While interviewing Gjermund Nesland, a very familiar topic came up. He reminded me how lucky we are to have the internet to introduce us to friends from all over the world. Without it, I would have never met Kerrin Black, who introduced me to Gjermund and her talent site, Talent Finders. You can find Gjermund there as well: http://www.talentfinders.com/profiles/view/203/gjermund_nesland and I am proud to be listed too: http://www.talentfinders.com/profiles/view/204/tommy_geraci. If you are looking for a place to find, hire, or work with specific talent, Talent Finders is a great place to do so and it costs so much less than sites like IMDb.
Here is a little about Gjermund, as listed on Talent Finders:
An officer and a gentleman
Grew up on a farm with three siblings. Learned from a very young age the principles and of hard work, dedication, taking responsibility and to be independent.
15 years of age he decided to move away from home to live and study physical education in another city.
Applied for a military non-commissioned officer academy after high school. Was accepted and became the first officer cadet in Norway and Sweden selected to be trained within a military artillery prestige project.
Best performing student from primary school all through his University master’s degree.
Norwegian Champion in kickboxing. Competing several years on the highest internationally level within kickboxing. The national team management consist only of one team manager and two coaches. Gjermund Nesland is the manager for the successful team. He is also a former athlete on the same team that he is now leading.
Received a Presidential Scholar at University of Georgia (“In recognition of superior academic accomplishment [...]”)
Certified project manager in Project Management Professionals (PMP) by the Project Management Institute, USA. One of the highest recognized project manager certifications internationally.
Manager and Sports Director for the Norwegian National Kickboxing Team, with the full contact party of the team ranked as the 2ndbest in the world.
Serial entrepreneur within several businesses as real estate, indoor play parks, consulting, and elite sports.
Important player in the establishment of the contribution model for businesses for the Norwegian “TV-aksjonen“, the world’s largest annual charity fund raising event.
In 2005, when ”only” being a master’s student he spoke at the DigiMedia 2005 in Cairo, Egypt, the largest IT & media research conference in the Middle East.
At the age of 29 he was offered a job as International Business Development Manager for an international IT-company, with the main responsibility for subsidiaries and business development in The Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden – however, also working with subsidiaries and partners in USA, United Kingdom, France and Germany.
At the age of 34 he was head hunted to a position as Senior Manager in one of the world’s leading supplier of drilling technology and drilling equipment to the offshore oil industry, leading five engineering departments with 120 employees.
He is now a senior manager in a global company, a national team manager in kickboxing, and a serial entrepreneur at the same time.
With Gjermund, I kind of felt like I should be doing a bachelor auction of some sort, he truly is a Renaissance man and would fetch quite the haul for a great charity. You can see why I wanted to talk to him from his impressive resume. I think you will all enjoy our little chat:
Q: Not many people are familiar with growing up on a farm. What did that experience teach you that you have been able to apply to other aspects of your life?
Gjermund Nesland: Growing up on a farm was for me both an amazing experience and hard work. I am truly grateful for all it has taught me of life and how it has built my work ethic. Most of the summer, when having our school vacation, my brothers and I worked 8-14 hours a day, 6-7 days a week at the farm. We were at an early stage of life given responsibilities and taught that you rarely getting something for free. To achieve things in life you have to work for it.
Also, growing up so close the nature and to wildlife make you appreciate mother earth with things like fresh air, fresh water, pure food and other natural resources.
Q: At 15 you decided to move away from your family to study physical education. What was that like at such a young age? Or is 15 just young to Americans?
GN: Well, most Norwegians move away at the age of 18-20, but it is not unique to move away at the age of 15-16 to go to high school. I believe my upbringing on the farm, having to take responsibility for the livestock and important chores at an early age made me well prepared. I grew up in a very safe and small town, so I was a bit naive then, but my values and ethic kept me away from trouble after moving out.
I got a governmental scholarship when I moved, and in the weekends and vacations I worked on the farm and getting paid. So from the age of 15 I have had full responsibility for my own finances, in addition to cook my own meals, wash my clothes, etc. And I really believe this has shaped me as a person making me a very independent individual.
Q: What do your experience in the military teach you?
GN: I spent two years in the Norwegian Army, training to be an officer, and these two years were two of the most defining years in my life, shaping my character and nurturing my leadership skills. As a sergeant at the age of 19 I was together with a lieutenant given the responsibility for vehicles and equipment at the value of around $16 million USD. So at an early stage in life the military gives you major responsibilities.
