Andela and Microsoft 4Afrika have partnered to up-skill developers in Kenya and Nigeria where selected developers will learn basic skills in Azure, via the LinkedIn Learning platform.
Andela says the program, dubbed the ALCwithMicrosoft Azure Training 2020, will train software engineers in the basics of Azure. The engineers will build, test, deploy, and manage applications and services through Microsoft-managed data centers.
“At Andela, through the Andela Learning Community, we are committed to working with Microsoft in supporting the growth of tech talent across the continent. We are excited for the opportunity this partnership brings and look forward to engaging with software engineers in Kenya and Nigeria.” Lina Ng’inja, Talent Partnerships Manager, Andela.
The program is aimed at helping developers get proficiency for Azure technologies, be shortlisted to redeem Microsoft Azure certification exam voucher and improve their competency in their existing skills.
The program seeks to engage 3000 developers in the two countries and will run until the end of June 2020. The learning will be divided into batches of 1000 learners. These will allow for full mentor support to all participants. The call for applications kicked off on May 15th and all interested applicants can apply on azure.andela.com/.
Over the last three years, Andela has worked with leading technology companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Pluralsight and Udacity to support more than 60,000 aspiring and experienced developers across Africa. This partnership with Microsoft furthers the commitment to cultivate and grow engineering talent on the continent.
However, Andela has had to change its strategy to meet the dynamic market needs. Two weeks ago, the company fired 135 staff in some of its markets including Uganda and Nigeria. Rwanda and Ghana were spared. This marks the third set of layoffs to have occurred within nine months. In September last year, the Venture-backed firm let go of approximately 420 junior engineers and staff to deliver stronger engineering support for its clients. It had a similar restructure in February this year as well.
From the 420, around 250 were from its Nigeria and Uganda hubs with another 170 potentially impacted in Kenya. at the time of the restructure, the firm’s CEO Jeremy Johnson said the move was to help it restructure its talent pool to more closely align with global market demand for senior quality talent fit for its engineering-as-a-service model.
Recession caused by COVID-19
“It has also become clear, however, that the majority of the demand is for more experienced talent, and to keep up with it, we need to grow our senior talent base even faster,” he said.
Andela has not been the only one firing. Most companies globally have been hard hit with the COVID-19 pandemic. Airbnb is among the latest companies that have reported layoffs of 1900 employees. Uber fired 3000 employees and shut 45 offices across its markets. Other companies have slashed salaries due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Andela CEO Jeremy Johnson in a conference call, the decision was reached because the majority of the customers have been impacted by the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Andela is, therefore, projecting a decline in customers and an increase in churn going forward.
Time for Andela’s Great Pivot
The latest 135 Andela employees laid off made approximately 10% of the company and were not laid off just because of COVID-19 but also as a necessary move to secure the future of Andela.
“That said, this was not simply a cost-cutting exercise. A company organizes itself around the problem it’s trying to solve, and the problem we solve today is different from the one we initially set out to tackle,” said Johnson in a Medium post.
According to Johnson, when Andela started, it was focused on solving the problem that “brilliance is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not.” Therefore, Andela was organized around unlocking potential and enabling prospective software engineers to develop the most in-demand skills. But markets are dynamic and so are opportunities.
Going fully remote
Apart from firing its engineers across its markets to cut costs, the firm has announced it’s going to do away with office space and won’t require its engineers to be fulltime employees. Reducing expenditure on personnel and real estate will be followed by salary cuts across its executive teams to reduce the heavy operational costs.
“One of the most important examples of this is how we think about physical space,” said Johnson. “For instance, in 2014, our first office in Lagos, Nigeria was a critical component of developing talent, because being in person accelerates the confidence-building and networking abilities of junior engineers. Tens of thousands of engineers applied from cities outside of Lagos, but they weren’t able to get in unless they could relocate.”
On the other hand, Andela Egypt, which the firm opened in 2019, has never required engineers to come to an office and has had exceptional engineers work from multiple cities other than Cairo.
Andela becomes a remote-first company
Therefore, today, the office approach that helped the firm reach out to more talent now restricts it as not every talented engineer wants to relocate. Being a remote-first company is the way to go.
“In order to actually be placed with a company, you’ve historically had to be a full-time Andela employee. This limits the opportunities we’re able to provide, and it also limits the breadth of talent available to our customers. Moving forward, we will expand the network to include top engineers from across the continent, and eventually around the world — and we won’t require engineers to be full-time employees to apply for opportunities,” Johnson wrote.
Andela now open to top engineers from across the continent
Andela is, therefore, building freelance teams of engineers to work on long-term engineering tasks and not low-end gigs from online platforms such as Freelancer, Upwork, Fiver, among others.
“We’ve seen a dozen examples of this that cater to short-term relationships, or gigs, but not a network that supports building long-term, trust-based relationships. The transitions we are making this week, while painful, will allow us to expand access to top talent for our customers and increase opportunities for the best engineers around the globe,” he said.
The power of ‘X’ was the start of its move to outside teams and more senior engineering talent working remotely. It was a move from the costly operations of full-time employees spread in offices across Africa and its headquarters in the US.
With the first set of over 10,000 Software Engineers trained; some building companies and setting up funds and working with several companies across the world, Andela has already achieved its primary mission of developing talent in Africa. Andela is also not stopping there, it’s set to hire an additional 700 experienced engineers by the end of 2020. ALC is still ongoing too.
ALC claims to have introduced over 30,000 African learners to software engineering and aims to reach 100,000 in the next three years.
Journey to profitability
In a statement, Omowale David-Ashiru, Andela Nigeria Country Director said, “We’re proud of what we have achieved at Andela in five short years; we know the impact we have made both in Nigeria and globally. However, we have reached an inflection point that has required a change in strategy, which is why we are announcing these changes to our talent strategy.”
The next step is to make money for its senior engineers, investors, and its senior executives. With over $181 million in VC money and no hopes of raising more post-COVID-19, the firm needed to reduce its costs by ditching expensive office spaces across Africa, firing inexperienced and less productive engineering teams from its over 1,500 person-team, cut salaries and recruit more senior engineers to work remotely on advanced and well-paying engineering projects. This will make Andela more attractive to clients and investors and it won’t be long before it raises more funding.
“To succeed in our long-term mission, we have to make tough decisions to continue growing a company that we know will change the way the world thinks about talent,” says Johnson, and he is right.