Leonardo Ortega: Work in Estonia Experienced

Sander Nõmmik
Author Sander Nõmmik


The Winter issue of Life in Estonia magazine contains an article about Work in Estonia’s project manager Leonardo Ortega.

Text: Robyn Laider / Life in Estonia
Photos: Life in Estonia

Work in Estonia is still a relatively new program; however, it has already managed to establish itself as one of the main promotional tools for working and living in Estonia. You’d be hard pressed to find a newcomer to Estonia who hasn’t spent a fair amount of time surfing the website’s vast array of information, or an employer looking to hire someone from abroad themselves.

It’s not just words and a website for Work in Estonia though, and with one of their most recent hires – Leonardo Ortega, Work in Estonia is showcasing just how firmly they stand behind their message.

An Education Matched by Experience

An expat himself, Leonardo Ortega is no newbie to Estonia. Originally from Mexico, having spent most of his life in Guadalajara, he first arrived over four years ago to complete his Masters at Tartu University. Before he even arrived though, he first learned about Estonia thanks to a year studying abroad in the Czech Republic where he met the Estonian girlfriend he is still with today.

Throughout the four years that Leonardo has been in Estonia, he’s had a variety of positions, including a previous position at Playtech. Having now graduated from his Masters’ program, he’s recently been brought on board by Work in Estonia as their newest Project Manager. This represents fantastic and almost serendipitous opportunity, which allows him to bring his unique wealth of knowledge about the process of moving to Estonia to the organisation.

While we are speaking, Leonardo warmly jokes that he gets to appreciate the value of such a knowledge-base from all sides, as he’s been through all of it himself. He acknowledges that, even in such a short time, so much has changed since he got here. ‘I would have loved it if Work in Estonia existed when I first came here … for example, there is now this, the website, the information guides, so there is way more now than when there was when I arrived even four years ago.’

Tackling Growth and Challenges

Leonardo tells me a little bit about the program itself: ‘Well the whole program is fairly new. It’s about a year and a half old … but we are constantly doing public relations campaigns, online media campaigns, and we are in the process of planning our next year’s action plan, which we are hoping to be a bit more focused on the internal process – how to improve an employer’s knowledge in the sense that they can actually hire people from abroad, and how to raise awareness of the topic … before that the focus was more external. On presenting Estonia abroad and promoting it as a great place for living and working. Now, I think that Work in Estonia as a brand is quite developed, and … we are also deciding on what to do, and in which regions and in which countries we want to focus, because we take a lot of factors into account.’

In his own experience, a balance of these focuses are still needed as Leonardo himself has noticed that the atmosphere, outside of the IT or other technical sectors, can still occasionally prove challenging to job seekers – if you don’t speak Estonian. However, this is less because of actual barriers as it is due to some employers’ fears of change. Leonardo tells me that ‘They think that the challenges are all concerning money [the cost of bringing people over – ed.] and culture. In other words, that they would have to change all their work culture.’ However, while Leonardo and I talk, it is clear that while many of the fears that current employers have are definitely understandable, these are also exaggerated.

‘I would say … look at those that are already doing it. You look at the companies that are making the difference, and you look at the companies that are growing, and they usually have a big multicultural environment, they have people from different regions of the world, and it’s not a big problem, hiring them … there are different companies now that are offering services for relocation, for hiring, for recruitment etc., so they don’t have to do it on their own … and on the Work in Estonia website you can find information,’ says Leonardo.

Teleporting Digital Nomads here

Finally, as another part of their next phase of growth, Work in Estonia is developing a more focused approach to finding the right target markets for success. Together with ‘Teleport’, a company that gathers data on ‘Digital Nomads’, Work in Estonia is diligently working to find out who wants to come here the most – and why. In addition, they are also looking at how these trends are evolving and changing as Estonia’s image is developing in the world market.

‘We wanted to look and check based on this data which people prefer to move to Estonia, on the top qualities that Estonia has, clean air, good environment, more horizontal work environment, etc. So based
on these different factors we want to make a model that we can crossreference the countries we should pick.’

When asked a little more about the countries Work in Estonia has had the most success with so far, Leonardo tells me that Finland and Ukraine rank at the top, but that they’ve only started delving into this information in depth lately, so it will take time to find out the full picture.

Rising to the Challenge

Leonardo is no stranger to helping expats get comfortable in Estonia, as during his Tartu years he was one of the University’s first ‘International Student Ambassadors’, a group of people who helped others from their own country settle in. Additionally, he has been working on his Estonian since getting here. In a blog post of his, Leonardo wrote cheerfully: ‘My dad always said ‘When in Rome, do as Romans do’. And so, when I came to Estonians, I said to myself: ‘In Estonia, do as Estonians do’, and this great attitude has definitely paid off.

Leonardo is obviously very happy and well-suited to his new role. I’m very excited for him, and it’s easy to tell that he is too. Leonardo has more than just the knowledge to help develop Work in Estonia, he’s also been through the entire process himself from start to finish; and truly, that kind of experience is one-of-a-kind. It’s easy to see bright things for Leonardo, Work in Estonia and all of the individuals who will benefit from their work ahead.