Jyoti Sohal-David, a Norwegian’s Entrepreneurial Journey With Skillhus

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

Written by Devina Agarwal

If you’re reading this, you either know Jyoti Sohal-David or you know Skillhus. Read on to know how they share a common thread.

Heritage and background:

Jyoti’s your typical Norwegian with Indian heritage.

She loves being out and about exploring nature and traveling to new places, just as much as she enjoys spending quality time with her family and friends.

It was probably this thirst for adventure that nudged her to pursue higher education in Australia. Equipped with experience in teaching and career-counselling, she was back in Norway and started as Community Manager at Startup Campus.

“Building on my experience from the Australian education industry and three years in the Norwegian startup ecosystem, I’m now following my passion as the Founder and CEO of Skillfugees - a recruitment platform and service for skilled refugees and migrants in Norway.”

Skillhus is born

Jyoti met Meryn Willetts - Business Developer at Charge Incubator Program - at Antler´s breakfast club.

“She’s the reason I took my nervous first steps. She didn’t just motivate me, she gave me concrete direction on what I needed to get done to start.”

After developing the MVP (minimum viable product) in November 2019 with Meryn, Jyoti recalls the rollercoaster of emotions felt during this crucial initial stage.

“Oh, how do I explain? It was such a rush of excitement and nerves. I honestly didn’t expect the speed at which we gained traction and interest. I’m so glad to have had Meryn be an integral part of this from day one.”

Soon as word spread, CVs were pouring in and professionals in her own network stepped up to volunteer for her cause.

Seeing this only reaffirmed in Jyoti’s mind the need for such a recruitment agency.

“I started Skillhus based on a problem my husband - a skilled migrant - faced. This initial success helped me realise quickly that this was a much bigger problem. I wish this wasn’t the case. So, at Skillhus we want to help bridge this gap between skilled migrants and jobs they deserve.”

Jyoti’s purpose with Skillhus is to reduce barriers for foreign workers so they can reach their full potential and thrive in the Norwegian job market.

“Personally, helping our candidates secure a stable job - a basic need - is a sense of achievement.”

What is Skillhus?

Skillhus leverages the skilled and culturally diverse candidate pool to solve the huge talent demands of Norwegian startups and companies. In addition, we offer organisations tailor-made and training to help utilise diversity in the team.

“This isn’t a problem we can solve immediately, I know that. But, we’re in it for the long run. Starting with Norway, we want to be the exclusive agency for companies looking for skilled international talent.”

Skillhus at Charge incubator program:

Following this initial spike of interest and attraction, Skillhus was scooped up for the incubator program at “Charge”.

Charge gave me and Skillhus valuable insight and knowledge. The industry experts and people I had access to helped me shape Skillhus further.”

If you’ve heard of the term “pivot”, you know this is something every startup must be prepared to do. “Charge helped us pivot.”

Skillhus was able to match their first candidate within weeks of initiation. “What an achievement, honestly. It was all the candidate. All we did was match the two.”

The not-so-glamorous entrepreneurial journey:

“We’ve now been getting inquiries from outside of Norway, which is fantastic. Thanks to digitalisation we can expect eyes on us - or any small business - from all over the world.”

Although, Jyoti does want to shed a light on how tough an entrepreneurial journey can be. “The transition from a full-time job to being a full-time entrepreneur is not all glamorous as it sounds or looks.”

Jyoti sometimes had 20-hour days as she shuffled between her job at Startup Campus and Skillhus.

“There is a lot of risks involved when you decide to run a company and work full-time, or even drop one for the other. Some days go by with me on my feet, almost like on auto-pilot. Then there are the tiring sleepless nights.”

A risk worth taking?

“All the while I had doubts and fears I was still working and interacting with amazing candidates. I couldn’t stop. I had a service where I was responsible for other people’s life decisions. We had webinars, screening sessions, or just real human conversations. Even with my team members.”

These interactions helped Jyoti why what she was doing was worth risking it all.

“I could see that Skillhus was making a difference in the lives of others. This wasn’t just a passion project anymore. Skillhus had grown into this agency helping skilled migrants and refugees put their skills to good use at companies that need them.”

Services at Skillhus:

“We’ve actually had several successful hires so far. We’re not here to simply fill in positions. We take our time with the candidates to understand them and train them. This is what sets us apart from the regular recruitment agencies.”

Skillhus helps candidates with their CVs, conducts interview training, and provides workplace culture workshops for them - for free.

“We also tailor corporate workshops for companies, so we’re open to connecting with companies for the common goal of culturally diverse hiring.”

Skillhus Crew:

When asked about the hands on deck she has at Skillhus, Jyoti beams with joy.

“To be able to build something yourself you need a dedicated team! I’ve been fortunate and grateful to be surrounded by such amazing and talented women.”

Skillhus is run by a team of expats who know first-hand the emotions that run deep while looking for a job in Norway.

“These women decided to help me and try and solve the problem.”

“Many people don't know what goes on in the background. But, I can tell you they’re so driven and passionate to provide their freetime to help other people in need.”

Jyoti calls them her “dreamteam” and feels inspired to be surrounded by - in her words - “powerful amazing entrepreneurs”.

How Covid-19 affected her:

“Of course, all this only meant that I needed to make a decision on which full-time relationship to nurture.”

“Covid time has been exceptional for us all. But, during this time I was able to pay attention to and turn up the volume at Skillhus.”

Jyoti decided to step-back from her role at Startup Campus to commit all her time to Skillhus.

Thank you, Startup Norway!

“The team at Startup Norway has been super supportive. Maja Adriaensen founding partner & CEO at Startup Norway said that the ultimate happiness for them is seeing their own people become entrepreneurs!”

“Everything I know, I know from being at Startup Norway. I think it’s only fitting that I thank them for setting me up for this long but exciting journey.”

What about the risks of giving up a steady and secure livelihood?

“Well, in comparison to how I’m able to help others score a secure livelihood, it’s totally worth the risk.”

But as every startup evolves, so will we at Skillhus. So, what’s next for us?

The future of