Dagar Davletov: IT Education Can Equalize the Opportunities of kazakhstani people

Mr. Dagar Davletov, Director of the Alem Programming School, knows what needs to be done to become an IT Professional. And even more - how to become a High-Class IT Specialist. We asked Dagar a lot of questions on how to find out what opportunities each of us had, what opportunities had Dagar, about the professional community in Kazakhstan, and much more.
Gulmira Kussainova

December 4, 2019

Stage: Education Abroad
I studied at Kazakh-Turkish Lyceum (KTL) in Aktobe, where we had a system of continuity - when high school students prepare for the school Olympics those who are younger. In fact, a community was created in our school in which the teacher is no longer a teacher, but a Facilitator. That is, he creates the conditions, the atmosphere - for example, he finds interesting literature, and the students learn independently.

Now I understand that this process is called with a smart word "peer learning". There was not this term at that moment, but this teaching method really worked.

Peer learning (Engl: networked learning, peer-to-peer learning) - network learning, a new paradigm of educational activity. It is based on the idea of mass cooperation, the ideology of open educational courses in combination with a networked organization of interaction between participants.
After KTL, I decided, along with several classmates, to study abroad - Aktobe was not considered at all, and Almaty was plan "B". Most of us did. I entered Computer Sciences. And the first thing that I faced in the States was the language barrier. Therefore, I decided to get a job in order to develop my language skills. I got a job as a Tutor at the Academic Success Center - again I taught and helped other students.

Stage: Method Programming School
When we returned to Kazakhstan in 2012, we decided to initiate our startup. We spent three years on this - but brought a little money, and at some point we got lost. Then we came up to the idea to create a Method School. We wanted to share our own knowledge.

As a result, we rented an office, set up desks, installed a projector and began to be called the Method School. We decided to post ourselves as a school, not courses. So, over time, all four partners took up this project full time.


Method Programming School was founded by four partners:

- Dagar Davletov (Director of Method Nur-Sultan, Iowa State University, USA)

- Samat Iskaziyev (Director, Method Almaty, Iowa State University, USA)

- Nurbolat Kusmagul (Co-founder, Jacobs University, Germany)

- Yerdos Mendybayev (Co-founder, Columbia University, USA)

Former alumni often contact me, write on social networks, ask questions, ask for advice, or we just communicating. Recently, a guy who studied in our School in 2015 wrote on LinkedIn. Then he was in 11th grade, and now he graduated from the university and works at Oracle.

Method Programming School is an additional education that helps those who have an interest in developing in IT. Method has been working for four years.

Initially, these were only professional courses for adults. By the way, in our practice there are successful cases when our graduates changed their specialty and successfully found jobs. There are graduates who, after finishing Method, have left to work abroad. Among hundreds of former students, there are several dozens of interesting career stories.

When we first started working on the Method project, there were no difficulties. There was only interest, despite the fact that we did everything ourselves on bare enthusiasm. Difficulties came when we started to grow.

Firstly, we had difficulties with hiring employees, since we did not know how to do it — we experimented.. It was difficult to find a replacement when we ourselves departed from the teaching process, because it always seemed that I would have done differently.

Over time, we switched to school education. Adult students began to ask more and more often the question: "Why are there no courses for children in Method?" And in 2017, they opened a branch of the school in Nur-Sultan.

During the teaching times, we began to notice - people study, graduate, and then get a little lost: what to do next? Where to go? How to start a career? So the idea came to try to organize something more than just training. Or rather, training with practice. And today Alem school complies with this request too.

Difficulties came when we started to grow

Our idea was to become facilitators between school graduates and their potential employers. We began to conduct Method PRO internships: we collected the best students and helped them get a job using the case study method. As a result, dozens of job offers.

For me personally, this was an interesting project, after which I began to think that we should pay more attention to practice. It is useful for students not only to learn, but also to practice immediately.

I was then invited to Kiev at UNIT.City - an idea bribed us, and we began to consider this opportunity.


