1. How did you end up teaching at EBS?
I started to give creative entrepreneurship lectures in the first year of my doctoral studies in 2010 and have not given it up so far, it’s really great. It must have turned out so well since then that it inspired me to keep going. I’ve worked on different jobs during my time at EBS (since 2010), but EBS has stayed in my life , after all, it’s such an awesome school that it seems logical now – at the beginning of every semester I ask when to come and what lecture I have to give. I always try to do it, among other duties, whenever possible. EBS has a very supportive environment and great people.
2. Please give us a short overview of your career.
My first real job was at the publishing house “Koge” at 12, where I initially assisted with sending books and other current issues, after which I translated four books myself. At the age of 16, we went to the Frankfurt Book Fair with the publishing director, where I was able to negotiate with TASCHEN publishers, among other things. It was a great experience and I am pleased that the publishing director trusted me. After graduating from High School, I started working as an English and Music History teacher at the age of 19, after having thoroughly studied British literature in the United States, and learned the language, both spoken and written. This work, which I did for four years besides university studies, brought bread to my table in my early years of marriage. I graduated from Sibelius Academy with a Master’s degree in Cultural Management in 2009 and started working on projects in the field of music export funded by the Estonian Association of Authors in the same year. During this period I worked with a couple of artists in the fields of classical, jazz and pop music. In 2013, I went to work for the Ministry of Culture as a Music Advisor, and when I was on parental leave with two younger children in 2016, I was involved in creating a start-up company named Fanvestory until the end of 2018. It gave me an extraordinarily good and immediate experience of starting a business, from which I can teach creative entrepreneurship much better. In 2019, I returned to work in the Ministry of Culture for 6 months as a cultural export advisor, but then I got a great new opportunity for making career – Professor Iñaki Sandoval, Director of the Viljandi Culture Academy of the University of Tartu, invited me to lead my own Department of Cultural Education. I would say that, at least in Estonian circumstances, it was an ideal challenge for me at the intersection of education, culture and entrepreneurship. These three fields are really close to my heart and I am currently promoting them in Viljandi. Currently, I spend three days a week in Viljandi and two days giving lectures at different universities in Tallinn – as many as 5 different universities in the fall semester in the fields of creative entrepreneurship, project management, business model innovation and cultural organization. In addition, the entrepreneurship and motivation of young people has always been close to my heart, so I work with the STARTER program and Innova SA, for example, I go to motivate and mentor young people in different Estonian schools.
3. Tell us something exciting about you that your students might not know.
Perhaps, even though I am relatively young still, I have four wonderful children whom I consider to be the greatest challenge in my life, a cause of joy and gratitude. And I have a wonderful wife with whom we have shared this joy for 16 years.
4. What is your greatest dream?
In about 10 years, I would like to achieve financial independence – I have defined it for myself as having at least 2 Estonian average wages every month as passive income. Then, with my partners, I would like to devote myself full-time to developing a living environment that is naturally beautiful, with zero-energy homes of natural materials (wood, stone), and where we can run a „family business“ with a couple of families so that we would not have to leave the area. To provide accommodation, recreational or sports services, etc. There could also be a small wooden chapel open around the clock – you could go to meditate, read, pray. I would love the idea that, in the form of family business, we could create real value in some rural areas, so that we would not have to spend our lives in the hustle and bustle of cities. In a broad sense, the keywords are family business, community, natural environment and exclusive tourism services.
5. If you could leave all your duties aside, what would be the first thing you’d do?
I would deal with my children a lot more and would try to support their development in every way. I would read books (much more fiction than before), listen to podcasts, watch lectures from the best universities in the world on Coursera. I would play badminton and go running. I would contribute to the church.
6. What have been the greatest lessons of your career?
You have to be very careful in choosing the people with whom to work together on longer projects. Are they really intrinsically motivated? Secondly, make sure you focus on your specific talents and skills and stay away from areas that are not exactly your thing. Doing so, everyone who’s included will have more fun. If you are doing the wrong thing, you will give your best but still struggle, and the result will still be minimal. Doing the right thing that matches your strengths and skills, you can achieve a lot with putting in very little effort.
7. If one of the students would like to try out your area of specialty, what would be your suggestion on where and how to start out?
If I consider public speaking as my specialty (which is more widely thought of as the thought leader industry), then you just have to start somewhere and learn through hands-on experience. Make your first podcast, give your first lesson at school (as a volunteer) or write your first blog post. Follow the best examples and get started taking very easy steps. There’s no need to over complicate the thing. One of the most important things is the ability to empathize – you need to be able to see different situations from another person’s perspective. For example, students – when they come to a lecture, how do you talk about different topics so that they can really benefit from it and integrate the acquired knowledge? It requires a change of perspective – not what and how I want to talk of the topic, but how they can receive the knowledge as well as possible.
8. How would you describe yourself as a person and as a lecturer?
I think I am considered a pretty good lecturer, decipher of difficult topics and great motivator. It sounds so simple, but it is often a tendency to forget the essentials when speaking in public or giving lectures – you need to speak clearly, accurately and with a voice that’s loud enough. Secondly, those who have attended my lectures know that I have very little text on the slides, but I complement the slides by my speech and we also analyze practical examples – that’s the value that cannot be found anywhere on the Internet. This means that each of my lectures should be useful and valuable enough to be present as a student. I do not consider the approach where the lecturer simply reads off long, full-fledged slides and passively “passes on knowledge” to be right approach. This is a knowledge-based approach, largely from the last century. Today, information is everywhere, but the question is how to understand and open it intelligibly enough. Thirdly, empathy – as a rule, I grasp the general mood quite well. Sometimes this means that the proposed topics and methodological approaches have to be temporarily set aside, to improvise, and to get everyone on the same wavelength once again. I believe I’m pretty good at it.
9. Can you recall one funny situation from your lectures?
There are a lot of funny situations in the lectures but those situations take place so spontaneously, there’s no way to plan them ahead of time. I remember having a laugh out of my heart recently and the students coming along, but it was a delicate situation that cannot be shared publicly.
Tõlkis: Marlen Kuusk
Toimetas: Tea Teesalu