Working in a Distributed team as a Software Developer from Africa


How many of you relate to the title? Maybe not so many of you, so i would tell this story as something you should have at the back of your mind when you decide to accept that offer as one of a few or only software developer (from Africa ) on a team of predominantly people of other descents (obviously not African).

I began this journey of working in remote distributed teams about 3 years ago and i would say its been a roller coaster journey. With it comes its perks, downsides and frustrations. I will begin with the perks.

Its amazing getting to know people from diverse backgrounds; both educational, cultural and political. I have worked with people from almost every continent and its a thrill hearing their stories, beliefs, struggles and all that makes them who they are. Their work processes and ethics are very well defined and refined; maintaining high code quality, regular pair programming, code reviews and using high productivity tools to mention a few weren’t things i was used to prior to my first gig, but now i would never commence any software project without having these processes in place. A good work-life balance is also something i have very much adopted; having regular drink-ups, travels, parties when the team gets together and spending quality time with loved ones plays an important role in keeping stress levels (which can be quite high among software developers) down.

Downsides typically strike a balance with the perks, but if the cons outweigh the pros by an appreciable margin then you need to do some reflection. The major con for me is SALARIES in comparison with other developers; i don’t know where this equation of “African = Cheap Labour” stems from, but there is a certain distaste about it. If developers are at par with each other in terms of how good their code is, then they both should be paid as such. Some companies hire developers from Africa in the hopes that they can exploit their skills for very little compared to their counterparts in Europe and other developed parts of the world. This is a no-brainier and i totally condemn it on all levels. Not being involved in every stage of tech discussions is definitely another con; imagine the team does its regular morning stand-up meetings via slack or any other tool and you get introduced to another developer on the team who you had no prior knowledge of, what would be your reaction? I leave that to your judgement.

In conclusion, i generally see a good side to every bad situation and with that in mind, i wouldn’t trade my experience working remotely in a distributed team with any other working experience i have had; its been a learning process full of acceptance, backlash, reflections and positivity . I have made a lot of good friends, learnt a lot of tech as well as people skills and things only get better from here on.

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