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African tech workers push back on U.S. startup built to help them (bigtechnology.substack.com)
55 points by kantrowitz 32 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 69 comments



I'm not sure what the actual story is here. The important bit seems to be:

"“The one third is fictitious,” Andela CEO Jeremy Johnson told Big Technology in a candid interview last week. Some developers make less than a third of what clients pay, some make more, varying by country and seniority level. But the number never accurately described how Andela compensates its developers. “We absolutely bear responsibility for the miscommunication,” Johnson said. “Without question.”"

- CEO

So that's it? They miscommunicated what their developers get paid? The article doesn't allege any wrongdoing on the part of the company, beyond making this mistake, or suggest that anyone is being paid unfairly.

The title line

"....but life inside the company can be less than ideal."

might as well say "it's a perfectly normal company, nothing to see here".

Did I miss something?


It seems like it's about the optics in the present BLM-heavy climate.

But you're absolutely right that the market sets rates. And did no one wonder why the hell Andela would exist and be so valuable if there wasn't significant arbitrage to be had? They're a business not a charity.

I'm reminded of a story about child laborers and Nike. In an almost Kafkaeque twist, locales where this was happening ended up experiencing significant economic setbacks when Nike decided to close up certain offending factories.

This is just another classic case of people reacting emotionally, biasing towards their own set of experiences and points of view.


This is common because people in rich countries have no idea what the situation is in other countries.

I remember something similar happened in India. Kids were sewing rugs or something, someone didn’t like it because it looked bad (like a sweatshop) and there was a boycott.

The place went out of business. International investigators later found that 50% of those children had to resort to sex work while a good percentage of the rest ended up doing hard labor jobs and such. It was absolute catastrophe. The white rich people who started the boycott? They just went on with their lives. No significant and realistic effort was made to correct anything by them.


I upvoted because it is accurate. I wanted to comment that I think you can drop the race part from the comment.


No, it's essential to what's being communicated.

> Baizuo (/ˈbaɪˌdzwɔː/; Chinese: 白左 báizuǒ, literally White Left) is a derogatory Chinese neologism and political epithet used to refer to Western leftist ideologies primarily espoused by white people.


I've spent much of my career as a software consultant. I usually make about 1/3 of my client billing rate. The rake is high. Part of that is normal overhead of employer-side taxes, benefits, expensable items (hardware, business lunches, continuing education), infrastructure/support (office space, office staff/HR/non-owner management). We can generously call that another 1/3 of the client bill rate. That leaves the final 1/3 to the company for profit and business development. There's nothing remotely unusual about this arrangement.


Back when I worked for Boeing, the accounting figure was that it cost Boeing about 45% over and above my salary to pay for my benefits package and taxes paid on my behalf (things like health insurance, retirement plan contributions, the so-called "employer's contribution" of Social Security taxes, etc.).

This is why when one sees salary comparisons, they are misleading. A correct comparison would compare what is called "total compensation" which includes that 45%. For example, whenever you hear about public teacher salaries being low, no mention is ever made of the total compensation, which is pretty generous.

Those "free" benefits aren't free at all. They come out of the employee's pocket.


> For example, whenever you hear about public teacher salaries being low, no mention is ever made of the total compensation, which is pretty generous.

This is disingenuous. It's perfectly acceptable to compare teacher salary to any other salary. The default assumption is that you're comparing W2-with-benefits to W2-with-benefits. When people talk about low teacher salary, they're talking about it in comparison to another salary with the exact same overhead. It's not necessary to assign cash value to employer-paid taxes and benefits when making an apples-to-apples comparison.


It is not disingenuous because the public teacher benefits package is much better than typical in the private sector.

The teachers' unions have been quite clever about this, in negotiation for much of their pay in the form of benefits, so it looks like their pay is low. The newspaper, for example, often runs comparisons of salaries but never total compensation.


This is also misleading. Medical benefits are comparable to white-collar professional services jobs. Most teachers have payroll deductions to pay for a portion of their insurance. In 15 states where teachers receive pensions, they receive them in lieu of Social Security benefits. They don't pay into Social Security, and they don't receive Social Security upon retirement. They only receive their pension. If they don't work as teachers long enough to receive a full pension, they're losing out. Even if they switch to a qualifying job, those years of non-contribution to Social Security reduce their eventual benefits. Most states are phasing out pensions and replacing them with 403(b) plans, and/or making teachers contribute to the pension plans out of their salaries. Aside from insurance and retirement, teachers don't have nearly as many benefits and perks as corporate workers do.

