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Hege Eltoft of Aker BioMarine: “Disrupting is positive when it comes to achieving your goals”

When I first started in the fishing business, females were not very welcome. If you were sailing independently, you needed to show your work. You had to prove yourself by working hard, having focus and going for it. I didn’t care what people thought. I took constructive criticism with grace and gratitude. I had goals […]

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When I first started in the fishing business, females were not very welcome. If you were sailing independently, you needed to show your work. You had to prove yourself by working hard, having focus and going for it. I didn’t care what people thought. I took constructive criticism with grace and gratitude. I had goals to focus on and I didn’t let anyone stand in my way from achieving them. I met a woman many years ago who said being a female fisherman was like being a rock star. She told me to take care of the good people who helped look out for me and forget about everyone else who had a part in holding me back.


As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Hege Eltoft, the first-ever female fish mate hired by Aker BioMarine, a global biotech and krill harvesting company.

Hege Eltoft is the first-ever female fish mate hired by Aker BioMarine, a global biotech and krill harvesting company. As a fish mate, Hege is responsible for krill harvesting operations in Antarctica. Hege started her education at high school for a fishery at age 16. She possesses extensive expertise with various fishing equipment, as well as IT knowledge, safety management, and maintenance on board. According to Hege: “This is the most epic thing I’ve done” as she describes months at sea, surrounded by ice, thousands of miles from home. She took a path to one of the world’s most challenging jobs. Hege encourages other women to try their hand at what has traditionally been a very male-oriented sector of the industry.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My backstory and love for fishing came from my family, especially my grandfather and uncles. Since I was a child, we always went fishing together in the summer and that is when it all started. For me, fishing was a lifestyle and I grew up with it. I believe that the best quality family time was when I was able to fish with my family. We all went up to northern Norway to fish; we also all worked and played. I started baiting lines from an early age. When the boys in my family grew up they went to sea, and I wanted to do that as well. I always dreamed of wanting to be a captain, so I went to school and received a degree. This is how it all came together and every day it’s a new and exciting journey. I was able to turn my childhood passion into my career and it’s amazing.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I think it’s very simple…you can’t let anyone hold you back and I have never let anyone hold me back. We are in 2021 now and females can do anything. Women can do anything that they set their minds to and it shouldn’t be anything different. It’s important to be a good role model and present yourself in a way in which others look up to you and want to be like you.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first started in the fishing business, females were not very welcome. If you were sailing independently, you needed to show your work. You had to prove yourself by working hard, having focus and going for it. I didn’t care what people thought. I took constructive criticism with grace and gratitude. I had goals to focus on and I didn’t let anyone stand in my way from achieving them. I met a woman many years ago who said being a female fisherman was like being a rock star. She told me to take care of the good people who helped look out for me and forget about everyone else who had a part in holding me back.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I have many role models- from co-workers who took me in and trained me to this day, to my family that helped spark my passion for fishing. Currently, my captain is mentoring me and my fellow fish mates continually offer advice. Everyone at Aker BioMarine has been really welcoming to me and I love my job.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disrupting is positive when it comes to achieving your goals. When you kick in the door, come in and make an impact, it’s positive. Disruption becomes negative when it puts the gender conversation in a negative light. Those are the times that we really need to turn it around, so it can become positive. There is no question that we need to push more girls ahead to achieve their goals and we need to do it in a positive and encouraging way.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Throughout the years, I have heard many good stories. I remember one time when I was new at a job and everything seemed very slow, as I was used to more speed. I was a little frustrated and one of my co-workers said, “everything takes time”. It was at that point that I realized that sometimes you just need to slow down and appreciate that things take time. I try to live by that now. Take a little reset and take time. It was a hard lesson, but a good one.

Another example of advice was during my first year working on a manual line. I was very tired and at times very unmotivated, but my mentor encouraged me to not quit. He told me to “never give up.” You will have good times and bad times, but you should never give up. That was an important lesson.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I am going to be a captain. One day, I am going to do it, that is my goal. Aker BioMarine is the gold standard in the industry and it would be an honor to be a captain at the company.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

If you are career-driven and a guy, you get promoted. If you are a female and get promoted, sometimes people think that you received the promotion because you are a female and they need to promote you. It should be that you are promoted because you are good at your job, not because of your gender.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

I read a lot and find much inspiration from the news. I follow Kamala Harris, not so much from the politics part, but from the perspective that she is female and that she has gone very far in her career. I also watch the show Deadliest Catch and follow the female who is now a captain of her ship.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am in full support of many movements, but really want to stand behind the movement of full equality for everyone — men, women, gender, race, etc. Equality is important for everyone.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

In life, things are sometimes good, and things are sometimes bad. I was once told that a “smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” It’s also important that you learn new lessons, whether they be negative or positive, but I have always learned the most from the bad. Life lessons are good and important for growth. You need to continue learning from your mistakes. If you struggle, you learn.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.facebook.com/akerbiomarine
https://no.linkedin.com/company/aker-biomarine-antarctic

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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