Why I’m Still All In On Andela

The Leap of Faith

I will never forget.

On May 21, 2014, I took the most YOLO step I’ve ever taken in my life.

The Andela Founding Team (photocred: Adeleke Togun)

Jeremy, Christina, E, Ian, and Brice (insane team; love them to death) convinced me to hop on a one-way flight to Lagos from Toronto to recruit and train the first set of Andela developers.

For a month prior to that, we had been brainstorming non-stop of how to write the future of technology in Africa by rapidly upskilling brilliant Africans in software development. Someone had to go and do the actual upskilling.

And just like that, in the middle of brainstorming, Jeremy was like “okay, Ian buy the ticket”. I was like “right now!? just like that!?”. They casually laughed as they bought the one-way ticket to Lagos. You can guess my reaction, “YOLO *¯\_(ツ)_/¯*, OSHEY”.

On the plane back, I was amusing myself remembering that on May 21, 2007, I left my home in Bayelsa, Nigeria to go study in Canada. And exactly 7 years after, May 21, 2014, I was on a plane back to Nigeria.

I laughed at what my spiritual friends would say. After all, 7 is supposed to be the perfect number of destiny.

With all the opportunities I had around me to build software at the highest levels, I had ZERO intentions of moving back to Nigeria. But here I was, casually walking into a terrain that I have never experienced or intended to experience.

I thought about what I was going to do when I got to Nigeria. And it hit me:

“Up until now, I have had countless opportunities to build a solid life for myself through building technology. Those opportunities will never go away. Now it’s time for me to create similar opportunities for my people.”

I immediately felt super-jazzed! Like hell yeah! Let’s do this! It’s just Lagos right? No big deal.

First Impressions

I landed on Saturday, got settled in.

A few days later, E started taking me around Lagos to meet some players in the ecosystem. I met very cool people. Loved the energy. I remember the BBQ chicken at the CChub Games Day that made me swear a life-long commitment to BBQ chicken.

Despite all the cool people I met, I couldn’t help but be unhappy and borderline pissed about the perception of developers. I did not feel that developers got the recognition and respect they deserved for their work and contribution to society. I made a determined decision to change that.

Inviting People to Change What’s Possible

After 3 days of meeting people, and attempting to get acclimated without any success, it was time to start interviewing candidates for the Fellowship.

In all the interviews, there were 2 questions I always asked at the end:

1) If a doctor, lawyer, oil engineer, and a developer walk into a bar, who do you think would get the most respect and the least respect?

2) How much would you like to earn as a software developer?

For #1, most people consistently said the developer would get the least respect. After all, nobody even knows what a developer is. My response to that was that “Where I’m coming from, the developers get a lot of respect. And I can bet you that in the next few years, the developers here would have the respect and all the swag”

For #2, many candidates seemed afraid to mention large numbers. The most I can recall was N250,000/month. And this was after I pushed them numerous times to be more ambitious. I ended up telling them “It doesn’t matter what you want, you’ll be able to earn that in a few years as a developer”.

I’m sure a lot of the candidates were thinking, “who’s this mad man?” And they were not wrong. Afterall, I did not have any data to back up my claims. I was a 23-year old that only graduated from the University of Waterloo a year prior to that. What did I know about life?

All I had was raw passion and a burning desire to show people that they had the power and ability to change what they previously thought was possible. And through that work, they’d be able to build whatever lives they wanted for themselves.

And sometimes, all you need to get started is that passion to create what you want to see in the world. Little did I know.

2014 Andela Tech team in Lagos L:R Obie Fernandez, Me, Brice Nkengsa, Chidi Nnadi, and Godson Ukpere

The Ball Of Impact is Rolling

Fast forward 3 years later.

Wes Bos voicing his observations about the tech scene in Nigeria

Andela has over 300 developers building software for technology companies around the world.

There are now thriving developer communities in Nairobi and Lagos (forLoopNigeria alone has 1,295 participants and has spread to Nairobi).

There’s even an article about how Nigerian developers are the new rockstars and compared them to artists under the Mo’hits Records label.

Andela developers that have been at Andela for at least 2.5 years earn at least 4x what they did in their first month at the company, and consistently receive offers from tech companies that are 3–5x what Andela pays them. They stay because they are committed to our mission of creating opportunities for people after them just like I did.

Because of the work, they’ve been doing, we’ve been able to expand our reach to Kampala, Uganda.

Andelans in Nairobi celebrate Andela Kenya’s 2nd birthday on June 2, 2017

So Yea Why am I Still All In On Andela?

Because we are only just starting to scratch the surface.

Because we understand that the way to truly transform a nation is through innovation.

And in this age of technology, innovation goes where the developers go.

Imagine an Africa where every city has thousands of top-tier developers. That would literally transform our continent as we know it. From big businesses that change the we way operate as a society, to government policies, to contributing to the evolution of the human race globally through technology. The possibilities are endless.

We must continue to distribute opportunities for Africans to learn and grow as technology leaders. And I’m committed to doing the work that enables that for as long as it takes for Africa to take her place in the global technology revolution. #BuildTheFuture

Andelans in Lagos, Nigeria just vibing :D

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