Part of the reason teacher salaries are lower on an annualized basis is that they don't work during the summer, but considering that their salaries are already on the low side given the education requirements, that washes out.

I'm not trying to paint a sob story for teachers. They're usually comfortably middle class, and if they put in 20-30 years, they're usually retiring comfortably. But you're making it sound like they have a benefits package above and beyond other employment. It's simply not true. Plenty of other jobs (and I don't just mean tech jobs) that require a four-year degree come with far better benefits, 401(k) matching, and you don't have to gamble on committing your entire career to staying in the same career in the same state in order to retain the value.


> But you're making it sound like they have a benefits package above and beyond other employment.

They do. The biggest clue is the difficulty in obtaining what the value of that benefits package is.

> put in 20-30 years, they're usually retiring comfortably

I find it amazing that one can retire comfortably at 42 if you're a schoolteacher. What other job in the private sector offers that?


> They do. The biggest clue is the difficulty in obtaining what the value of that benefits package is.

Because you can't find the value of the benefits, that's a clue that it's excessive? Teacher pay and benefits are 100% public information. Your earlier claim that teacher health benefits in WA were $36,000 per year is patently absurd. An ACA exchange medical plan available to anyone costs under $500/mo with an annual out-of-pocket maximum of $6000. The state may pay $36,000/year for their benefits (but no, they don't, not even close), but even if that were true, if you're comparing it to market value, that's worth $12,000 at most to the teacher.

> I find it amazing that one can retire comfortably at 42 if you're a schoolteacher. What other job in the private sector offers that?

I shouldn't even have claimed that they can retire comfortably. Quoting from [1]:

> For example, under a system with a 1.5 percent multiplier: A teacher retiring with a final average salary of $60,000 and 20 years of service would collect a pension of $18,000 annually.

Now this is a nice perk if you start at age 42 and live another 40 years, but it's not a comfortable living. It's barely over the poverty line. It's unclear from this example if it's in a state that excludes Social Security benefits, but even if it doesn't exclude them, that's not a lot of money.

From the same article:

> Across the nation, teachers pay on average 16 percent of the plan premiums for individual coverage, lower than the 21 percent average for workers in private industry. But for family coverage, teachers pay a comparable portion of the premium to private-sector workers, according to 2017 data from the Labor Department.

As I stated previously, most teachers already contribute to their health insurance, and as I stated above, the maximum value of that insurance is only $12,000.

Feel free to explore further on your own. I'm tapping out.

[1]: https://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/teacher-pay/index.html


Your figures are nice, but do not include what it costs per teacher to provide those benefits.

> Teacher pay and benefits are 100% public information

It's easy to find pay, but I haven't been able to find the cost of the benefits.

> I shouldn't even have claimed that they can retire comfortably.

I'd be interested if you can find any private pension plan that gives out anything at all starting at age 42 and going for the rest of their life (another 40 years). Even Social Security doesn't kick in until 62.

> most teachers already contribute to their health insurance

The figure of interest here is what does that cost the government to provide it?


My school districts budget book indicates total benefit costs are about 43% of total salary. (https://www.washoeschools.net/Page/550)

The published teacher pay schedule indicates that teachers are paid around $50k for a 9 month schedule (https://www.washoeschools.net/Page/841)

At 43% that's roughly $21500 in benefits. Health insurance for a family of 4 on an ACA platinum plan is ~$19000/Year (https://news.ehealthinsurance.com/_ir/68/20205/eHealth_2020_...)

Since not all teachers will have families or elect for district health insurance, I think it's safe to assume health insurance is probably around the $9000-13000 per person range to the district.

Note that Nevada has pretty low per student spending for the US, so it is quite possible other municipalities Will spend more. This seems to be the case (or my math is bad) as the BLS reports a much higher benefits to pay ratio for state and local government employees nationwide - about 60% (https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ecec.pdf)


Thanks for the figures!


