“For me, it’s all about the learning experience,” Kaar says. It’s his way of introducing himself as well as his explanation for being involved in so many areas within the company.
Based in Tallinn, the big data developer and sometimes team lead has racked up a long list of Nortal projects since going through Summer University in 2014. The tally includes a small proof-of-concept gig for the telecom Elisa, a parking solution for a Russian company and two longer-term tasks for telecom Telia. He’s currently working on a project for the financial services firm Luminor, and will soon be moving to an e-government system Nortal is building for the Estonian Social Insurance Fund.
“As I’m working within these various projects, I get to see the different parts of the lifecycle,” he says.
“For example, the Telia project had been going on for about a year before I joined, so I could see the end phase of the project along with the handover to the client, and all the maintenance and support that comes after it.”
“With the Luminor project, I joined at the very beginning. Right now, I see how the project is building a foundation and working toward getting everything growing in a sensible fashion.”
He also notes that the systems have different technological stacks, and gaining experience working with new ones was part of his motivation for making the change.
Learning through teaching
Kaar’s project work is only part of his story. “I’m the type of person who thinks I can do everything at once — I grab a lot of different tasks,” Kaar says.
Outside of Nortal, he’s finishing his master’s degree and working as a teaching assistant at Tallinn University of Technology. Within the company, he’s become a technical recruiter and participated in putting together the training track for Summer University. “I’m making sure we hire the right people with the right mindset, and making certain they’re are up to date with what they need to know when they step into the project.”
That work, he says, offers more opportunities for self-improvement and staying current with the latest developments. By speaking to the other teams to determine what competences need to be covered, he can pinpoint the gaps in his own knowledge base.
“I make a checklist of things I don’t know as well as I could, and whenever I have time, I try to freshen up on those technologies,” he says.
Confidence and passion
Reflecting on what he has gained since his time in Summer University, Kaar asserts that his personal development has gone far beyond just gaining know-how.
“It’s really cool to think back where I started from. As a second-year university student entering one of the biggest companies in Estonia, I was feeling really in over my head. But there was always a very supportive structure within Nortal that helped me become a more confident person as well as a confident developer,” he points out.
“I think that’s the biggest thing, the confidence level has gone up alongside the knowledge I’ve gathered over the years.”
Commenting further on the people he works with at Nortal, Kaar praises their energy and passion. “That’s the most important thing, having the passion for your work. That’s really what motivates me, having the passion and seeing that same passion in the other people I work with.
“I really admire my colleagues. They are probably the most competent people I have ever met. It’s easy to work with people who are always helpful,” he asserts. “It sounds a bit cliché, but I feel like we really are a big family at Nortal. And that’s not just a sales pitch.”