Andela’s Agnes Muthoni on how startups can benefit from the talent demands of a remote work schedule

A conversation with Agnes Muthoni, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Andela on the Andela Developer Survey

Andela’s Agnes Muthoni on how startups can benefit from the talent demands of a remote work schedule

Andela has been deeply embedded in the African tech landscape since 2014, setting the pace for distributed teams and remote-first operations. Today, the company has connected thousands of talented technologists with world-class companies, starting in Africa.

On the 15th of March, 2022, the global network for remote engineering talent, released a new survey, which featured over 1,000 developers from across 12 African countries.

The survey was carried out to better understand and share the DNA of technologists in this often under-represented region. 91% of African developers chose a fully remote or hybrid model as their preferred working environment.

The survey gathered information on a wide range of topics, from developers’ employment status to their views on diversity and inclusion, and from their main programming languages to their preferences surrounding remote working.

To provide further insights into the survey and delve deeper into the work culture of Andela, Benjamindada.com had a conversation with Agnes Muthoni, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Andela Learning Community.

Interestingly, whilst the majority prefer remote or hybrid models, 49% of engineers surveyed felt that their employers were well prepared to support remote work, indicating that companies across the world are still struggling to realign their workplace policies and systems to better support new ways of working.

Why do African developers prefer the remote working model?

As an organisation, Andela believes in the future of work and to enable our developers to work from home. We started back in 2019 when we set up our operations to operate fully remote in Egypt and Ghana. During the pandemic we were able to accelerate our initiative of working remotely.

We found out that it works really well for our developers and more than 50% developers cited that they work best remotely from the Developers survey. It gives them various benefits and options to have more work-life harmony and also connect with global opportunities. We see that it's a win-win for all and are excited that it has helped us to scale and connect more engineers in Africa with global opportunities.

How can start-ups/companies set up systems which facilitate remote work?

Startups need to ensure their developers have access to the internet and power. They should also build out their operations in such a way that their staff can access the tools and information they need regardless of where they are. We are now seeing tools like Asana (which helps manage budgets more broadly and collaboratively), Slack, Zoom, Google Meet, Google Drive, Microsoft Teams.

I have a friend who runs an agriculture startup and during the pandemic quickly adopted these tools that enabled them to continue their operations. Most startups were able to see that the productivity of their staff (who were working) went up. Some of the perks startups can use to be able to set up an effective remote working model are internet stipends or giving their staff the option of working at co-share working spaces.

How can African startups help their remote working developers deal with unreliable power and internet infrastructure?

Andela extends internet stipends to our network of engineers to ensure they get the most reliable internet option that's available where they reside. We also work with internet service providers to ensure the service in the places where most of our engineers are based is stable and if there's a nationwide shortage we communicate proactively with these service providers so we can manage clients' expectations in time.

What does it take to attract great talents? How can indigenous startups integrate learning and development programs into their structures to attract world class talents?

Learning and development is one of the components of attracting great talents. In addition to that, having a strong innovative and enabling culture together with a strong mission are other metrics we noticed developers are on the lookout for.

They are looking for an environment where they can work on challenging problems so they can deploy their problem solving skills to tackle them. Also, creating an environment that encourages independent decision making by employees and where people can share information openly, broadly, and candidly with one another.

If you ask most developers, they'll tell you what drew them to an organisation (like Andela) is the mission to connect talents with opportunities. The drive to gain more knowledge and personal development is another factor developers choose the organisation they'll work for. Since technology keeps evolving its essential developers continue to keep abreast of the ecosystem.

Conventional educational system is finding it more difficult to keep up with the changes that are taking place. Andela partners with technology firms like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc to extend in-demand courses which developers can use to build their skillsets. Learning has become more accessible, so some of the things startups can do is curate learning pathways that will enable their staff to be able to grow in line with their career roadmap.  

Are any partnerships being made between startups and the government to facilitate Developer programmes/structured programmes in Africa?

At Andela we've been running the Andela learning community which is a community where anyone who is interested in building a career as a Software Developer can sign up. All they need to do is go to our web page Andela learning community and join as a learner.

Some of the perks and benefits of joining the learning community is members get to connect with like-minded developers across the continent and beyond. We also share open source courses for individuals who are looking to learn in specific technology whether its Java, Python, or a beginner. Andela has more program based learnings.

This year Andela will launch its Google Andela skills development program that will take place in the next two months. Andela will extend scholarships to developers in Africa to build up their skills in specific learning tracks. The focus will be on Google Cloud with Mobile Web.

One of the things that stand out in the way Andela has built these learning programs is the mentor model where learners can tap into the existing talents network. Experienced developers mentor the learners as they are going through the training.

Andela has partnered with the Rwandan government to implement the Andela leadership program in partnership with the Ministry of ICT and innovation. The program aims at rewarding Rwandan nationals with the foundational Software Engineering skills to become world class engineers.

The team there works together with startups to create an apprenticeship program for these engineers to get the hands-on experience they need for them to become more employable.

What's the future of the African tech ecosystem?

This is one of the most exciting times for the African tech ecosystem at large because of the significant growth of the number of developers over the years in Africa. The quality of developers emerging from Africa has also improved. The growth is feeding into the startup boom experienced in Africa. Startup funding has increased significantly $1.3b and last year $4.65b, that's profound. And it's only going to keep growing.

Investors cited quality of talents as one of the reasons for the significant fueling of investment in Africa. The correlation between the developer growth and the startup boom is exciting and the developer survey brings it to the surface. 30% of the developers surveyed indicated that they have been involved in founding a startup in Fintech, Edtech, Telcos, etc. As the talents keep increasing there would be more opportunities locally and globally.