Does it particularly matter? In most cases, people take whatever 'benefits' they're given - they don't have much leverage to take something else. Whether I want or need "great" health insurance, it might be something my employer provides, and would be part of my 'total comp'. It may not actually benefit me at all, and I have no choice in it. And likewise, if the insurance is crap, most people have no leverage to replace it with anything better anyway.

Most people can only make choices with the take home portion of salary, regardless of what 'total comp' is.


Im not sure what you are saying here.

Benefits absolutely play a role in the jobs people take. I have been offered two jobs with identical salaries, but one had a significant employer contribution to my 401k and stock options. you can guess which job I took.

Likewise, my mother was a teacher and one of the main reasons was the incredible healthcare. She could have gone somewhere else with her 2 masters, but it was worth a ton with a sickly husband. A full salary pension is worth a lot of direct salary compensation too.


I saw a figure once (they're hard to come by) that the value of the health insurance benefit for WA public school teachers was $36,000/year.

https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/with-a-price-tag-...

https://www.hca.wa.gov/about-hca/school-employees-benefits-b...

Those links provide facts and figures, but no figure on what the value of the employee benefit is.

I'd encourage anyone interested to ask their employer's HR dept what the value is of their employer provided health care benefit, and compare.


Yeah, my benefits are valued at $22,500 in Seattle at a Big Tech firm. I don’t have children so that impacts the value, but we have a very good benefits package and it’s still 1/3 less than teachers, if the numbers you cite are correct. My take home and stock are obviously ridiculously better than what I could expect as an educator, even with a Ph.D and the highest tier of experience (the CBA cap for non-administrators is ~$120k for the 20-21 school year in Seattle), so I have no regrets, but yeah HR calculates my benefits as considerably less.


And the value I cited was just for health care - not including the retirement and all the rest.


> Likewise, my mother was a teacher and one of the main reasons was the incredible healthcare. She could have gone somewhere else with her 2 masters, but it was worth a ton with a sickly husband. A full salary pension is worth a lot of direct salary compensation too.

Same with my mom. She was a SAH mom for 14 years and switched careers and went to grad school to be a school counselor and the career change was largely attributed to the medical benefits she’d get as an employee, which became necessary because my dad’s business was going under (she was also damn good at what she did). In addition to the benefits, the work schedule that would allow her to be home not long after I got home from school (I was 8 and my sister 14) and summer’s off made it a relatively good proposition.

Now, she has a Masters, a Specialist, and a Ph.D, so her salary was significantly higher than most teachers (and her state has salaries that are on the higher end as well as some of the best retirement options), but it still pales in comparison to what she can make in private practice.

She started late and retired a little early — I don’t think she hit her 25 years — but she still gets a very large percentage of her salary from her state and county pension. And she had the good insurance until she hit Medicare age.

For educators that start out younger, say 22, a common tactic is to do the 25 years, retire/collect retirement, and then return to work in some capacity, essentially double-dipping. The ability to do this is going to vary according to your state and county, but MANY of my moms friends did this. My mom even considered it before saying “fuck it” and enjoying retirement.

I won’t dispute that on the whole, teachers in the US are underpaid, but it’s one of the few places outside of the federal government that offers the level of benefits and retirement options that it does.

My parents live in the suburbs and take home six figures a year in retirement (her pensions and my dad’s social security), not inclusive of 401k or other investments. I very seriously doubt I’ll be able to do the same in 30 years, assuming I am even able to retire, even though my total compensation is probably close to triple hers at its peak.


> Does it particularly matter?

It sure does. It's a lot of money that pays for things like health insurance, early retirement, and retirement benefits.

> they don't have much leverage

Sure they do - the teachers' union aggressively negotiates for those benefits.


I upvoted you’re comments since they are accurate to my mother’s experience as a 33+ year elementary school teacher in CA. Her health care is similar to what my job provides, and then she gets a pension that highly incentives 35+ year career of continuous work in the same district. Any long term medical leave pauses pension credit, and moving to a different district within the same state can also mess with the pension terms.

Switching jobs 15 years in feels like an all or nothing situation since they haven’t been paying into social security.

I don’t know any teacher friends of hers that have retired before 30 years on the job. It’s stable, but it’s not an early retirement career.

