TekExperts, a global provider of business and IT support services, has continued to hire staff amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to the economic recession caused by the pandemic, many companies have slowed down their expansion plans. In addition, these companies have either had to lay-off staff or reduce hiring to contain their cost, as revenue takes a dip.
In focus today are global technology companies that serve other businesses by providing outsourcing services—like software development and IT support. One of such IT outsourcing firms, Andela, recently laid off 10% of their workforce due to market realities of its clients. But one other global IT outsourcing company, TekExperts, seems to be thriving amidst the economic downturn.
Related Article: Global tech outsourcing firm, Andela lays off 135 employees
We spoke to TekExperts to learn more about how they are able to still hire hundreds despite the situation of the world. In an exclusive interview with benjamindada.com, TekExpert's Head of Business Development for Africa, Ashim Egunjobi tells us all about it.
The remaining parts of this article contains a lightly-edited interview highlighting the main points of our conversation.
Benjamin Dada: My name is Benjamin and I write about the techosystem in Nigeria. This is my fifth year in the space and I've written about different startups and top ten tech companies, which includes TekExperts. Do you mind telling me a little about yourself?
Ashim Egunjobi: Yeah, sure. I'm excited to be here with you. You know my name already and I'm the Head of Business Development for Africa at TekExperts. Prior to that role, I was the Acting Country Manager for the Nigeria business at TekExperts. Excited to share a little bit about our company with you today.
Dada: When you think about your business and what's currently happening in the world, how do you see things? Do you think you are uniquely placed or at a disadvantage?
Q1—Are you uniquely placed or at a disadvantage in this COVID era?
Egunjobi: Super question, thanks Benjamin. So, the current situation in the world is one of unprecedented nature. One that very few businesses would have planned for or hedged against with a mitigation strategy. Having said that, of course, the IT or tech sector has been uniquely placed in this current economic crisis. This is because the crisis has had to rely on the tech sector to help keep some sort of normalcy that ensures businesses run and employees are engaged. Also, the IT sector has come up with innovative solutions, like telemedicine and fintech, that is able to address this crisis better.
Editor's Note: In March, we wrote about how top tech companies in Nigeria are responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. It contains TekExpert's response to the crisis.
When we go to TekExperts, in particular, looking at what we do—which is really providing deep technical support to Fortune 500 companies, you can imagine that as those IT companies have been exposed to increased opportunities in deploying their technologies or solutions, support goes hand-in-hand. The more people use a certain technology, the more people require technical support (and the type of technical support we provide is really deep technical).
In these COVID times, a lot of companies and enterprises expect their technology to work well. Most people around the world have been working remotely. To work remotely means to rely heavily on voice, video conferencing softwares like Zoom and collaboration tools. Also, organisations make use of virtual private networks to access their cloud applications.
So, we have actually been able to continue to grow through this global crisis, we have continued to hire people, (technical) engineers, not only in Nigeria but across the world. We have six locations across the world in which we have been able to hire. The interesting part here is that, of course, even though we are a digital and a tech company, we do have to rejig some of the ways in which we identify people, in which we recruit, in which we assess and in which we onboard and train people who join us.
The good thing is that we were able to do that really quickly and pivot away from your meeting people face-to-face and having interviews (which we love to do), but we've really been able to convert all of that into the more virtual world of being able to do all of that remotely.
Dada: Okay, that's interesting. When you look at TekExperts, is it okay to say that you are more of a service business? (Like, you have clients that you service by providing support to them)
Q2—What will the new hires be doing?
Dada: So the class of people you are hiring now, where are you deploying them to? All over the world, what's happening is that companies that service other businesses have had to either streamline their operations or reduce their team size. This streamlining is because their clients who pay them are also cutting down their own costs. So, the new set of people you are hiring now, what's the direction for them or what will they be doing?
Egunjobi: As I mentioned in my earlier comments, the companies that we support, their businesses have been growing. So, the type of the technologies that are our major clients deploy have actually been in increased demand. The increased demand means that there is more utilisation, requires more capacity and often times there is a downtime for the end users.
The end users are sitting at their desks at home and then require some support as these technologies are having a downtime.
We have not seen an economic downturn, in fact, we have had to employ more people globally—Ashim Egunjobi, TekExperts
And so, we haven't seen any of that (economic) downturn, we haven't seen a reduction, infact, we have seen an increase in some of the support that we've had to provide and with that, we've actually had to employ more people, globally, to be able to serve this increase in demand.
The profile of the talent that we usually would hire or source for hasn't changed. We usually look for people who are driven by curiosity with good technical aptitude, good English skills, and a service mindset. Basically, someone who is curious enough to troubleshoot for any deep technically-difficult problems, but also be able to keep a smile on their faces while they do it.
Dada: Okay. That's interesting that your clients are not really impacted by what is happening around the world. And as they scale and grow, you are also being tasked to grow with them, so that you can effectively support their businesses.
Egunjobi: Yeah, absolutely.
Dada: So is there like a target number of staff or talent you are trying to hire and over what period of time?
Q3—How many people are you trying to hire?
