If you have your ears pegged in the technology community in Kenya you are bound to have felt the excitement about Andela. The start-up that trains software developers, giving them exposure to world-class companies and standards. Tech enthusiasts talk about Andela like it’s the coveted recce squad or Harvard.
Recently, a friend in my networks made the cut and will count as part of the less than 1 percent of recruits to join Andela’s latest cohort. He is in his last semester of school and now burdened with the heavy decision on whether to quit college and embark on the practical education of Andela or stay and get his degree. The clash of two parallel systems of education.
Andela was cofounded by the team of Jeremy Johnson, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Ian Carnevale and Christina Sass in 2014 and currently has a presence in the US, Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya and most recently Uganda. The start-up was founded on the premise of developing the untapped potential of Africa’s tech developers through bridging the gap between the tech sector in Africa and the US.
How it works
Andela pays students to learn computer programming while working on real-life projects with existing companies. Additionally, they provide some of the best developers as mentors while housing the students (all expenses paid).
The company gives its young developers the experience of working with multinationals; the likes of Microsoft, Google, and Udacity who contract Andela for jobs. The program takes four years of full dedication and at the end, the best participants are offered jobs while those that don’t make it are given an attractive severance package to go start their own venture.
Needless to say, as a result, the competition is as stiff as it comes; everyone wants in but there is only a square foot hole as the entrance. According to Andela cofounder and CEO Jeremy Johnson, the startup/school takes less than 1 percent of applicants. As the awareness of the program grows I reckon the competition will only get stiffer.
The recruitment process is comprehensive, grueling and comes in four steps; testing both technical and soft skills.
This part of the process is entirely online where applicants express their interest and motivations for joining the program. The process also tests personality and values to evaluate fit for the program.
Andela provides aspiring developers learning materials on software development that can be downloaded for offline use. Afterwards, mastery of the course materials is tested with applicants having to use the learnt skills to build projects. The people who build the best projects move on to the next stage.
This is where it gets interesting, successful applicants are invited to the Andela office for a face to face interview session with the Andela fraternity. From my conversations with former applicants, I’ve discovered that the questions in the interview can be far from technical. They test personality, the ability to work with others, how you think etc.; it is no surprise that even the most technically gifted people don’t always make the cut.
The final step takes it a notch higher with a sprint-like and intense development session that lasts for two weeks. The first week involves home learning and the second is a camp where applicants go to the Andela site and develop real products.
The tertiary education system in Kenya has been facing increasing criticism over the years for producing half-baked graduates. However, in the world of self-learning, connectivity and globalisation, startups like Andela are changing the landscape by shifting focus from papers to skills.