Finally, I want to acknowledge that funding in CA for teachers is difficult to adjust and complex, but it’s all inherently public. https://ed100.org/lessons/whopays


Your link has many facts about sources of funding, but does not say what the value of the teacher benefits package is.

> retired before 30 years on the job. It’s stable, but it’s not an early retirement career.

I'd consider retiring at 52 early retirement, especially if it comes with a lifetime pension.


The median for retirement in CA is 61.9 years of age. Age factor plays a large role in setting pension, one cannot retire early without giving up a portion of the pension. The average monthly benefit is $4,088.

Here’s an idea of pension contribution

> Teachers contribute 8% of their monthly salaries into a state pension fund, while their employers contribute an additional 8.25%. On top of these payments, the state of California contributes another 2% into the fund.

All from https://www.teaching-certification.com/salaries-benefits/cal...


Thank you. So that gives the cost of the retirement plan at 10.5% of salary. The link, unfortunately, does not give what the cost of the healthcare plan is (or other benefits).

Your link also says they can retire at 50 with 30 years of service. Sure, it's not the full pension, but they'll still be receiving the pension for another 30 years. Seems generous to me.

I don't know a private company with a plan like that. SS doesn't start paying out until 62 (also at a reduced amount).


The article doesn’t say Andelans think only making 1/3 of their billing rate is unfair. It says they don’t make 1/3rd of their bill rate but the company perpetuates the fallacy that they do. It both makes Andela’s pay scheme seem more generous than it is while creating social misconceptions about how well off Andela’s workers are.


A one person small business and a corporation on the size of Andela simply can not be compared at any level.


> In an almost Kafkaeque twist

Not a twist at all, it was pretty obvious that the reason those laborers worked there was because it was better than the alternatives. Nike closing means they were forced to settle for the worse alternatives.


> Not a twist at all, it was pretty obvious that the reason those laborers worked there was because it was better than the alternatives.

I don’t find it obvious at all. Children don’t get to consider alternatives, they do as they are taught. That’s the whole problem with child labor.


That's the problem though: the "let them eat cake" attitude that thinks that child labor in the developing world is driven by agency instead of resource constraints, and that the poorest children in the world would go be architects or engineers if only they weren't forced to work in sweatshops.

India's landmark child labor law passed in the 80s is a dramatic, tragic example of policy effects on this margin (though not driven by the same privileged ignorance as the Nike incident). When the law was passed, it lowered the welfare of the affected children and their families on pretty much every relevant metric: calories consumed, years of schooling, mortality, income/wealth, etc. The most stubborn advocate of ignoring the holistic consequences of policy might say it was all worth it, but the most damning thing is that _it increased hours of child labor per household_, coming largely from reduced time in school. Cracking down on child labor employers reduced demand for child labor, which reduced wages. But the problem is that labor supply was inelastic, where the choice was between child labor and starvation. The upshot was that children ended up working more for less money, a tragic lose-lose of a policy responsible for immense human suffering.

This isn't an argument for sweatshops per se; it's entirely possible that one can do the legwork and realize that the actual effect of a seemingly good policy is horribly negative. It's an argument that judging policies on how they affect your privileged sensibilities instead of what they do to the people they affect is despicable. Transmuting suffering in sweatshops to much worse suffering from starvation simply because the latter is easier to deny responsibility for is disgusting, but unfortunately the average person doesn't have the moral reasoning ability to understand this.


> I'm reminded of a story about child laborers and Nike. In an almost Kafkaeque twist, locales where this was happening ended up experiencing significant economic setbacks when Nike decided to close up certain offending factories.

The situation is almost three times as complicated as you’re theorizing here, because those companies were not passive entities. They were political organizations as well who helped remake economies. When Walmart moves into town and all of the other stores close as a result, does that mean that Walmart was better for the town?


I think this is a pretty unfair reading of the situation. The grievance came directly from the people working for the company. You can certainly dig in to the situation and have an opinion about whether those grievances are valid, but I don’t see how that can be seen as a case of people “biasing towards their own set of experiences and points of view.” Who else’s point of view should they be considering?

Also we definitely live in a global, interconnected world but it feels like a hell of a stretch to invoke BLM here. African workers sharing their feelings about their place of work are just “riding the wave” because they happen to black?