Egunjobi: Are you referring to Nigeria or generally in our global business?
Dada: Err...we can talk about global and then we narrow to Nigeria
Egunjobi: Okay sure, absolutely! So, we are currently a business of about 5000 to 6000 people globally and we look to more than double, to triple that number in the next two to three years. In Nigeria specifically, I think the growth story that we've already enjoyed is pretty incredible. We opened our offices here in April 2018 with 200 technical support engineers, and within a period of less than 24 months, we have been able to grow that business to over 1,300 technical support engineers located just here in Nigeria. And these technical support engineers, (as mentioned) they support global customers from all over the world in their technical challenges that they may be facing.
In less than 24 months, we've grown our Nigerian business by 6500%. From 200 support engineers in 2018 to 1,300
We continue to believe that we will grow in Nigeria. We were recognised by Jobberman as the kind of Top 100 companies in Nigeria. And we are also part of the Top 10 IT companies, which is a really great feat for a pretty new company, that is operating in Nigeria.
In addition to that, we have invested in acquiring our own real estate here in Nigeria and so we are moving from a kind of leased premises into a fully-owned premises which demonstrates, obviously, the long term strategy and the investment from the time horizon that we see for Nigeria. And with that, we would continue to hire people. You know, certainly, we are envisioning that within the next year, we would be around 1,800 people in Nigeria.
Dada: Okay, that's interesting. Is there any special strategy you are using to attract talent or recruit people? Or Do you already have established funnels for getting people?
Q4—How are you going about hiring?
Egunjobi: A little bit of both, I will say. On the one hand, we have now been operating here (Nigeria) for just two years, we are more established with regards to people having heard the name "TekExperts", but we still have refined talent attraction strategies that we deploy.
In TekExperts, we have a dedicated Talent Acquisition team and they work hand-in-hand with our Recruitment Marketing team. They are always identifying great opportunities to build brand awareness, great opportunities to identify and analyze where and how are we best placed to, for instance, place job adverts and all of that.
Now, one of the things that makes us interesting is the way that we recruit.
So, once you've applied, you would get a phone call which is one of our normal ways of interacting and that's really the first interaction. So, the phone call would be from one of our global recruiters who would just ask a couple of basic questions.
You are then invited into what we call an assessment centre. During these assessment centres, what we really do is to give you an opportunity to meet us, and vice-versa.
In addition to that, we then also do a series of different assessments. So, there are technical assessments, to really check the candidate's skill level and technical aptitude and of course there is an English test and all sorts of other engagements like group sessions, and a one-on-one interview.
Often times, you know, we actually see people who come back multiple times, they may not have made it through the first round, but they really enjoyed what they saw, they really enjoyed what they felt and the people that they interacted with during this assessment centre. That it actually made them want to come back. This is always a great testament to us and to we love to see that.
In addition to that, we invest heavily in our employees with specific regards to their career development and we ensure that though they come with some technical aptitude, there is a lot of investment that goes into upskilling or training them to be on the level that we need them. Furthermore, we then look at it as a continuous growth and career path. We look at where you (an employee) are now and where you'll like to be in the future (e.g Team manager) and see how we can build your people management skills. Or you want to be a Technical superstar, at some point, we say, let's see how we build your [technical superstar] skill.
So, we focus on that (training and people development), and we have a lot of great tools, adaptive assessment tools to really look at where those gaps are and how best do we plug them.
Dada: Alright. So, thank you for that very elaborate description and it's good to know that you invest heavily in your people.
On a concluding note for me, I'll like to know what you think about how this pandemic is going to affect the world and TekExperts going forward. So do you feel like this is a permanent shift that has just occured? Or do you feel like things are going to return to normal or what do you think is going to change about the way people do business, people get jobs and other things like that?
Q5—What is a post-pandemic future? For you and TekExperts, in particular
Egunjobi: In my mind, Benjamin, it's going to be a bit of a mix between the two.
I do believe that there has been a shift in the way people view processes in particular and how efficient they can work around these processes. But in addition to that, I do feel like as humans, we crave and we love the social interactions that come often times with working somewhere, and you know, being in an office, having colleagues and friends around you.
I don't believe that we are going to live in a world (going forward) that is defined by all of us being isolated in our homes. I do think that at some point, we would go back to (and gradually) to a new normal and for some period of time, that new normal may include social distancing, it may include select services being open or not being open.
But I do think that gradually, as science battles finding a vaccine for this particular virus (COVID-19), I do think that we would go back to a place where we have less restrictions with regards to interactions.
However, I do think that this pandemic, if one thing that it has taught us that, infact there are so many ways to be more efficient, to be quicker, to deploy more technology with everything that we do in running our businesses. And I do think that business owners are going to continue to explore ways in which they can leverage technology to, infact, be more successful in the way that they do business.
Dada: Alright, thank you so very much for your time, I agree that it is going to be a mix, and humans crave connection. Thank you very much.
Egunjobi: Alright, bye!
You can join TekExperts Nigeria Webinar Event with Dr. Dipo Awojide tomorrow. The webinar is focused on Nurturing Your Skills During a Global Pandemic.