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Fabiola Garcia Vargas: “Mexico and Estonia are different, but people are nice in both countries”

Fabiola is a graduate of Industrial Engineering and Management (MSc) programme at TalTech. Besides engineering, she’s been applying her skills and knowledge to other fields of interests, such as marketing, sales and project management. We tried to find out how an engineer’s career may look like after graduating from the university.

What is industrial engineering about and how did you decide to study it in the first place?

Industrial engineering is where engineering and management meet to make companies constantly improve and run more efficiently. It is generally associated with factories and production, which is indeed one of the places where industrial engineers can work, making sure processes run smoothly, efficiently and meet the required level of quality, involved in supply chain, product development or B2B marketing, but this knowledge can also be applied to virtually any other type of business.

I decided to enroll in this degree because after graduating from a Bachelor’s degree in Mechatronics Engineering, I got a job as an applications engineer at a company that sold electric motors in the Latin American market, and in that position I didn’t really use the very theoretical or complex mathematics or programmes that I had learned about; I did need to have a technical background, but my role had more to do with sales and customer service. Over the years I became the unofficial bridge between the engineering team and the operations team because I tended to get easily bored if I had to do the same activity every day, so I was always happy to help the marketing team draft brochures, translate datasheets and drawings, redesign our catalogue of products, create better software tools to make quotations, do product development, etc. That’s when I realised that I really enjoyed doing these activities when they required technical knowledge, so I decided I wanted to learn more about it by studying a Master’s degree in Industrial Management.

It seems that the engineering requires plenty of practical work. How did your classes look like at TalTech?

I had a mixture of theoretical and practical lectures. In many we did have to do serious research and write scientific articles, but we also had the chance to visit a few companies from different areas and that was also very interesting, seeing how things work in real life. For example, we visited a mattress factory, a company that made metal parts, and an e-bike start-up (back then it had a tiny workshop but now has recently opened a big factory with around 60 employees). And after my classmates got to know each other better and became closer, we organised our own visits after some of those companies invited us to see their working place, like Ericsson and a glass bottle factory. I did not take part in organised extra-curricular activities; instead I enjoyed taking walks around the city, exploring its neighbourhoods and taking photos, but I did apply for an Erasmus semester and was able to spend 6 months studying in Stockholm, which was also an incredible experience and I am grateful that TalTech gave me the opportunity to do that.

How did you career develop after graduation?

Right after graduation, I got a job at a company that makes wire harnesses for trucks and I worked as a costing engineer, were I had to check customers’ drawings and put into the databases all the components, production steps and processes that were required to manufacture each of the different wire harnesses. After a year there, I started to get bored (as I mentioned previously, I don’t do well with repetitive tasks), and then one of my former classmates wrote to me and told me that she knew about one very cool start-up that makes IoTs for light electric vehicles (like kick-scooters and e-bikes) which was looking for people and she could recommend me. So, I applied, got the job and I have been happily working there for a bit more than a year; right now I am officially a Project Manager for new product implementations, which means I coordinate engineers to make sure our IoTs work with each of our customer’s vehicles, but since it is a start-up and since I like to get my hands on different things, there is always something else that needs to be done that has nothing to do with my job description, and I love that. I have not been in touch with my former classmates in a while, but I know that after graduation a couple of them started working at ABB, Ericsson and a shipping company.

What are the main differences and similarities between living in Mexico and Estonia?

Mexico and Estonia are sooo different. Mexico is huge, warm, colourful, crowded, chaotic; Estonia is small, cold, sparsely populated, peaceful. But in both places people are generally quite nice; it might take more time for Estonians to open up, but after a while you realise they are friendly, caring and funny.

In your opinion, what are pros and cons of studying abroad?

Studying abroad is such an eye-opener. Leaving aside the academic aspect of it, on a personal level it leads to tremendous growth: by being away from everything and everyone you know, you have no choice but to learn so many things that before you would have taken for granted or would have never thought of before. For instance, which is the most convenient supermarket, which bus takes you where you want to go, how to do laundry in the dorm’s washing machines, maybe even how to cook, how to dress up for and get used to the dark days of winter, and make new friends. All this is a pro if you find all these challenges exciting, even if after a while you realise you don’t like being away from your own country, because that in itself is something about yourself you would have not known otherwise. But if you think you just don’t have the willingness to go through all that, it can be very hard; it takes time to make new friends so for sure there will be times where you will feel lonely or miss your family.

Master thesis preparation

What are three dreams that you wish to accomplish in life?

At the moment I am just focusing on getting through the pandemic :) But after things go back to normal, I would love to travel more around the lesser known or little countries of Europe, for example San Marino, Andorra, Liechtenstein; I am just so curious, nobody ever talks about those places. Second, I would like to start a podcast, just talk about a different topic every week, I enjoy reading about almost anything so a podcast would give me an excuse to just sit down and research whatever topic I stumble upon on the internet. Third, I would love to be a better photographer and have my photos exhibited in a gallery.

The article is part of the series: “TalTech Alumni Stories”.
Stay tuned for more interviews with our graduates.

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