UNIT.City is an innovative park created for the investment of the Ukrainian businessman (native of Pavlodar) Vassily Khmelnitskiy. The UNIT Factory educational project, a business campus, cafe, and a sports hall were built on 25 hectares. Total investment in the project is estimated at 300-400 million US dollars.
Stage: Alem School of the Future
The Alem Programming School is the result of two years work on the study of the model, on the search for partners, teams, and on the training of employees.

Before the launch, we tried to study international experience in order to understand what will work here in Kazakhstan and what will not. We decided not to rush and make an internal "pilot": we sent our guys — graduates with whom we started working — to study in Kiev and California, so that they could watch the model, study and give their feedback. As a result, we not only liked their feedback - through this study, we got a ready-made team that will contribute to the project. I also went to study, and we made a final decision.


Alem is a project of the non-profit educational fund Umit Fund and the European educational platform 01 Edu System. The Alem Programming School will start operating in Nur Sultan in September this year based on the Astana Hub. Schooling for all students will be free.

Nicolas Sadirac, in partnership with whom we opened Alem, is considered a visionary in the field of IT education in Europe. Epitech is is his famous successful projects. This is an elite vocational school, the founder and director of which he was. Now Nicolas Sadirac is working on a new project 01 Edu System. This is a project in which the results of all experiments, successful and unsuccessful moments that were in different projects were taken into account. The Alem Programming School will be the first affiliate school in the world to open on the basis of the 01 Edu System educational platform.

Studying at Alem will only be offline. Since it was created on the basis of peer learning, the offline element is important. Education will begin in November, and from this month we will provide accommodation to all students who need it.

Talents are distributed evenly. Just some do not have the opportunity and at Alem we want to give opportunities

The Alem Project is very interesting to me in terms of impact on the industry. I don't want to say global things, but it seems to me that we will have a good impact on the local industry. I think IT education can equalize the capabilities of people. Girls, people from regions, those who did not have the opportunity to show their abilities at school or university will be able to become highly qualified specialists in a promising developing field in Kazakhstan. Talents are distributed evenly. Just some do not have the opportunity and at Alem we want to give opportunities.

Register at alem.school
Pass an online test that identifies high potential people for developing programming skills.
Go through the interview with the school administration.
Go through the "pool". This is a four-week programme, according to results of which the best candidates will be determined.
There is only one restriction for applicants – age limit 18 - 35.
"Pool" is a cool educational format. Moreover, it is cool not only for those who receive knowledge, but also for us as facilitators. We can understand how potential students can learn: at a pace, in a mode when there are no teachers. The Alem training program is designed for proactive people - who want to learn and achieve results. Therefore, during the "pool" we help people learn and at the same time we study them.

The student is evaluated according to very objective criteria, all data is completely digitized - how many hours the student spent at the computer, with what attempt he passed the task, how he helped another student (because teamwork is also important).

As a result, we will see the full profile of the potential student, on the basis of which we will decide whether he can study with us.

It seems to me that this is win win - even if a person did not go to training, for him it was a cool Boot Camp. He studied programming for four weeks, and he did it in a cool team. We plan two "pools" - in September and October by 200 people each. From 400 people we will select the 200 best for training.

At the moment we have fixed age framework of 18-35 for applicants. We have several hypotheses that we must either confirm or refute - precisely from the point of view of the educational process. Plus there is a desire to gain critical mass. If we fume, removing the framework, there is a risk that we simply will not be able to organize the learning process. Therefore, we made this difficult decision with age restrictions. Perhaps, according to the results of the first year of study, we will revise them.

Why are there no specialists in Kazakhstan?
I think this is a problem of chicken and egg. Not enough specialists, because the industry is not developed. The industry is not developed, because there are not enough specialists. When the industry is not developed, specialists do not linger. And even if you are a cool IT Specialist, a Senior-Level Developer, you may just be uninteresting here. There are no projects that can "hook" professionals. And when the industry is developed, it is also competitive wages.

In my opinion, if you release a critical mass of specialists - practitioners of a good level who will be tailored specifically for our market, the problem will be solved. This is our goal.