What I definitely learned most about was me, and how far I can push myself. When you are on a field exercise for a week and only get 1-2 hours sleep every night and two small meals the entire week you learn how your body and your mind reacts when being pushed to its limits. Experiencing how I still managed to stay focused, keeping an offensive morale and perform in all missions we were given gave me a confidence that I have a high capacity and a strong mind.
Q: You are quite the serial entrepreneur. Can you tell us a little about your endeavors?
GN: I started investing in real estate in 2006, and founded several companies together with my business partners. We achieved great things but were also hit by the financial crisis in 2008. That was a very tough but also priceless experience. In 2011 I established an indoor play park for kids of 25,000 square feet inside the largest shopping mall in Norway. This was a project several entrepreneurs in our city were dreaming of achieving, but my two business partners and I were the ones who accomplished it.
However, my entrepreneurial endeavors so far have been in addition to my corporate career. We will see in what direction the future takes me.
Q: What charities or causes are near and dear to your heart?
GN: I have supported different charities earlier. However, a cause that have fallen close to my heart the last couple of years is to help the Dalits in Nepal, and especially young Dalit women. Nepal retains its centuries-old caste system. Dalits, the discriminated people under this system, suffer from all kinds of restrictions and discrimination. However, of all Dalits young Dalit women face the worst challenges. Dalits are visually a beautiful ethnical group, and therefore young Dalit women are very easily sold to the trafficking and sex industry. These young women become poor victims in a horrible and brutal industry without almost anyone that cares.
Growing up on a farm with the forest as our closest neighbor I need to say that I am also worried by how we cut down and destroy the rain forest. So saving the rain forest is also a cause I truly support.
In the US I am really impressed and supportive of the Queen’s Foundation in North Carolina. Here my dear friend Nadia Shirin Moffett and her team prepare under-served middle and high school young women for higher education and leadership, specifically serving girls who are first in their families to go to college and live in poverty. By empowering and building the confidence of these young women, giving them the proper values, tools and support to face future challenges in life, Nadia is changing lives and faiths in an amazing way.
Q: You are also a kickboxer. What attracted you to that?
GN: Growing up I have always been a fan of martial arts. I started competing in sports at the age of 5, but growing up in a small town there was no martial arts. I therefore trained and competed in several other sports while being a kid and a teenager. However, it was first when I started doing kickboxing at the age of 17 that I found a sport challenging all parts of my physical properties as well as my mentality and tactical skills. As a kickboxer you need to focus on your explosiveness, endurance, strength, mobility, coordination, balance, and your techniques. So it is a challenging sport to perform in. This appealed to me and has over the years given me great experiences.
Q: You also do some modeling. Would you like to pursue that more actively at some point?
GN: The modeling I do has so far just been a fun thing on the side of everything else. I guess I have said no to 90 % of the requests I have received due to prioritizing other areas of my life. But of course, doing modeling or a professional commercial for a large international brand would be fun, but it is not where my focus is.
Q: What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?
GN: My closest family is definitely what is most important to me. Living without them would be a lot less meaningful.
Also, having hundreds of friends all over the world it would be hard to go back to a life without the Internet. The Internet is probably the greatest inventions of our time, connecting people all over the world, changing old rigid social systems and giving people with few resources opportunities in life they have never had before. The Internet gives me the opportunity to have a global perspective on life, and would be hard to live without.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever gotten and from who?
GN: It is hard to say what has been the best advice. But I think the attitude but my parents and grand parents have had, trusting and supporting me in choosing my own path in life and following my own ambitions and dreams have been very valuable.
Within leadership I was given very good advice from my captain in the army that I never forget. I am a perfectionist, and I always want to make the most correct decision. However, in most situations you do not have enough input and information to make the perfect decision, and you spend too much time pondering instead of taking action. He said: “Often a poor decision is better than no decision.” So it is better to just make a decision, move on and correct along the way, instead of staying put without any progress.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever given?
GN: I am not sure what my best specific advice has been. However, I believe I have been influential in a positive way for my to younger siblings. We grew up on a farm in a small town distant from all the major cities in Norway. Most people here are satisfied with a low paid job, maybe getting a Bachelor’s degree as their maximum. Still, my ambitions have given me a both significant results within higher education and in business. Both my younger siblings have grown up to achieving their Master’s degrees, getting ambitious jobs in great companies. So I believe my influence has been positive on them. I guess the next step should be to turn them into entrepreneurs as well.