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Since its founding in 2014, Andela has opened up career paths for more than 175,000 budding software engineers from emerging economies. Most have technological or managerial roles, either in one of hundreds of established companies around the world, or in their own startups. Andela’s success indicates a path to growth for talented people, not just in software but in a variety of professions, by building the skills that people need to work in a global economy.

In its first two years, Andela found talented software engineers through online skill tests and interviews. Andela would train them in four-to-six month intensive “boot camps,” invest in them by paying them to learn, and then place them in competitive jobs. Employees agreed to stay in those jobs for four years, supplementing their apprenticeships with further training on Andela’s campus in Lagos, Nigeria. For client companies, this was a low-cost way to recruit talent. After their apprenticeships ended, some Andela alumni even parlayed their new skills to become leaders of the emerging tech sector in Nigeria. 

With this model in place, Andela expanded geographically to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana, and Egypt, at a rate of about one country per year. The company opened new regional campuses, including one of the largest tech centers in Africa outside Nairobi. But when the pandemic struck in 2020 and demand for software talent pivoted to remote work, Andela pivoted as well to a different talent model. It now provides match-as-a-service at a larger scale, recruiting senior software engineers from almost anywhere in the world, bringing them into an online talent marketplace where individual technologists connect with employers directly. Andela also assembles some teams from this pool to meet specific client needs. The company helps job seekers hone their skills through a global online “learning community” that connects them to training providers and online courses. 

There is a core group of hundreds of client organizations loyal to Andela. They include such prominent global companies as ViacomCBS, GitHub, Cloudflare, Casper, and Mastercard. They know that the people Andela sends will be solid engineers and team managers, even though many come from emerging markets and have limited formal education. “Brilliance is evenly distributed,” says the company’s CEO and cofounder, Jeremy Johnson. “Opportunity is not. People are constrained by boundaries, real and imagined. We are doing more to reduce those boundaries than ever before.” 

As in any marketplace, members of the Andela talent network set the rates they ask for, with clients choosing people based on their skills and asking rate. On average, technologists take home 87 percent more than what they were earning before. On a broader scale, these jobs could combine to generate a multiplier effect for the technologists’ communities. Because online employees need higher-quality tech infrastructure to do their jobs, Andela’s presence in a local community can lead to improvements in digital infrastructure and services, raising the entrepreneurial potential of the area. 

In just eight years, Andela has become a leading technology talent marketplace. It is also a major facilitator of a bottoms-up approach to economic growth, helping pave the way for a more innovative, broadly prosperous world. 

 

Lessons

I. Design a business model that fulfills a larger purpose

II. Bring together groups with complementary needs

III. Grow steadily but flexibly, like a social movement

IV. Foster diversity and inclusion by demonstrating value

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