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Inside Andela’s remote future as an Upwork for longterm engineering tasks

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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.

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“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.

As a peak into its future, Andela launched Power of ‘X’ campaign in Lagos and Nairobi on 21st May 2019 as “An inclusive future for the next generation” which saw it open up for applications from experienced software engineers proficient in Ruby, Javascript (React, Node, ES6+, Angular), Python (Django or Flask) and Native Mobile Technologies for iOS or Android. The move to recruit more senior technologists was an expansion of the company’s business model from the four-year training fellowships which were costly and time-wasting to the company.

Mission accomplished

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.


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Samsung Will Soon Stop Selling Phones With Chargers

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Samsung Will Soon Stop Selling Phones With Chargers – TechMoran

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Qualcomm announces Snapdragon 865 plus 5G mobile chip

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Qualcomm Technologies unveiled the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus 5G Mobile Platform, a variant of the flagship Snapdragon 865 that powered more than 140 devices.

Commercial devices based on the chip will be announced in the third quarter of 2020. some of the first phones to feature on the Snapdragon 865 plus chipset include the Asus ROG phone 3 and the Lenovo Legion.

The new Snapdragon 865 Plus is designed to deliver increased performance across the board for superior gameplay and fast Qualcomm Snapdragon Elite Gaming experiences, truly global 5G, and ultra-intuitive AI.

“As we work to scale 5G, we continue to invest in our premium tier, 8-series mobile platforms, to push the envelope in terms of performance and power efficiency and deliver the next generation of camera, AI and gaming experiences,” said Alex Katouzian, senior vice president and general manager, mobile, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “Building upon the success of Snapdragon 865, the new chip will deliver enhanced performance for the next wave of flagship smartphones.”

The new chipset together with the X55 5G Modem-RF System enables truly global 5G, world-class gaming, and the latest 5th generation Qualcomm AI Engine for the seamless camera, audio, and gaming experiences.

With a full arsenal of Elite Gaming premium features, Snapdragon 865 Plus delivers desktop-quality gaming with first-to-mobile features like updateable GPU drivers and desktop forward rendering, ultra-smooth 5G gameplay at lightning speeds of up to 144 fps, and True 10-bit HDR gaming to provide cinematic detail in over a billion shades of colour.

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Snapdragon 865 Plus also offers Kryo 585 CPU Prime core clock speed at up to 3.1 GHz, Qualcomm Adreno 650 GPU up to  10 per cent faster graphics rendering and Qualcomm FastConnect 6900 compatibility.

Commenting on the development, Bryan Chang, general manager of smartphone business unit, ASUS says “ASUS is excited to offer users the best possible mobile gaming experience with the next generation ROG Phone 3, which will be powered by the new Snapdragon 865 Plus Mobile Platform,”

“Full specifications for the ROG Phone 3 will be announced in the coming weeks, but the addition of the Snapdragon 865 Plus ensures that the overall performance will take yet another leap forward,” he added.

“Innovating smarter, faster technology for higher performance and more immersive gameplay has always been a hallmark of Lenovo™ Legion,” said Jerry Tsao, vice president of Lenovo’s Mobile Gaming Group.

“Three years after the launch of the Lenovo Legion™ PC portfolio, we’re bringing our beloved gaming sub-brands core values of speed and powerful performance to 5G mobile gaming – where Lenovo Legion will be amongst the first to offer the new Snapdragon 865 Plus in our expanding family of gaming devices this year. Lenovo has a long history of co-engineering amazing consumer experiences with Qualcomm Technologies and we can’t wait to share more soon.”


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Facebook wants to help Kenya govt revive tourism during Coronavirus

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Kenya’s Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife has partnered with Facebook to launch a digital marketing programme for Kenyan SMB’s in the tourism and hospitality sector affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dubbed Boost with Facebook for the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, the programme is designed to help thousands of tourism stakeholders use the Facebook family of apps (Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) to boost their businesses’ marketing efforts during these uncertain times.

Speaking during the launch of the programme, the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Hon. Najib Balala said, “Boost with Facebook for the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife coincides with our efforts at the Ministry to work with industry stakeholders to review the existing National Tourism Policies to respond to the challenges of COVID-19.

Balala urged all tourism stakeholders and SMBs to equip themselves with the necessary digital marketing skills to help them to quickly recover from losses incurred due the Coronavirus pandemic.

The programme will feature webinar sessions led by Facebook’s implementing partner Wylde International in association with the Public Relations Society of Kenya (PRSK) and the Media Council of Kenya (MCK).

The programme will enable its participants identify business constraints caused by COVID-19, learn how to manage stranded assets and develop new strategies and business initiatives to survive the pandemic. The programme will also equip SMB’s with skills on building an online presence with Facebook, storytelling on Instagram, connecting with audiences through Facebook groups, growing business through Whatsapp and implementing advertising strategies on Facebook’s family of apps.

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Commenting on the launch, Facebook Head of Public Policy East & Horn of Africa Mercy Ndegwa said, “We are excited about the launch of Boost with Facebook for the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife. At Facebook we know that small and medium businesses in Kenya may be experiencing unexpected challenges during the outbreak of COVID-19 and we’re committed to providing as much support as possible. Small businesses are the backbone of the economy and pillars of their local communities and this programme is designed to help SMBs in the tourism sector boost their businesses through Facebook during these challenging times.”

The programme will include a triage assessment of the diverse businesses in the sector and from which participants will get personalized feedback on the status of their business and how they can use digital marketing strategies to upscale their businesses in the wake of the pandemic.

The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife recently released the Tourism Research Report 2020 which measured the impact of COVID-19 on the local tourism sector and which indicates an abrupt and unprecedented drop in hotel demand leading to closure of most hotels and job losses. The report warns the country could lose $320 million with declining passenger arrivals while the Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing, Exhibitions (MICE) sub-sector which brought in Ksh. 164 billion last year is among those to lose heavily due to COVID-19.


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