IT specialization is interesting, but not very popular. People are interested - they heard about Elon Mask, Bill Gates, Evan Spiegel, Pavel Durov. People understand: IT is cool, it's about how you can become successful, make successful products. If in the early 2000s people were more interested in finance, oil sector, now there is more focus on IT. IT is interesting, but not popular. Because people do not know how to get into this sphere. What needs to be done to become an IT Specialist?

If in the early 2000s people were more interested in finance, oil sector, now there is more focus on IT
How is it realistic to successfully implement an interesting IT project in Kazakhstan?
On the one hand, there are very few competitors - there is no competition for a variety of reasons. Therefore, if you do something really good, then most likely you will succeed. But, on the other hand, the implementation of our projects often comes down to some kind of obstacles. In this regard, it may be easier for a specialist to make a startup in the Valley or Southeast Asia. But the general conclusion is that small projects are easy to do because of high competition. And big ones are difficult, but still necessary.

Who are creative programmers?
I think that a Programmer is a creative profession. Yes, there are programmers who can perform tasks and there are those who can solve problems. In my understanding, a creative programmer can solve problems that may have a non-trivial solution. The training system in Alem is built so that the student chooses himself what to do next, where to go according to this graph. Training is built on challenges that do not have a trivial solution. The student at Alem should not only have programming knowledge - this is not the most important thing today. Important are problem solving skills, communication skills, creativity. All this is about a creative programmer.
For whom can IT knowledge be useful?
Obviously, programming skills can help in business. You cannot manage the process effectively if you do not understand what and how it works and what opportunities there are for what you buy, implement, develop. As for the ordinary user: for example, before installing a security certificate, you should know what it is? That is, every day you encounter IT more than you think.
Every day you run into IT more than you think
How will the IT industry develop?
Everything is clear with world trends. There are many studies in which they are detailed. As for our country, we have a lack of data, but based on global trends, we can make an approximate projection. Look in the same Smart Point in Almaty for the composition of participants - IT prevails. In Nur Sultan, this market is also growing very fast. Regions will also connect to this process over time - not so actively, but they will connect.

We have cheap Tenge, as an advantage for the IT sector - this is now very actively discussed by colleagues. Exporting IT products and intellectual work is much easier.

What specialization in IT is worth choosing?
The main thing is to start learning basic things and start doing something. And only then build on your own preferences. Yes, it is promising - data science, graphics and game development, virtual reality, mobile application development. But, I think, in IT there is no sphere about which one could say: "Guys, there is no need to go there, because it is unpromising". There is a demand everywhere. Even in the most complex and narrow niches. Demand is even in such a narrow niche as the development of the kernel of the operating system.
Is there a professional IT community in Kazakhstan?
There is. There is also a certain turnover - specialists are leaving. But I think it's good. Our guys are in Amsterdam, Berlin, California - we can share knowledge and experience. We are pleased to invite guys from large companies to hold a master class or seminar with us. At the same time, they are happy to hunt compatriots to themselves. It works both ways.

The Kazakh trade community is being formed. The key core of influencers is in Almaty and Nur-Sultan, and they are building a party around them. In 2012, everything was very sad - there was nobody, there was nothing and it was not clear what to do. Over the past 3-4 years, the situation is changing very well.

Alem's greatest value is the community. Yes, there is an interesting project approach, our expertise. But the community is more important than anything else. The Internet today provides the same access to information. Today you can go beyond textbooks and the school or university curriculum. But studying in a like-minded society is an invaluable experience.

By the way, it may seem that Alem and Method enter into competition among themselves, as well as with Kazakhstani universities. I believe that we are helping to warm up the industry. Just think - we take only a few hundred people in the country where 18 million live. We promote IT, education, values. We do it for free and in new educational formats - there is nothing to worry about. Neither for the method, nor for another educational institution. The market is large, there are many interested people. Everyone who can make a contribution should do it. Personally, we are doing this.

Photos were provided by Dagar Davletov

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