The number of TalTech School of Business and Governance graduates is impressive – almost 29 000 in total. The School highly values cooperation with its alumni and has involved them in the advisory boards of all the study programmes to ensure the quality and sustainability. Business supervisor, coach, and psychologist-advisor Taimi Elenurm is a graduate of the School of Business and Governance, but also a member of the Human Resource Management master’s programme Advisory Board. We were curious to find out how she has applied the skills and knowledge acquired at TalTech, what she does today, and whether her cooperation with the School has added any value to her career as a field expert.
What do your work and social activities consist of currently?
I lecture organizational behaviour at Estonian Entrepreneurship University of Applied Sciences Mainor and supervise master's theses in personnel management at TalTech. I act as a business supervisor, coach, and psychologist-advisor. I provide consulting and training on mental well-being, health promotion, complex work relationships, and teamwork. Furthermore, I am involved in the Estonian Supervision and Coaching Association, and the Association of Work and Organizational Psychologists. I keep up to date with the Association of Creative Therapies activities and write and edit articles for the Personalipraktik magazine.
In my activities, I try to combine the fields I have studied - psychology and psychotherapy, business management and personnel management, adult education, and health promotion. Operating across the boundaries of several fields gives the impetus to notice novel opportunities.
As an alumnus, are you involved in TalTech activities?
I came back to the University of Technology in 2008 as a lecturer of human resources management and work psychology. I supervise master's theses; I am a member of the programme council of the School of Business and Governance. As a member of the thesis defence committee in human resources management, I help to select and edit master's theses that are suitable for publishing in Personalipraktik magazine. From time to time, I also act as a guest lecturer on job counselling topics.
As a representative of the two main specialisations - psychology and business management, I try in my roles as a lecturer and trainer, and as a member of the programme council to stand up for including the common ground of economics and social sciences and new areas of social psychology in the management, personnel work, and organizational behaviour courses.
Please share some memorable moments or a story from your university days.
I joined TalTech at a mature age like one would join a club - a community of smart people to discuss interesting topics. Earning a degree and a career was secondary. I was eager to understand how people in the field of economics perceive their surroundings. In the financial analysis course, I learned a phrase that seemed great at that time "money has future value". I still use it today in various contexts. We prepared for the financial analysis examination in a group of 5-6 people by visiting each other's homes in the evenings. Our friendship has lasted - we made friends for life, with whom we still discuss our jobs and interests-related developments and trends the same way as we did as students. Management consulting lectures were delivered by lecturers Vello Rääk and Jaak Leimann. In one of the lectures, Vello Rääk talked about a large, expensive, and important consulting contract. I recognized the company I worked for at the time and asked if it was a construction company. He was surprised for a while that I had recognized the organization based on the information in the case study but answered smartly: "neither confirm nor deny". From that answer, I have developed my guiding principle "either one or the other is suitable", which helps to remember the broader picture rather than an individual case.
What have you achieved in life thanks to attending this university?
I arrived at TalTech a quarter of a century after graduating from the university in St. Petersburg, where I had earned a psychologist's diploma specialising in social and medical psychology (currently called occupational and clinical psychology). As rapid changes took place in the Estonian economy in the 1990s, it seemed impossible to navigate and operate effectively without updating my knowledge. Hence the choice was in favour of the School of Business and Governance. Probably, studying at the University of Technology was also a direct benefit to my career: during this period, I changed the position of a training manager in the prestigious infrastructure company Tallinna Sadam to the position of the HR manager in the prestigious construction company Eesti Ehitus (today Nordecon).
The Üksvärav-Leimann school, which brought fame to the School of Business and Governance at that time, enabled seeing a broader value-based holistic view of society. The connections between political, geographical, social, and legal factors influencing the activities of organisations became more visible. The understanding of economic processes, entrepreneurship, marketing, and cash flows developed – to the extent the study programme allowed. I acquired economic literacy: I understand the messages behind economic indicators and their logic. I can see processes and changes hidden in numbers. The numbers now talk to me and maybe even love me in their way. I have also learned to respect the language of big data. Also, there is a small but significant nuance: I can act as an equal debate partner to my husband, who is a business professor, and to my son, who is an entrepreneur.
What would you have become if you had not studied at Tallinn University of Technology?
I would probably have been a psychologist-humanitarian and combined my primary profession, for example, with staging or telling stories. Acting and staging have been my dream that has not come true, but I use their analogies in supervision and experiential training. A trainer or a supervisor working with a group is like a screenwriter, an actor, and a producer at the same time: s/he "writes the script", i.e., chooses what to convey to the participants or what to discuss with them; presents the script and performs for the audience, while directing the other participants like a stager, remaining in the background.
Could you give me an idea of how to make TalTech an even greater university if there were no resource constraints?
More projects and cross-functional work groups in the disciplinary boundaries, from which new ideas emerge. Also, the ones that do not require too many financial resources - these projects are done out of interest and enthusiasm, and the necessary resources are obtained relying on the same qualities. Less bad and more good bureaucracy; it gives you the freedom to do as required, although a little differently and in your way. Minor errors in documentation and calculating and checking amounts down to the cent could be less significant than organising the process smoothly, the joy of searching and caring for each other, and solid results. The same things but fewer, and done in a little better ways, more unexpectedly new and different perspectives, actions, and solutions, especially in social sciences and economics, where science and the evidence-basedness mostly do not rely on hard proofs but rather on agreements and the power and capabilities of the network.
I appreciate the teaching staff who accept newspapers, blogs, and YouTube as stepping stones to scientific texts. Even more than earlier, students should be encouraged to use non-scientific sources, because they reflect dreams, needs and fears that must be dealt with anyway. New and unexpected perspectives can be discovered there, which prepares the ground for more serious research. Creativity is known to spring up in prepared soil - it should not be forced into a rigid framework.
Why should anyone come to study at TalTech?
TalTech helps train reality-based rational thinking. This is a university where you can discuss important matters in a good company and analyse their implementation. Literacy in the field of economics is essential in any job. The university contributes to the skills of logical and creative thinking, critical-comparative analysis, and reliability assessment of information sources, as well as overall perception for orientation in economy-related areas.
The years studied at TalTech: 2000–2004
School and field: School of Business and Governance; Business Administration
The article was first published in Estonian in the TalTech magazine Mente et Manu.