Helen Saarniit

Helen Saarniit in a South-Estonian landscape. Photo: Mari Jüssi.

  • Q

    What did you do before joining SEI?

    A

    I have quite an interesting background, and I’ve done a variety of things. I studied music, but also international communication and diplomacy. At one point I translated books from Italian, and I worked for the engineering company Alstom in Italy. Before SEI I worked for Elering, the Estonian transmission system operator – so I was working in the energy field.

  • Q

    Why did you want to work here?

    A

    What SEI does – with sustainability and the environment – is in line with who I am, and what I believe. So it’s easier for me to communicate these topics.

    I was also attracted by SEI as a global organization. Working in an international environment is essential for me, to have colleagues all over the world; do international and global projects; and use the languages I speak.

  • Q

    What kind of work do you do at SEI?

    A

    Since I am the only communications employee at SEI Tallinn I cover everything that’s needed, depending on the project and topic we have on the table.

    That includes writing for the website; media relations; coordination with project partners; event management; branding; social media; planning; making videos, and so on. I’m jumping from one topic to another every day. My work has taken me to organize the launch of SEI Latin America in Bogotá, research solutions for the problems of the textile industry in India, and to develop eco-tourism on Estonian islands.

    There’s so much creativity and freedom involved in being able to shape the communication processes – so whatever I do will happen, and whatever I don’t do won’t happen. That’s been an interesting revelation, and different from what I’ve experienced before.

Left: Behind the scenes at the SEI Board meeting and energy conference in Tallinn, 2016. Photo: Aron Urb / SEI.
Right: A music performance at SEI Tallinn’s 25-year celebration event, which Helen coordinated. Photo: Aron Urb / SEI, Flickr.

  • Q

    What’s one of your favourite memories from working here?

    A

    I remember my first day at SEI. It was four years ago at the Science Forum, which is a very important, once-a-year event. It took place in Stockholm and I remember hearing a lot about sustainability and the SDGs. Melinda Gates was there as one of the main guests. And during the evening program colleagues were playing music, and they put up a theatre performance, all about sustainability.

    I was impressed by the level of creativity that I saw. I don’t think people often feel like they can share such experiences with colleagues.

    I also remember my first interview for SEI: I could see that the people I was talking to were really into what they were doing, and were living and breathing their values. They also sincerely wanted to hear my thoughts on communication and how it affects society, which made me feel valued.

  • Q

    What would you like to do as your career evolves?

    A

    I see myself as a very international person, and I work most productively in cross-cultural environments. So to be able to travel and work with interesting people from all over the world is what’s most inspiring for me.

Claudia Strambo, Karina Barquet and Helen Saarniit at the launch of SEI Latin America

Helen (right) with colleagues Claudia Strambo and Karina Barquet at the launch of SEI Latin America in 2018. Photo: SEI / Flickr.

  • Q

    What advice would you give to someone thinking about working in a similar role?

    A

    Working at SEI in the communications team is interesting, because you get to do very different tasks and work with topics that matter for the future and the way we live. It’s an interesting world. But in the end, whatever work you do, it’s the people you work with that matter most.