Since Andela announced that it was laying off over 400 junior level software engineers, there has been a flurry of social media commentary behind what could have possibly sparked this. Despite the company stating that it was responding to global trends and that it will now shift its focus to hiring more senior level software developers, many have speculated that perhaps Andela overestimated the market and the demand for the type of developers it produces.

Instead of publishing an opinion piece I thought it better to speak directly to Seni Sulyman, Vice President of Global Operations at Andela, given that he is at the coalface of what is happening at the company that develops African software engineers.

At first glance and under any circumstances, the laying off of over 400 software developers should signal some alarm bells given that it is a core function of Andela to provide software engineers to its clients. Even when one considers a depressed economic environment , it is fair to start thinking that something is wrong when a company that has raised over $100 million from the likes of Serena Williams, starts making such a huge culling of its staff including disconinuing its key training programme and only offering such training through Rwanda.

Seni Sulyman, Vice President of Global Operations at Andela.

iAfrikan: When did Andela discover that it would not be able to continue with junior developers?

Seni Sulyman, VP of Global Operations at Andela: We started noticing the changes in the demand and supply of junior engineers in 2016, which was when we started hiring more experienced engineers. We attempted a number of different ways to grow junior engineer placements, but we have been unable to scale placement of junior engineers above the current levels without a larger base of mid-level to senior engineers. With an average time of up to two years to place a junior engineer, we felt it was not appropriate to leave over 500 engineers on the bench without a company partner to work with.

Beyond the restructure, we will still have over 300 junior engineers employed by Andela, and we will continue to place junior engineers at a scale that better aligns with demand.

Is the training that Andela offers software developers certified by any qualifications authority?

No. We are not a school, NGO or training centre. Our engineers - whether junior, mid or senior - work as full-time, distributed team members with leading tech companies around the world.

What is the process and duration of training new Andela developers to get them to a "junior" level?

A junior engineer is the same as an entry-level engineer; this is someone who joined Andela via our training program. Historically, this was a 6-8 month training program where trainees learned both technical skills and professional skills required to work as members of distributed engineering teams.

What is the reasoning behind restricting the training to Rwanda only going forward?

Despite the restructure, we will continue to place junior engineers; we currently have over 300 junior engineers within Andela still employed across Africa.

Rwanda is home to our first pan-African hub. Over the past five years, we’ve received thousands of applications from individuals based in countries where Andela is not yet operating. With our pan-African hub and the support from the Government of Rwanda on obtaining flexible work permits for all African citizens, anyone is able to join Andela in Rwanda. Andela has 97 junior engineers in Kigali, from 8 countries including DRC and Tanzania, among others.

Why has Andela not launched in South Africa?

We continue to explore expansion to different African countries to scale access to Andela across the continent. We are open to conversations with key stakeholders as we make any plans to expand to strategic locations in terms of infrastructure, supply of amazing tech talent and potential for growth.

Can you provide some case studies/examples of success stories of some of the developers being laid off?

We are just a few days past the announcements. However, the continent-wide interest in hiring and supporting Andela engineers has been incredible. We will be keeping track of as many of our colleagues as possible. Once an Andelan, always an Andelan. We even hope that some may come back and join us in the coming years, once they’ve gained some more experience.

Looking back, do you think it is possible that as Andela you overestimated the demand for junior developers among possible clients?

In 2014, there were five open jobs for every software engineer looking for one in the U.S. alone. This was not going to be solved domestically. Andela launched to combat the global technical talent shortage by investing in Africa’s most talented software engineers. The shift in market demand for remote junior engineers was driven by a surge in Computer Science degrees and bootcamps, meaning that there were significant nuances and changes in the demand and supply of junior vs senior engineers.

Did any clients complain about the quality of developers Andela provided?

Our decision to restructure our talent supply was not driven by performance-related feedback. Instead, it was driven by the shift in the demand for junior talent relative to senior talent.

Did some clients compliment the quality of developers Andela provided?

We work with over 200 of the most respected technology companies in the world. That's a testament to the quality of engineers that have joined Andela.

Anything else you'd like to share?

Since the announcement was made, we’ve seen the tech ecosystem rally round to support those who have been impacted. In addition to the robust support Andela is providing, which includes a severance package, CV and interview workshops, local job fairs and ongoing placement efforts - we’ve partnered with CcHUB and Innovation Village, to ensure our departing engineers secure great jobs with great companies. We encourage all companies interested in hiring the engineers affected by the restructure, to fill out this form.

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