Tallinn University of Technology

Is another journey coming to an end? Don’t worry, new and bigger ones are just around the corner. Whether it is a master’s degree, climbing the career ladder, travelling, or just enjoying life – it all depends on your dreams. However, never forget that your abilities do not limit you, your ambition does.

Mari-Ly Klaats, TalTech alumnus, member of the board of Auve Tech, and vice chairman of ITS Estonia 

Photo: private collection

Mari-Ly Klaats

True, I did not dream that I would someday run a company that creates innovative future solutions. I had one ambition – to do something great and go far in life. Life will inevitably bring many different opportunities your way, it is important to recognise the right ones and make the most of your choices.

After my bachelor’s degree, a year in Australia, and a master’s degree, life brought self-driving vehicles on my path just when I was considering whether to go back to Australia. To this day, I do not regret that decision one bit and I am glad I did not simply turn down the opportunity.

Where did it all start and how did an ordinary girl who liked to dance and live a simple life end up as a mechanical engineer and on the board of Auve Tech OÜ? I will tell you a little about my journey and share some tips with you, dear graduate.

In 2013, I graduated from upper secondary school and knew I wanted to go to university. At the time, I had no idea what I was going to study. In upper secondary school, I was an active student who was particularly good at science, with the hardest subject being Estonian language and literature. Therefore, it was quite clear that I had to continue my studies in hard science. In addition, I could not allow myself to set a low bar to simply glide over. That’s how I decided to specialise in product development and production technology at the School of Engineering. Kinematics, strength analysis, welding, materials technology – these notions and disciplines seemed fascinating. I knew very little about mechanics and manufacturing at the time, but I felt that this field challenged me a lot, and the fact that 10 out of 86 students were women made me want to challenge myself even more.

In 2014, I went to Hawaii with the help of Student Tour organisation – all alone to the other side of the world. Sure, there were other Estonians there, but moving from university life to an exotic island for three months was a challenge. Finding a job, making new friends, and a new environment – it was all new to me, but it triggered my excitement and survival instinct and taught me skills that no university or other school could. This experience left a lasting impression on my soul – I WANTED MORE.

I graduated with a bachelor’s degree with average results for an Estonian student. I didn’t have the best grades, I wasn’t the brightest or the most successful, but I was determined to obtain a master’s degree. I had heard from older students how practical and professional master’s programmes are. I was not interested in getting a certificate, but in knowledge, experience, contacts, and student life. In addition, I had really started to enjoy student life only towards the end of my undergraduate studies – getting involved in student organisations, etc.

However, after the first year of my master’s programme, I felt that my passion for travelling was too overwhelming. I couldn’t concentrate on looking for a job and planning a career – I felt like I was too young to settle down at that time. So, after the first year of my master’s programme, I decided to take an academic leave and fly to Australia for a year without any preparations.

Travelling has freed me from my fear of approaching strangers and simply interacting as well as of accepting new unexpected opportunities. I have understood what it means to be happy and have peace of mind, and I have developed empathy and team work skills. I have learned to cope with any situation and see opportunities where they are overlooked.

I am not an engineer today – I used to be, but the tiny extroverted and active part of me was not happy with that. I do not have a doctorate either – the learning and the practical work is MASSIVELY COOL and I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge and experience that helps me to this day, but I know I would not have made a good PhD graduate because I am probably too stubborn and impatient for that. I am a leader today – the skills for this cannot be learned at a university and this process is in constant evolution.

The title on your graduation papers does not define who you will become. It only sets the stage and provides a springboard for your next steps, regardless of who you decide to become. No one can tell you who you have to be – it is up to you to decide exactly the way you want. Never stop trying, learn from every stage of your life, and seize the opportunities around you. Don’t stop until you are happy and have achieved peace of mind in what you are doing.

Now, go chase your next dreams and create your own journey!