Tallinn University of Technology

After Hele-Riin Pihel, the head of the Centre of E-Channels, ends her working day in TalTech, her second life begins. Using the pseudonym Birk Rohelend, she writes poetry, TV series and novels, the latest of which is the newly published crime novel Who Shot Otto Mueller?

Hele-Riin Pihel

But that’s not all. Those who enjoyed the summer theatre production “Johnny” in August discovered when reading the playbill that Birk Rohelend was also one of the authors of this libretto. Anyone who has seen the series “Padjaklubi”, “Lõks”, “Nurjatud tüdrukud”, “Kodu keset linna”, etc., may be surprised that Hele-Riin, who has studied gene technology and received a master’s degree in IT from TalTech in 2019, is also their screenwriter!

TalTech sparked inspiration

How did this colourful and creative person come to work in IT and the academic environment of TalTech? After all, there is still a widespread opinion in society that artists and creators are as far away from scientific subjects as the sun is from the earth, not to mention their poor digital skills. It is also believed that it is difficult to acquire IT skills on an equal footing with young people at the age of 40, but Hele-Riin refutes this myth as well.

“I graduated from TalTech’s master's programme “Digital transformation in business” of the School of Information Technology cum laude. I can tell you that the time I spent there was like a spark or a flash of inspiration. The teachers were extremely inspiring and the programme was very well put together. This gave me the boost to come and see what jobs were available at the university. Now I have been working as the head of the Centre of E-Channels of the Marketing and Communications Office,” Hele-Riin recounts.

Although Birk Rohelend has been involved in the Estonian cultural scene for twenty years, Hele-Riin has also quite a lot of experience in marketing, mainly from the media, where she has encountered all kinds of formats, both behind and in front of the camera. “In fact, about seven years ago, digital marketing became my main job and I am thoroughly familiar with the administration side of Google and Facebook. However, I came to work at TalTech because I felt so enthusiastic about my master’s studies. True, when I came here, I didn't expect the work to become so technical so fast, but I have to admit, the more technical it gets, the more interesting it is for me.” Hele-Riin is also thinking about doctoral studies more and more, although she has not yet decided on a field.

IT is becoming ever broader

Hele-Riin emphasises that creative work and IT actually fit perfectly together. “I would even dare to say that IT and screenwriting are very similar in nature. You have to be able to describe one thing with one sentence, one page, but maybe even four hundred pages. At all times, you have the same task of creating, interpreting, converting, and simplifying the system,” Hele-Riin illustrates.

At the same time, it is quite easy to perform one particular task in individual companies, but if someone turns to us with a concern that cannot be resolved with an existing solution or if a problem is much wider, e.g. it is necessary to know what happened before and what will come after, interpretation and seeing the bigger picture become necessary. Then the questions can quickly reach the fields of marketing, sales, human behaviour or psychology, and it turns out that there are not many people with an IT background who can solve the wider problem. Thus, the IT sector needs an ever broader view and more skills.

“Digital transformation in business is a great subject, as it has attracted people who do not have a background in IT. We gained very good knowledge, from systems to business logic and data science. But there is still a long way to go until the real challenges are resolved. I have a great classmate, Riho, who has worked in IT for all his life. When Riho and I get together, it is as if we're meeting on the edge of two worlds: I know how people behave, how they get to the website, and what they do there, while he knows the technical side that is invisible to the human eye. The question is, will this technical side become more creative, more integrated with other so-called soft skills? I believe the answer is yes and things are moving towards it at unbelievable speed. Today, we have a dire need for bringing marketing, psychology and IT together in Estonia.

How many people in TalTech know that the colourful and energetic web expert who works enthusiastically to make the university more visible on the Internet, information more accessible and the web solutions more user-friendly is also a well-known Estonian poet, writer and screenwriter?

“I think only a handful of people at TalTech know this,” says Hele-Riin, adding that she does not consider it important. “Actually, I have been rather surprised if it turns out that people do know me. This is a very strange moment. I am more well-known among actors, producers, directors – those who produce films or TV series.”

Who shot Otto Mueller?

Her new crime novel Who Shot Otto Mueller? will also soon become a TV series. The description of the novel reads: “A summer night’s dusk has barely ended the baron’s birthday when a shot is fired in the building. Otto Mueller, who was known by many but loved by few, is dead.”

The person who shot Mueller is revealed in the book, but is it possible that a colleague may recognise his or her behaviour or personality traits in a character? “Definitely not in Who Shot Mueller?, as I started writing it long before I came to work here, but it could happen in the future, since authors do draw inspiration from real life,” Hele-Riin laughs.


Hele-Riin Pihel (pseudonym Birk Rohelend) was born in 1981 in Viljandi.

Graduated from the University of Tartu with a degree in gene technology. Master’s degree in IT from TalTech. Playwriting, dramatisation and performance analysis courses from Drakadeemia.

Member of the Board of the Eesti Audiovisuaalautorite Liit, Member of the Board of the Estonian Screenwriters’ Guild, member of the Estonian Writers' Union.

Has written poetry, novellas, and novels and been a screenwriter for many TV series.