shaped them on their career paths and what or who inspires them.
In this Interview: Hjørdis Laksafoss, Country Manager Kulzer Nordic since April 2020, talks about what she has learned on her career path, how she encourages other women and why "uncertainty" is an opportunity.
The situation when I started in the dental world
When I started in dentistry in 1991 as a very young woman, the business was mainly dominated by men, not only on the supplier side, the majority of dentists was also male. It was unusual to be in the industry as a young woman, but it was also very giving. The learning curve of the first years was extremely steep and the journey was very fruitful. Over the years, the ratio of men to women has reversed and in our Nordic region to 75% women, both on the business-to-business side and on the clinical side. On the laboratory side, men continue to outnumber women.
What I have learned
Very unusually, my first supervisor in dentistry was a woman; that in itself was not really different for me as I had worked in a clinic before, but she managed through fear, which I was not used to. The upside of this was that she taught me how not to manage people. Another supervisor taught me true leadership; how to encourage and coach people to release their potential. Since that, I have experienced a good mix of both leadership and management, but every single person gave me something. I have learned that you can always extract something and turn it into your own. You learn how and what to do – and what not to do.
What makes a good team
To me a good team is a balanced team; not only when it comes to the ratio of female/male but also when it comes to diversity of personalities and skills. The team needs to be a balanced mix in order to create dynamic. I prefer leadership to management and I think my finest task is to evolve people and release their full potential; to see them grow in their job, or send them to the next if we can’t offer what they need to fully unfold. It’s always a fine balance. When I recruit people, I don’t look at age, gender, competences, ethnicity or sexuality, but what the person can offer the company, the team and the job.
For sure, only a woman can give birth, and I don’t see that as a hurdle for a carrier but more as an extra skill. When you give birth and raise a child, you learn over time to be patient, to listen, to negotiate - all skills you need as a leader. Even if women are in a partnership, they often feel bad about leaving their children at home, but I think they should put that aside, because a kid has two parents – the one is not better than the other” – it is just done in two different ways. I encourage women to fulfil their dreams and careers if they want and in Kulzer Nordic we offer some flexibility in order to have a work-life balance. It’s important to find a balance at home that works, to get help in the house if needed and then be present when you are home. Presence was not my strongest skill when my kids were small – always on the phone and email, both evenings and weekends. Today I am proud of my kids – their dad did a fantastic job and luckily, I learned to be present and support my kids in becoming responsible adults.
How I would encourage other women
What are ambitions? Is it always about setting goals and following a path, or is about taking the opportunities that cross your road? I have never had a specific ambition or goal. I am typically very passionate in the job/tasks I am working in, and along the road challenges have crossed my path. I took almost all the challenges even when I was not always sure I could do it, but I learned very quickly by doing. I resigned from my jobs twice without having another one, only because I knew it was time to move on and develop. To develop you have to get out of your comfort zone; step on rocky stones; be on uncertain ground and grow along with challenges. My best advice is to challenge yourself; don’t be afraid of the uncertainty; grow with the situation and get the best out of it.