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Transforming Norway’s Industries from the Ground Up, Literally

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Susanna L. Furland, project manager in Cognite's subsurface exploration and production unit

From Vestnes, a small town between Molde and Ålesund in Norway’s Northwest, Susanna L. Furland, one of Cognite’s newest arrivals, is already making waves as a product manager in the company’s subsurface program.

While studying geophysics at the University of Bergen, Susanna found that having grown up in such a small town, she was never exposed to the breadth of professions one could go in with a degree in mathematical geophysics. University opened up worlds for her. 


Forces of Nature

“My studies afforded me the opportunities to see the bigger picture of Earth dynamics and how everything we interact with in nature has been through countless, billion-year processes. Everything we touch, use to drive our societies and economies is a result of these immense dynamics and forces. It’s fascinating,” Susanna said. 

Moreover, she adds that her academic work allowed her to take in more of the country and contribute to high-impact projects that have shaped and continue to shape Norway’s industry and economy. 

Eventually, the big city called, and she made her way east to Oslo, where she entered the world of software and technology. She liked the way the technology scene in Oslo supports an array of industries, from energy to medicine, environmental work to finance. 

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Why Norway's Industrial Technology Scene is Heating Up

Asked to assess how Norway as a whole is nurturing its own talent and attracting global talent into its industries, Susanna feels it is doing everything right. “Strong social benefits and security, an open and solid economy with good competition, excellent universities and resource-rich industries are a recipe to keep Norway’s talent pool thriving,” Susanna says.

As she stepped into Oslo’s growing technology scene, she experienced this firsthand. “The fast-paced development cycle of software, the number of really talented people working on it, and how quickly we were challenged to solve problems for different clients was energizing,” she said. 

One of these jobs would be to develop modeling tools to be used in various oil and gas companies, and another led to Cognite. “As everyone else, I was questioning whether or not I wanted to join this industry,” she said. 

Several local colleagues of hers from a former job had joined Cognite already, and tempted her to join. “I didn’t know exactly what Cognite was doing at first,” she said, “But I soon jumped in. It was an opportunity I did not want to miss out on.”

“What I really liked, stepping into the subsurface team, was the fact that we would be challenged to develop real solutions that squeeze as much value out of operational data as possible, contextualize it, and ultimately enable domain experts to use what they want, when they need it. This makes their jobs that much more efficient, simpler, lower impact,” she explains, “In subsurface and exploration, this can make an enormous difference. 

“Cognite is very appealing, very young, enthusiastic, innovative,” Susanna says, “It’s one thing for a company to throw out a lot of catchphrases on transformation and digitalization, but Cognite is actually executing on this. We have enormous stores of industrial data, information and the human talents we need to do real innovation for industries most in need of it.”

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How to Make the Biggest Impact

She says that she could have done similar things in a regular IT company, but helping transform an industry, therein giving back to Norway and enabling its legacy companies to operate better was too powerful a prospect to pass up. 

Susanna is in a small minority of young people working in technology these days who are lending their talents to helping transform one of Norway’s legacy industries, and within that, the very complex field of subsurface and exploration.

“Young people these days do not typically consider the types of impacts their talents could have on our big industries, helping develop fresh solutions, streamline operations, and work better, cleaner,” Susanna says, “People may not always realize where technology and funding comes from and what drives innovation today. Big companies in traditional industries like these are investing huge resources on operational optimization and digital transformation to drive business and sustainability.”

“Much of the time and cost-savings from data-driven operations and analytics would, ideally, also be able to be directed toward more research and development, more innovation. There’s so much our fresh outlooks on work, on technology, on industry, can contribute to these industries. This is a big part of what drives me.” 

Susanna is both a trained domain expert and a technologist, with her eye constantly on the future. Looking ahead, she sees some of the most exciting developments in industry are those blooming in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, particularly within subsurface, where high-quality automated seismic interpretation is one of the front runners.

Susanne in. the office

Reshaping the Subsurface Sector 

Susanna’s working goals, and those of her subsurface team, are to build application program interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs) to support users in extracting, uploading, storing, contextualizing and streaming data from APIs to domain applications. “Working with modern and open APIs is something I see as the data management of the future,” she says. 

A challenge that the subsurface and exploration sector faces is that companies tend to be siloed within their applications, with related processes tracked and logged by different legacy systems. Her goal now is to help guide clients in filling in the gaps between their different subsurface teams and to use their vast amounts of data more effectively. “To allow prospective clients to be able to store data, sort it, and importantly, to efficiently search and find for what you’re looking for has immense value in the sector,” she says. 

Cognite’s multicultural environment and fresh, growing talent pool is well placed to provide such solutions, especially in subsurface. “We’ve turned some heads internationally and are having good discussions with many major companies, all of whom are curious on who we’re working with already. Having a large, well-respected client base opens even more doors,” Susanna explains, “It’s our job now to deliver.”

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