“It’s important to Norwegian companies to tap into the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship of San Francisco and the Bay Area, and to learn from this region’s philosophy of sharing and “pay it forward” as a key to success.” –Hilde Janne Skorpen
Ever since she studied in Santa Barbara, Norwegian Consul General Hilde Janne Skorpen has dreamed of returning to California. “To be posted here is a dream that came true for me,” she says. She grew up in a small village on the west coast of Norway, which sparked her wanderlust.
She originally planned for an academic career, but then she was accepted to the Foreign Affairs trainee course for diplomats in 1993. Her first posting was in Malaysia, and then on to NATO in Brussels, and UN in Geneva. “I am proud of representing Norway and to promote Norwegian interests abroad. Being in the Foreign Service is a way of life more than just a job,” she says.
The Norwegian Consulate General in San Francisco covers the 13 westernmost U.S. states, including Hawaii and Alaska. While Hawaii is still on the list of states to visit, Ms. Skorpen already visited Alaska twice, which reflects the high priority assigned to the Arctic in Norwegian foreign policy. This is where the effects of the global climate change are most visible, and the Consulate General in San Francisco has an important role to play in forging the kind of cooperation among countries necessary to manage the negative effects of the climate change, but also to explore ways of increasing economic activities and commercial ties. “Getting off the plane in Anchorage, feels like coming home”, Ms. Skorpen says.
“We have noticed a growing interest in the Arctic also from other parts of the U.S., not least from universities in Washington State and California. Norway is a leading center of insight and research-based knowledge of the Arctic region, which we are eager to share. Disseminating information of the developments in this region is therefore an important task of the Consulate General in San Francisco.”
Ms. Skorpen describes San Francisco as stimulating and inventive. “The Bay Area is in the forefront when it comes to research and development, innovation and new technologies in areas ranging from climate and environmental, health, education, social entrepreneurship, and new business models. This area attracts talents and entrepreneurs from all over the world. Universities such as UC Berkeley and Stanford play an important role in stimulating this culture, encouraging faculty and students to launch start-up labs and to commercialize their own research projects. People are open to new ideas, and there is no shortage of investors willing to take risks,” she says.
The Consulate staff of seven people works closely with Innovation Norway, which runs Innovation House in Silicon Valley. Here aspiring Norwegian start-ups are introduced to the special ecosystem of the Bay Area. Ms. Skorpen also underlines that the residence of the Consul General in San Francisco is a place for networking and representation for all Norwegians trying to make it.
The Norwegians in San Francisco are diverse, and Ms. Skorpen likes to keep in touch with the more traditional groups as well. There are probably a few thousands second, third or fourth generation Norwegians who belong to a number of clubs, lodges and associations. The Norwegian Seamen’s Church also plays an important role as a gathering place for Norwegians in the Bay Area – both newcomers and old-timers alike.
“In addition to promoting the whole range of Norwegian interests in the thirteen states that we cover, my excellent colleagues at the Consulate also provide assistance to Norwegians nationals in need of assistance.” Ms. Skorpen’s mantra to all Norwegians visiting the U.S. is to remember travel insurance. “You never know when it may come handy, and a visit to the hospital, if only for a broken leg, may become a costly affair.”
BIO – Hilde Janne Skorpen
- From Solund and Hyllestad, Sogn og Fjordane
- Took up the post as Norway’s Consul General in San Francisco in August 2013
- She is accompanied in San Francisco by her husband, retired army Col. Ole K. Stubben
- She has a daughter, Vilde, at University of Edinburgh
- She earned a Ph.D. in Political Science at Boston University
- She has been Ambassador for Disarmament and Non-proliferation, served as Deputy Head of the Norwegian Mission to the UN in Geneva, and been posted to the Norwegian delegation to NATO in Brussels and to the Norwegian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur
- Prior to her current posting, she served as the Foreign Ministry’s Senior Faculty Advisor to the Norwegian National Defense College