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If you're into the latest in Robotics, this really is the place
Michael Skibeli Mullins got a job at Kongsberg Gruppen a year before finishing his master's degree.
– "I wanted to work with cool technology and thought 'why not work with the best?'"
Journalist: Kathinka H. Wang
Photo: Private | Kathinka H. Wang
28-year-old Michael has been working as a project engineer at Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace for three years now. After completing a bachelor's degree in mechatronics at UiA, he started a master’s degree in cybernetics and robotics at NTNU, where he first learned about 'Your Extreme'. The contest turned out to be a door opener to many opportunities.
The year he participated in 'Your Extreme', the task was to utilise ocean food resources in a sustainable way. Although his team didn't win, participating was a great experience.
"It was really fun to work intensively on the case for two days, and I learned a lot. The awards ceremony was also fun, and a great way to get to know employees at Kongsberg Gruppen. I ended up sitting at the table with people recruiting for summer jobs, and I guess I made a good impression."
A contest led to an unexpected offer
See last year’s invitation here:
The 48-hour case competition is hosted by Kongsberg Gruppen in collaboration with NTNU and USN. Students are invited to solve real-world problems related to technology and sustainability, in groups of 1 - 5. The competition aims to inspire students to think creatively, innovate, and at the same time develop personally. Each year, the winning solution is chosen by a jury during a grand award ceremony.
What is Your Extreme?
From autonomous ATV to a permanent job
Michael got a summer job on the project 'Lone Wolf', where he spent the whole summer on a task that suited him perfectly.
“We worked on converting a regular ATV into an autonomous ATV. It was a very fun task where we really got to test our creativity, while working as a team. I got a very good impression of the workplace and was convinced that this was the direction I wanted my career to take”.
Michael was one of the select few who got to test themselves on a joint case, after spending countless hours developing an autonomous ATV that, through precision technology, could avoid obstacles down to the centimetre. He was offered a permanent position at Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace after finishing his master's degree.
“It’s quite rare to be able go straight from studies into a permanent job within your field of study. I feel very lucky!
When Michael started his first full-time job at Kongsberg Gruppen, a 'buddy' was assigned to him. His 'buddy' was available for everything from professional questions, to introducing him to new colleagues and showing him the way to the coffee machine. The relationship between him and his buddy Marius Gamborg was a good introduction to a large company.
“It was nice having a dedicated person who could answer all my questions, and Marius was very supportive. I probably got into the job a lot faster than I would otherwise, and he has been a good colleague from the start”, Michael says.
Senior Project Engineer Marius has worked at Kongsberg Gruppen since 2013. He describes Michael as someone who is eager-to-learn and doesn’t shy away from anything.
“Michael got into things quickly and it’s great sparring with him. I'm generally impressed by the level of competence in graduates today. They are very self-driven and know their fields well. Still, I think the buddy arrangement is a nice introduction to working life, especially for gaining an understanding of how a large company operates from day to day.”
Got a dedicated 'buddy'
Ever since Michael started in 2020, he and buddy Marius have worked on several projects together, including a project where the roles were reversed and it was Michael who got to be team leader in a development project in sensor processing.
“He handled the challenge well and was a competent team leader for several senior developers. It's important to give people chances early on, and we often rotate responsibilities from project to project based on who has the right expertise. Michael has become a good colleague, and I turn to him a lot when I have questions within his field of expertise.”
It's important to give people chances early on
Michael started his new job during the pandemic. But now, after working for three years, there's an increased focus on social activities, he says.
“There's a lot of initiative from both the company and colleagues to socialise, from going out for drinks on payday, to various activities, like squash, golf, and climbing. If you like sports, there are a lot of fun things to do. For example, some of us ran the Holmenkollen relay race together, which was a fun experience for everyone who attended.”
But it's not all about physical activities. In a new project he's joining, they started doing teambuilding in advance, so that everyone in the project can get to know each other better.
“It's a great way to get to know each other as a team. We have fun and at the same time get to know each other, which makes it much easier to collaborate.”
Teambuilding, climbing, and relay racing
Michael says there’s a significant focus on collaboration at the workplace, and that everyone has room to be themselves.
"I believe Kongsberg Gruppen is a place that could suit most people. If you're passionate about the latest in robotics, then this is the place to be! You get to work with future-oriented technology and with the best people in the field.”
"There's also a huge emphasis on diversity here, and having many different people work together really strengthens the company. I think it’s really great, everyone is welcome."
Moving forward, the project engineer will be working on a new project, and at the same time trying to keep the two chilli plants in his office alive.
"I'll be working on integrating our systems with some systems a new client has, using various defined interfaces to make sure they play well with our systems. But I'll also try to win the chilli competition we have going on in the office. It comes down to who can grow the best chilli plant. I've just re-potted mine, so I'm really excited about the result," he says with a laugh.