Dec 7, 2018 Gerda Verbickaite
Do you think you have a better opportunity to become a programmer if you are born in Europe or in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria? Probably. Founder stage hosts introduced one of the core issues that Christina Sass, the Co-founder and President of Andela is trying to solve. They have created hubs around Africa, currently operating in Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria.
Africa has the largest youth populations, which makes it a desirable destination for talent, considering that majority of Europe and the US population is getting older. There is a large amount of young talented people, without the right connections, who are struggling to break through. Christina hopes via Andela to help them find more opportunities to for growth in their careers.
Compared to global average Andela is also proud to be employing 23% of women in their engineer positions, compared to the 6% average. She believes that we need to continue spreading the word, to make it clear, that it is absolutely a potential career for just anyone.
Getting into Andela program is pretty difficult: their acceptance rate is currently 1% and for many of the talents, it may take a couple of years before they get in. “We send them a lot of preparation homework for the applicants, and often applicants spend months learning in order to be able to successfully apply to the program”, Christina says.
Two of the top skills that Andela is looking is problem-solving and logic reasoning. Problem-solving doesn’t have to be the typical mathematical or engineer-related, Christina explains. They can spot these skills in sports, musical abilities, self-learning, and many other ways. AT Andela they are interested to find candidates that are widely interested in understanding tech, in as Christina said, “learning how their phone works and to make things work.”
She also believes that emotional intelligence is extremely important for developers. During the discussion, Christina stated that our perception of engineers is wrong. To be able to solve real-world problems engineers should be from all walks of life and different to one another.
It is not an easy task to train incredible talent. This is a reason why Andela has a training period for the accepted candidates of around 7 months. The selected applicants work on various projects and learn a large set of skills, which will help to later match them with an appropriate partner company. The training involves hands-on training, often working on real projects for fake client cases, to be well prepared for the real world problem-solving.
It took a while to develop the right screening and training process, and it still always improving, Christina said. In the beginning, Andela started by simply asking their partners about their requirements and started developing a process from there, with a routine feedback and continuous developing.
Following their 7 month training, the engineers apply to various partner companies and once recruited, they continue working for the partner company full time via Andela for 4 years, after which they can continue working at Andela as more senior developers or continue their growth in other companies.
It seems obvious, but to easily forgotten, that developers need to have so-called ‘soft skills’. During her time on Founder stage, Christina brought this topic by explaining, that “we need to teach our developers to learn how to approach these skills and be confident, together with the ability to speak out.”
Andela decided to teach their selected applicants these skills via business improv. They would be placed with the fake partner, who would put them in a complicated situation, as per Christina’s example, they are told that “…we decided to change the logo, you need to change it everywhere.” Then they have to decide how they would solve the issue in real life.
Some worry, that companies like Andela are ‘draining’ the talent from local markets, but during the show Christina assured that they are helping local scenes nourish. “Our developers are crazy involved in local tech scene and they are volunteering in events, coaching other people who have applied.” According to Christina they are active members of their own communities, deeply invested in their cities, where they are able to stay as they are able to work remotely. “Instead of taking the best talent away from home, we want them to see that great tech talent is everywhere.”
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