In the beginning – as with most people – there was nothing. Then came light; after some time a priest uttered the words “Stein Runar [Bergheim]”, splashing some luke-warm water on my head; then childhood quickly followed by youth.
I stayed at Sandane until I had finished secondary education at Firda Vidaregåande Skule where I studied English, biology and social studies. The selection of subjects – as the skilled reader no doubt has already noticed – implied a quick entry into the unemployment statistics… After this period of studying highly theoretical subjects I felt I was ready to do something that would bring more substantial physical results – not merely handwriting on paper. I was off to a school called Valdres Folkehøgskule.
Now, Valdres Folkehøgskule was a nice place, although it turned out to be somewhat of a Christian correctional institution for urban youth who had strayed from the straight and narrow. Seeming as I didn’t belong to that category, I found some of the school regulations to be rather strict.
Anyway – I coped. The reason why I went to this school was a course called furniture design; training in design and production of furniture. Having been given some initial training we were then left to ourselves to design and prototype our creations.
From the religious atmosphere in Valdres I moved on to the significantly more secular Norwegian army. Doing service in the army is compulsory in Norway – just for the record. I was transported to Evenes in Nordland and driven off to Harstad where I spent a looooooong winter in prehistoric tents equipped with archaic and useless army outdoor equipment.
1994 marked a turning point in my identity. Until then, nobody knew me by any other name than Runar Bergheim. However, following a near-arrest on the charge of false signature of travelers’ checques in Tanzania, I made a habit of using my full name, Stein Runar Bergheim.
To underline my continued disdain for this combination of names, I to this day usually put “Stein” in parenthesis.
My horizon was quite wide enough at this moment regarding superfluous skills. The time had clearly come when I ought to specialize in a subject in order to prepare myself for financial independence. At the moment I had two prerequisites that I would like to be satisfied. One: I would like to do something where I could be outdoors some of the time. Two: I wanted to be admitted fairly easily (due to me prioritizing Telemark-skiing over school work during secondary school and therefore were just slightly above average in some subjects).
I chose Sogn og Fjordane University College. They offered an education in landscape management and planning which satisfied both of my prerequisites. The courses were fun and the classmates nice people, but the labor market weren’t actually in dire need of people who were trained in landscape management and planning. None of us really let that bring us down at the time. The most valuable skill that I acquired while studying there was the interest for digital mapping and GIS.
Because of this I started to assist in teaching this subject and in time took part in reshaping the whole course into a more timely fashion. I was also quite taken with the possibilities of using the Internet as a means of communicating GIS content.
At this time I was contacted by Sogn og Fjordane County Council which was in a hurry to get themselves a new GIS guy since the previous one had recently quit and moved to Bergen. Long story short: I was hired.
I stayed on with the County Council for three years with interesting responsibilities among fabulous colleagues. I took particular interest in spatial planning processes and international project activities dealing with making the regional authorities better service providers on the Internet. The GIS paradigm never left me. and I kept giving lectures at the university college.
Upon completion of one of the international projects that Sogn og Fjordane County Council took part in there was an idea to establish an ICT company based on the knowledge that was acquired during the project.
A colleague of mine at the County Archive, Gunnar Urtegaard, agreed to manage this company and me and two others got on board as consultants. Asplan Viak Internet (AVINET for short) was born. after two years we were eight employees, after six years we were eleven and provided a wide range of services to customers throughout Norway and abroad.
I took over the management of AVINET after Gunnar Urtegaard joined the Norwegian Authority for Archive, Library and Museum development in late 2002.
In 2008 I took on a range of exciting projects in the United Arab Emirates which kept me away from Norway for long continuous periods of time. I therefore passed on the baton to my excellent colleague Per Andersen. Per was eventually succeeded by another excellent colleague of mine, Tor Gunnar Øverli, when Per took up the baton as head of the Norwegian Road Databank.
You can read more about Avinet at the company homepage
Originally intending to spend four months in Arabia, I arrived in Abu Dhabi a rainy January morning in 2008. The original scope of assisting in the design and implementation of a new addressing system for Abu Dhabi, the tasks and number of projects kept growing. As a result I still found myself in Abu Dhabi, observing Ramadan in the Islamic year of 1430H (2009) – and again in 1431H and 1432H (2011).
In March 2010 I moved out of my old apartment in Sogndal after 15 years as of living in exile from my beloved Nordfjord among the heathens in Sogn. Being an eventful year, 2010 also saw me getting married.
In 2011, at the dawn of the “Arabic Spring”, I started commuting between Muscat and Abu Dhabi in addition to my European assignments. While professionally rewarding, the effect of this geographical distribution was to abolish the concept of “weekend”.
With professional engagements in both Europe, UAE and Oman every day became a working day somewhere. The Omani working week from Saturday to Wednesday, the UAE one from Sunday to Thursday and the European from Monday to Friday.
In the fall I moved to Muscat full-time working on two projects; first participating in a team developing a master plan for redevelopment of Mutrah, an iconic and historical Arab city on the Indian Ocean – and one year later leading the development of a new addressing system for Muscat Governorate – both projects for Muscat Municipality.
On the 1st of May 2013, Sultan Qaboos bin Said decreed that Oman would shift the weekend from Thursday-Friday to Saturday-Sunday. This, in theory at least, restored Saturday as a day off for me.
On the 6th of June 2013, nearly 2 000 days after my first arrival in Abu Dhabi, the first sign was installed in the Al Nahyan District on Abu Dhabi Island.
In March 2014, I relocated my base back to Europe.