Alva Olsson

Systems Engineer

Is it really possible to combine a career in engineering with being an elite athlete? Sure it is – at least if your name is Alva Olsson and you work as a Systems Engineer at NIRA. Here’s how she manages to juggle training camps, competitions abroad and advanced software development for the demanding automotive industry.

I first got into orienteering when I was eight years old, and to this day it’s an important part of my life. Since 2013 I run for the Swedish National Orienteering Team, and right now my major goal is to compete in the World Orienteering Championships in Norway 2019. But before that I’m headed for the world cup in Finland this summer.

As for my professional life, I’ve worked as a Systems Engineer at NIRA for a little over five years, and I can say that the role is very varied. If I’m working on a customer project, like the one I’ve previously been involved in with Audi for instance, a lot of my time is dedicated to customer contact. But if I’m working on an internal project I spend more time troubleshooting or writing functional tests.

For the past two years, I’ve been part of a team working on Tire Grip Indicator. To put it simply, we’re determining the grip level by extracting signals from the car, and then making sure that the right signals are sent to the cloud. It’s really interesting, and it’s also great team work – there’s definitely lots of opportunities to learn something new every day, not least from each other.


I am also very much involved in the CSR group that we have here at NIRA; working on issues such as equality and sustainability, what constitutes an attractive workplace, and what we can do to attract more women to this industry. Being able to have an influence over these matters really adds a whole new dimension to being an engineer. NIRA is a very conscious company, and I certainly appreciate the level of commitment that goes into for example reducing our environmental footprint. It’s obvious that the company really cares and wants to do good.

Another thing I really like about NIRA is the freedom I have to work my own hours, as this of course makes it a lot easier to manage my everyday training schedule – I do, after all, often spend around 14 hours a week training. I also feel that NIRA appreciates me being an athlete, and so it’s never a problem to go away on a championship for a while.

In some little way I think that the time I spend orienteering even helps sharpen my engineering skills. Like engineering, orienteering requires both logical thinking and problem solving skills, and of course you’re always trying to find the optimal route to reach the goal. So I would definitely say that there’s a correlation between the two.