Africa’s top engineering talent company, Andela has confirmed to TechNext that it has now shut down its offices and has gone fully remote. According to a response by their spokesperson, going remote has always been the company’s longer-term roadmap.
The reason behind this decision was that we found that our physical offices at times constrained our ability to connect talent with opportunities. By going fully remote, it opens our access to talent with diverse experiences and skill sets to support our current and future customers.Andela’s spokesperson
After months of remote work, Andela CEO, Jeremy Johnson hinted at the company’s adoption of the remote working model in a Medium post in May.
There, he highlighted the need to go fully remote as a viable option for the future.
“We’ve now proven that we can operate fully remote by delivering excellent work to our customers over the past couple of months,” Jeremy said. “We will continue to ensure that our engineers have the infrastructure needed to operate at a world-class level.
Not just in Africa…
Most of Andela’s development work is carried out in Africa. This led many to believe that at the very most, only its African operations would go fully remote. This assumption was buttressed in this post. But Andela confirmed to TechNext that all its offices will be affected.
The US is also affected. We are closing all our physical US offices and those teams are already fully remote. Andela successfully moved to all-remote when COVID-19 resulted in lockdowns in all our operating cities.Andela Spokesperson
Andela has three offices in the US; New York, San Francisco and Austin, Texas. It also has six offices across Africa. These include Lagos, Kampala, Kigali, Nairobi, Cairo and Accra.
Selling off furniture and office equipment
Andela also confirmed that it is selling off all its physical assets and equipment located in its previous offices as it no longer has the need for them. These include assets in the US as well. These items include chairs, whiteboards, desks, electrical appliances and other office equipment.
The spokesperson confirmed the company is making efforts to ensure that the process does not lead to disruption of work for its staff members worldwide. It is also not clear if physical structures such as buildings are or leases are being liquidated or recouped.
Andela has raised $181 million in VC-backed funding since inception. Its highest fundraising came in January 2019 when it raised $100 million Series D funding, making it one of Africa’s most visible and best-funded tech companies.
Remote work in infrastructural deficiency
Remote work is definitely the future of work and organisations around the world are quickly making the switch.
In Africa and Nigeria, COVID-19 lockdown forced many businesses to adopt the model. But no sooner had the lockdown been lifted than they all returned back to their offices.
Several factors militate against remote work in Nigeria, chief among them are the infrastructural problems of power and internet. This is even more so for developers and software engineers like those at Andela who would be required to spend hours doing work from home.
How would they cope in an infrastructurally challenged environment?
Andela confirmed to TechNext that the company isn’t unaware of these challenges. They are indeed “working through all the operational challenges of moving to a remote-first model.” Some explanations were offered:
So far, we have proven we can work effectively as a remote organization. We are working through all the operational challenges of moving to a remote-first model to ensure there is no disruption to the work our engineers and enterprise staff are doing. So far, we have proven we can work effectively as a remote organization.Andela
The spokesperson also said that Andela will continue to work through any operational challenges to provide support for its over 1,000 employees who now work totally and exclusively from home.
Does shutting down offices mean shutting down talent development?
Andela was launched in 2014 with the aim of developing African software engineers. These engineers would then be contracted to jobs and organisations abroad for a fee.
The idea was to help companies plug the severe shortage of engineers with the abundance in Africa.
Somewhere along the line, between 2018 and 2019, the model began to shift as the company started having trouble placing its junior developers. Since Andela’s business hinges on its ability to groom and outsource junior engineers, and since the market now frowns at this level of engineers, training engineers isn’t as appealing as it was in 2014.
Hiring ready-made ones, on the other hand, looked like the way forward. Thus, in September 2019, Andela was forced to let go of about 400 of its junior developers across Africa. This was repeated in February and in May 2020 when about 135 engineers were laid off.
While the company was releasing its junior developers, it was hiring more experienced ones because, in late 2019, the company hired 126 experienced engineers and went on to place 166.
Thus, the question is, with the shutting down of its physical structures, is Andela still in the business of developing engineering talents from scratch, (an endeavour which usually requires physical mentoring)?
Andela told TechNext that it is still very much in the business of developing talents and grooming an engineering community across Africa.
We are still committed to growing the developer community across Africa and will continue to offer programs such as the Andela Learning Community (ALC), which has enabled us to introduce more than 80,000 African learners to software engineering fundamentals.Andelas spokesperson
In conclusion, remote work is still the future of work. There is no doubt that due to infrastructural decay it will take Africa and Nigeria a while to catch on.
But if you’re already feeling like the future and you want to know how it works, find an Andela engineer. He/she has firsthand knowledge.
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