“If you’re interested in IT then come to kood/Jõhvi” – Q&A with Sander Väli


This time we have a Q&A with one of our students, Sander Väli. Right now he has been studying on-site for 6 months now, so let’s go over his background, the application and study process but also future plans! And we ended with 2 good suggestions for future applicants but also students! 

Let’s start this off! Who are you and what’s your background?

Hey, I’m Sander Väli, a 23-year old from Kuressaare, Saaremaa. It’s an island in Estonia. I finished Orissaare High School, took part in the Estonian Military Service and worked in different areas. IT has always been something that I’ve been interested in, but I never got the chance to go more in depth.

How would you describe kood/Jõhvi? What does a school with no teachers look like on the inside?

It’s a totally new way of obtaining an education, and something new and innovative in Estonia. kood/Jõhvi is built upon the motivation of the students, where everything depends on the students’ initiative. Study materials are provided in the shape of practical assignments and failure/success, Google search bar and consulting with your peers.

How did you find your way into kood/Jõhvi? How would you describe your journey?

I heard about the school from my sister, who also wanted to apply. Unfortunately, life got in the way of everything and she didn’t apply after all, so I thought that I should have a try. Studying IT has always been in my future plans, but the University program seemed too wide-spread. On the other hand, kood/Jõhvi seemed more practical and concrete, which fits my way of life better.

What emotions did you have during the application process? How did this new way of applying to somewhere work for you?

The application is divided into 2 steps: the Online Test and the Selection Sprint. The first step, the Online Test, is a 1,5 hour test, which consists of gamified tasks that test your memory and logical thinking. After the first step, the 600 best were selected to advance to the second step. There were 3300 applicants. The second step aka the Selection Sprint is a 3-week full time on-site study period. During intense days and weeks, we coded for about 12h a day and sometimes there was not even time to eat. When talking about emotions then after the first week I felt like quitting, especially after seeing a lot of people leave. But then I decided to suck it up and move on and do as much as I can, as good as I can. I wasn’t hoping to get to be a part of the school, but this was why I was even more surprised, when I got the e-mail of being accepted to the program. 

What does the current study process look like? Do you spend a lot of time at Ida-Virumaa? How much do you visit your home in Saaremaa? What are the study options?

The study process is really flexible. Being on-site at school is not fully mandatory but as the recommendations say, then being on-site is more useful. About 1 week in a month is a good start! 

I, myself, do my studies on-site and find my way to Saaremaa for about 1 week in a month, so the other way around. I find that the school building has a great atmosphere for devoting myself to my studies and it’s easier to discuss different tasks with my peers.

What are your current emotions with kood/Jõhvi: what does everyday life look like? What are the best/worst parts? How does the program work with your type? Is it for everyone? What’s the community like? How do you handle your studies money-wise?

Right now, kood/Jõhvi is renting the Ida-Virumaa Vocational Education Centre’s rooms, but at the start of autumn we will move to our own building in Jõhvi. We are also supported by the school by laptops, monitors and co-working spaces/classrooms. My main expenses are food and transport, since for us, the accommodation is free. This might change for the new batch of students. 

Since the program is intense, then it’s hard to get a good daily schedule. At the start of the program, day and night had no difference for me. To maintain the ability to advance in the program, you need to find a good rhythm. For me, a schedule, which obtains time for food, sleep, rest and working out, is extremely important.

I feel like this way of life fits great with my way of life. I like working on stuff I know nothing about and get answers for questions I did not have beforehand. I’m not sure that this way of studying works for everyone but I feel like it’s a really good way of learning coding. 

The community is also really friendly and everyone’s invested in studying, because those of us who made it through to the 2-year-program, have a let’s-do-it  attitude towards the study process.

How much have you developed in the short span of time? What have you learned so far?

So far I’ve been in school for half a year now and when I talk to my friends who made their way to University, they tell me that the same assignments I’m working on right now, are the same that they did in their 2nd or 3rd year of studies. Kinda cool! But at the same time I understand that the University program goes more in-depth with the assignments, how and what is done.

Right now, we have learned Goland, HTML, CSS and Javascript languages, with which we have created the front end and back end solutions for web pages (this is what people see when you open a web page and what eventually ties the page as a whole). We have also learned a lot about data processing, using algorithms and different kinds of functions in different coding languages. 

What are your ambitions after school? 

Once a week, we have a series of kood/Talk’s from different specialists in their own field. For example, last week, we had a talk from Sergei Anikin, the CTO (Chief Technical Officer) of Pipedrive and one of the TOP25 CTO’s in the world. He talked about his journey and shared some tips and tricks. The week before that we had a talk about blockchain technologies. These kinds of talks are a great insight, to make our choices for specialising. After the 18-month main program, we have a specialisation module that lasts for 6 months. There are different options ranging from UX/UI design to Artificial Intelligence.

I’m not sure about what I’m going to do after school but I would definitely like to keep living in Saaremaa and find coding, as a field where you can do a lot of remote work, a good chance to keep living at Saaremaa, while working somewhere else.

Give a good recommendation for all future applicants or students.

When applying to kood/Jõhvi, I recommend trying out some logical games and if you’re through the first step (the Online Test), then in the second step (the Selection Sprint), the most important thing is to not give up. You need to move at your own tempo!

For students, I suggest to keep an eye on your mental health and have a strict, while calm rhythm.

Want to learn more? Check out our other blog posts!

Want to apply now? Do it!