#TIA: This is Andela

Seni Sulyman
Jul 29, 2017 · 5 min read

As the world starts to pay serious attention to Nigeria’s tech scene, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about what Andela is and how we operate. Generally, I’m so focused on building one of the world’s fastest growing software engineering organizations that I forget to remind people why we are here and what we seek to accomplish. Instead of responding to every blog, Radar post, and Twitter thread individually, I’m going to attempt to consolidate all of the answers in one place.

So here are a few fun facts about Andela in Nigeria:

  • Andela is a four-year technical leadership program focused on unlocking the full potential of Africa’s best and brightest to become world-class software engineers and technologists. We are a company. For profit. Our developers are full-time employees. They are folks with high levels of persistence, grit, desire to learn, and ability to take feedback.
  • Andelans are passionate about making a dent on the future of Africa and the world, and we are already toughing it out and taking steps every single day to do just that.
  • We envision a future where many of the top executives at Nigeria and Africa’s leading technology companies, startups, and public sector institutions will be Andela alumni. That way, they’ll all speak the same “language” and be laser focused on building a better future together (even while competing). We also expect some of them to be part of the initial technical teams of foreign companies entering Africa, or focusing on Africa.
  • Andela’s growth in Nigeria is fueled by an amazing team that is focused on community building, talent recruitment, people and culture (our version of HR), learning, finance, operations, facilities, technology (we also build some of the products we use internally), client delivery, and others. These are the future business leaders of Nigeria — 100%. They’ve had experiences at firms like Accenture, Access Bank, Alpha Mead, Big Cabal media, Google, Konga, Iroko, Phillips Consulting, Red media, and the list goes on.
  • Our community is diverse. We have people from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Though the overwhelming majority hold Bachelor’s (or more advanced) degrees, we also have a few people who were smart enough not to bother finishing university.
  • Diversity is so important to us that we have specific programs targeted at aspiring female developers. We truly believe that brilliance is gender neutral, in addition to being evenly distributed globally. Many of these women devs are among the leaders in their tech communities.
  • We place aspiring Andela developers through ridiculous hurdles. An aptitude test, a psychometric test, in-person interviews, a simulated development sprint at our campus, and THEN six more months of learning and development after they are hired.
  • We invest a sizable amount in each developer we hire, and provide them a stipend to learn during the aforementioned 6-month program (the stipend is not mouth-watering, but it reduces the barrier to entry for people who truly want to learn by removing any cost from this). This also means we can become more diverse, as the only requirements to get in are things within people’s’ control (such as a desire to learn and accept feedback), not how much they can afford to pay.
  • In order to ensure that these investments are recouped and we are able to hire and “upskill” more developers (thereby creating a sustainable model), we ask each developer to stay for 18 months. After that period, everyone is free to do what they want. We fundamentally believe in “paying it forward”, so each cohort of senior Andela developers funds the recruitment of the next set of new developers.
  • Our employee retention rates are some of the highest I’ve seen in any firm or country I’ve ever worked at. Check my LinkedIn if you’d like to see the comparison set.
  • After 6 months of intense learning and development, amazingly smart Nigerians (some of whom didn’t know how to write code before beginning their Andela application), become capable of working alongside some of the most awesome startups working on solving some of the most challenging, or most interesting problems. Examples of such companies are — CrunchBase, SeatGeek, Microsoft, Zapier, IBM, etc. We constantly strive to figure out which organizations will be a great fit for our developers and mission. The rest can be found on our home page here https://andela.com.
  • During their work with our partner companies, Andela developers learn, build and create, while gaining exposure to global technology teams and increasing their confidence as world-class developers. There’s a whole team of super mission-aligned colleagues in New York who wake up every day eager to prove that Africans can actually be global technology leaders.
  • To accelerate our growth, we’ve raised close to $40M to date from really savvy global investors like Google Ventures, Spark Capital and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, top African investors like CRE Venture Capital, and some early investors like Idris Ayo Bello who saw something special in the making.
  • Andela developers are interested in solving many of Africa’s problems. Many also want to solve global problems. They will.
  • When they’re not busy learning, building, and creating, they are mentoring young women and teaching teenagers how to code, contributing to open source, organizing workshops or participating in community events through ForLoop, Facebook and Google Developer Groups, supporting aspiring Andelans, winning hackathons, winning more hackathons, etc. Basically, they are contributing to their communities, Nigeria and Africa at large. Some of our awesome devs have gone as far as attending Google I/O, TechCrunch Disrupt, joining Fareed Zakaria on CNN, and continue to represent Nigeria and Africa on the global scene.
  • Our intent is that after they spend four years at Andela, most will go on to do other amazing things — eventually becoming CTOs, VPs of Engineering, startup founders, maybe get into public policy or governance, etc, while others will stay and continue working with us.
  • As we now have developers who have completed their 3rd year and are advancing towards the 4th year, we are preparing to help them launch careers in tech AND start businesses (for those who want to). We are co-creating this with their input, because Andela is an environment where You Own Your Own… learning, development, interests, etc.
  • Because we can’t unleash the power of 100,000 developers (that’s our first big goal) through building multiple physical campuses, we’ve also taken advantage of (you guessed it!) the internet to codify the lessons we’re learning internally and distribute them to thousands of learners through our Distributed Learning Community.
  • As with every other organization, we are continuously identifying areas where we can level up. We ask for feedback from our 300+ employees in Nigeria and constantly work to incorporate what we learn. In general, people love it here — but we’ll always keep striving to be more awesome.

In just three years, we’ve come very far. We are continuously inspired to keep forging ahead and proving that a world-class engineer can exist anywhere in the world; and definitely in Africa.

For anyone who is curious to learn more about what we do, find your nearest Andelan and come visit our office. It’s designed to be somewhat of a software engineer’s atelier, a place where people can block out the Lagos “madness” and focus on honing their craft.

Anything else you’d like to know? See you in the comments section below.

This Is Andela.

Seni Sulyman

Written by

VP, Global Operations at Andela (aka BlackOps)