StatoilHydro’s Toughest FCO

She is dressed like an attorney, her hair is short, and you would easily believe that she is a marathon runner or a similar athlete. Her movements all have a justification, no waste of movements here. Charlotte Balslev is a person who get things done, and then gets on with the next routine of the day.
And here we are, in the Statoil/ Hydro Indonesia HQ in Pondok Indah 2 in Jakarta, and Charlottes attitude is almost screaming: Lets get this interview done and over with. The subject is about her as a Danish woman in a Norwegian company in Indonesia, where she is among several other female colleagues, and where she is in the position as a Finance Manager.
So how is it to be here in Indonesia?
”It Okay. I am fine,” Charlotte Balslev replies with a huge smile and all traces of impatience disappears as she tells about her time in Indonesia.
“At the time of my arrival, Indonesia was No. 143 at Transparency Internationals list of the cleanest country’s – the least corrupt countries – in the world. Nigeria, where I came from, was No. 147, so you can say that I took a step upwards, just by moving from Lagos to Jakarta.”
In Lagos Charlotte Balslev was a business support manager for  StatoilHydro Nigeria at StatoilHydro. There was a lot of money involved in that, but the huge difference from Lagos to Jakarta is, that here she has the position as a finance manager at StatoilHydro Indonesia, where she was involved from the very beginning.
”I was the third out of five Scandinavians from StatoilHydro who arrived in August 2009, so you can say that I certainly was involved from the very beginning”, Charlotte Balslev is smiling.
Charlotte Balslev, a mother of two, must be doing well, because her two year contract in Indonesia was recently extended with at least one more year.
”I joined Esso Denmark straight from Handelshoejskolen (Copenhagen Business School) i 1984”, the Danish economist says.
From the very first day at her new job at the oil refinery in the provincial town of Kalundborg, she realized that OK, she had an education, Cand Merc, but the real education started the first day at work.
“Just take the working hours. My boss he worked all most around the clock, so I had to do all I could to follow him,” she recalls.
“I was always ready, available. May be it comes from my childhood. We were seven children. I learned from my childhood to do my best, and I think that’s why I became a “Do’er”.
Working with Esso, she became the mother of her two children, but the biggest hindrance for her career and adventure dreams was her then husband. He simply did not want to leave Denmark.
When the divorce finally opened the doors, and she got married with her boss, she got the Okay she had been waiting for so many years.
Charlotte Balslev felt a little isolated, a little remote, a little overlooked, every time her Norwegian company picked people to jobs abroad. Her new husband Poul was picked to head a huge StatoilHydro project in Vietnam, but for her it was not easy for her to be headhunted with in her own organization.
“So I made an open complaint to the right people, telling them that I felt overlooking as a non Norwegian staff, when they appointed people to positions abroad. Then I saw a position in Russia, applied for the job – and got it! And ever since, you cannot say I got the easiest appointments”, Charlotte laughs.
She became responsible for gasoline stations in Russia, and when the jobs i Lagos was ready, Charlotte was too.
“My new boss came to the airport to greet me and welcome me to Lagos. When we left the airport to go to the compound where all the StatoilHydro expats lived and worked, we were escorted by a police force. Some got used to it, me too, but some never did. For me, I think it was in the car, on the way to the compound in Lagos, I took the decision to say yes to the challenge. What I mean is, if you see only all the garbage, all the negative stuff, then what are you doing here”? says Charlotte.
In the beginning she had security escort all the time, but by the end of her assignment she got around alone. And that was one of her goals from the very first day. To be able to move about on her own in a country where huge tough guys hardly dare go out alone.
In Lagos, Charlotte Balslev sort of earned her new assignment in Jakarta the hard way. The HR people in Oslo certainly knew what they were doing, when they asked her to talk to her husband about extending the contract and move to Indonesia for two years back in the summer 2007.
“My husband has his life. He is not interested in following me around the world. But he doesn’t want to stop me in my carrier either, so Jakarta was fine for me, and I arrived with two suitcases and the backing from a huge company. Not the worst of situations in this world,” Charlotte says.
The story behind the establishment of StatoilHydro ASA in Indonesia was, that the Norwegians together with their Indonesian partner Pertamina in March 2007 was awarded The Karama PSC. The Block covers an area of just under 5000 sq km and lies in deep water, West of Sulawesi, Indonesia. The block was won on a firm work commitment of the acquisition and processing of 1900 sqkm of 3D seismic data and the drilling of 3 deep water exploration wells.
“The huge challenge for me from the very first day was the language. People here speak very little English. You get along on Indonesian, not in English. Just to take a taxi, or to tell the housemaid at the hotel what I wanted was a big thing”.
But Charlotte got along, and now, two years later, she is responsible for the finances of running a company with lesser than 10 expats, and more than 50 locals employed.
StatoilHydros local partner Pertamina, is known for its corruption scandals. Directly questioned about Indonesia’s tradition of corruption, the Dane’s answer comes straight over her desk.
“You see it everywhere. From the lack of a bill in the taxi and up. Its everywhere. Here at StatoilHydro, everything has to be open and documented. The KKN as they call it here, – in English it is Corruption, Collusion and Nepotism – is very easy to see when you cope with the public institutions. They are trying to get some benefits, for instance by delaying the processes. So we can have problems getting our cases through the system, but there are no short cuts to be taken by us. We follow the rules and regulations. Things takes time. Also here in Indonesia, for sure. And we are prepared to give it the time”, Charlotte Balslev insist.
She is convinced that as an Scandinavian company, its a simple duty not to give anything away, just because you move to the other side of the world. There is an ethical duty behind what ever you do where ever you are, in Denmark, Norway, Russia, Nigeria, or here in Indonesia.

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