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StormGeo CEO: “Lithuania could become IT hub of Europe”

June 15, 2015

StormGeo, a leading supplier of professional meteorological data, which set up operations in Vilnius this February, has already assembled a five-member team of skilled IT experts in the Lithuanian capital, and is planning to find four more talented members by the end of this year.

The Vilnius division of the company, which provides data services to businesses in the shipping, oil and gas extraction and wind energy sectors, will carry out scientific research and product development (R&D).

StormGeo was originally founded in Norway in 1997 as a media enterprise, before transforming itself into a meteorological data and services company. At present it provides services to 8,300 shipping vessels, most of which use the company’s specialised software.

Lithuanian media network DELFI interviewed Kent Zehetner, general manager of StormGeo, on his recent arrival in Lithuania, and Hussam Ahmad, head of the firm’s Lithuanian division.

– Norwegian companies have been establishing divisions in Lithuania for more than a decade. Why have you decided to enter the Lithuanian market now?

Mr Zehetner. We have invested in Lithuania for its local talent and know how. Of course, the decision was also influenced by Hussam Ahmad, since he had been working with Lithuania for some time. He already knew that there was still plenty of talent potential. We also have a couple of subsidiaries here.

Besides, Lithuania is an EU Member State. This makes things much easier for us. The tax system suits us and we feel very welcome.

– Have you set up the Vilnius division primarily for developmental or cost reduction purposes?

Mr Zehetner. The reason is development. We are looking for real talent all the time. The company presently has 350 employees in 26 offices from Tokyo to Silicon Valley. So we have opened a division here to find new talent.

Until now we hadn’t been paying very much attention to the European market; most of our revenue comes from the American and Asian markets and part of our staff works there. So in order to further develop in Europe, it was very important for us to have a representative division in the Central and East Europe region.

– You mentioned that you have come to Lithuania to look for new talent. Can’t you find people in Norway, for example?

Mr Zehetner. Whilst we do have good specialists in Norway, it is very difficult to find new talent in this field due to the upheaval in the oil and gas industry.

Mr Ahmad. Besides, if we compare Lithuania to other outsourcing locations, such as Ukraine, for example, one of the pluses we have in Lithuania is the assistance provided by Invest Lithuania. With their help we have been able to set up the division very smoothly.

– You have already started gathering a team for the office in Vilnius. How has it gone?

Mr Ahmad. I already knew the first two employees when we set up here. We used a personnel recruitment agency to help us find more skilled professionals. It is not very difficult, but it is not always easy either. As I said, we are looking for talented people. We don’t just hire anybody; we are quite selective. We need people who can help us improve and grow.

Mr Zehetner. It is extremely important to us that Lithuania invests in education, IT in particular. Lithuania has huge potential in this field, and so it should devote much of its attention to this area. I think Lithuania could become the IT hub of Europe. This, however, requires investment in universities.

– What is your selection process like? How many interview and selection stages do you have?

Mr Ahmad. Everything depends on the person. You can recognise true talent at once.  A candidate usually has to go through 2-3 interviews. Some Lithuanians apply directly to us. Others are found by the personnel recruitment company. After the first interview with the company, I conduct the second interview. If the candidate is right, then there is one more interview with the colleagues from the Vilnius division. This allows us to see whether the candidate will get on with the other members of staff. And then, we take the final decision.

– How many people have you already hired and how many more do you plan to hire?

Mr Ahmad. We currently have 5 employees. We plan to find 4 more this year.

– What kind of specialists are you looking for?

Mr Ahmad. We are assembling a strong team of architects-engineers. In other words, we are looking for IT specialists. When we have a strong base, we will try to work with Kaunas and Vilnius universities on developing the potential of employees in this field.

– What are your long-term plans in Lithuania?

Mr Zehetner. We want to continue growing the team.

It is hard to say. We have 9 people in our plans this year; we haven’t decided about next year yet.

Mr Ahmad. Of course, everything will depend on the supply of talent and any changes in business conditions.

– When we talk about IT companies, we mostly find young employees there. What is the average age of employees at StormGeo?

Mr Zehetner. The average age is increasing year on year as our employees usually stay with us for quite a while. At present the average age of our employees is 39.5 years. So, for example, in our US division we have a 66-year-old professional working in the research and development division, and in Oslo we employ a 62-year-old. However, we also have a lot of young people working for us.

– Did you assess the geopolitical risks when taking the decision to open a division in Lithuania?

Mr Zehetner. Yes, we did. We see no threat, especially because Lithuania has been a member of the EU since 2004. And then it adopted the euro this year, so we felt that the situation was stable in Lithuania.

– You mentioned that you count companies in the oil and gas industry among your clients. Have you been greatly affected by the fall in oil prices in recent years?

Mr Zehetner. This has certainly had an impact, but we have a well-diversified circle of clients so the effect was not too dramatic. Although we have felt the effects of falling prices in the oil sector, the share of other clients has become increasingly strong, for instance, in the sector of renewable energy sources.

Read the entire article in Lithuanian at Delfi.lt

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Aistė Žebrauskienė
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    Aistė Žebrauskienė Press Officer
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