> Yet its strategy misfires and communication blunders have left its African developers in a lurch, underscoring how difficult blending capitalism and social good can be. Stung by the experience, some developers informally refer to the company as “The Plantation.”


Most people don't have what you'd call "moral reasoning ability". The appearance of moral purity is more important than those being crushed by their "help": you can see this in the history of the average person's reactions to payday loans, boxing gloves, overseas labor, drug prohibition, and a million other things.


> But you're absolutely right that the market sets rates. And did no one wonder why the hell Andela would exist and be so valuable if there wasn't significant arbitrage to be had? They're a business not a charity.

The article appears address the incongruency:

> As Andela moved into 2019, many within the company felt the mood shift. It moved from something resembling an NGO to a profit-driven enterprise — which it indeed always was.

Andela appears to have been a profit-driven enterprise masquerading as a non-profit one. Until they could no longer sell the lie. Appearing as a benefits-first company drove a lot of "investment" dollars their way.

Just looks like another example of fools and their money. With a heavy price tag paid by the innocents.


> They're a business not a charity

I think maybe the world is starting to feel like companies that take more than they give back are ultimately parasitic and abusive. For a long time it has been considered completely okay to maximize profit over all else, but if corporations were people they wouldn't be very community oriented peoples. Much more on the manipulative and greasy gross spectrum, and maybe that's just going out of style?

Also, they kind of were acting like a charity, so that could be part of it too.


What’s wonderful about a free, liberal society is that we can all make our own choices. For example, you can work at a business that operates more like a charity, while I can choose to work at a business that is laser-focused on maximizing profit. That is just my preference.


> you can work at a business that operates more like a charity, while I can choose to work at a business that is laser-focused on maximizing profit

unlikely unless you have a good degree of financial security or are relatively 'in demand'


The very way that value is looked at by most people is incorrect and it shows. Not just through rates of bankruptcy and overspending even when circumstances are clearly far outliers in their favor.

There are a lot of old myths believed on a deep level like the idea of a universal fair price, fair profit margin, and zero sum benefit from trades where if anyone is making a profit it must be doing so at somebody's expense. All of them are wrong.

If operating under those fallacious zero sum models companies always look parasitic if they survive, regardless of what they contributed and what would or wouldn't have occurred in their absense.


I think a sort of understated factor here was the messaging associated with the company and its lofty mission statement - which seemed like it was to kick off a technology movement on the African continent. If you watch the ad in the video they claim to want to "make Africans into global technology thought-leaders" and create an impact that "goes beyond their lifetimes."

They tried to brand themselves as an agent for massive social changes when in reality they were just another consulting company - big name investors notwithstanding. If I got fooled by their PR BS I wouldn't be too pleased.


On the other hand they're investing in Africa where I don't believe anyone else is. I don't think opportunities for Africans to learn/practice software development in their native country are very common. Moreover while their salary is low compared to western devs, it's still (apparently? Article not clear) high for Africa, where wealth inequality is extreme, mind you, so their "low" salary probably goes a really long way. I imagine they also hire inexperienced workers, so this sounds like a legit opportunity depending on what they're doing.

I suppose the crime here is misleading investors as to the proportion of funds that go to salary...but I don't know what they're doing with the money, and unfortunately they might be passing on more of it than some popular charities.

Article needs work perhaps.


>I'm not sure what the actual story is here. The important bit seems to be:

the mismatch between reality and aspirations when it comes to these ventures, and I guess a broader point about private entities engaging or even substituting proper developmental policy and how often the results are straight up bad.

Given the heavy PR that these firms are engaged in it's obviously important to get an accurate view of what reality looks like. It reminds me of Yang's venture for America with a similar mission (albeit in the US rather than outside of it), which ended with barely any job creation and even a suicide at one of his incubators, but still it was used extensively to promote this new class of 'social' entrepreneur activity.


You think it’s acceptable for a company to capture two thirds of the value generated by a worker?


What portion of the value that you produce does your employer capture?


I have no idea, that’s the exact point. If I found out, and it was 2/3rds, I’d be just as angry.



And Zuck is a billionaire, you don't think that's messed up? The wealth distribution that lead from the success of the company consolidated itself overwhelmingly in the hands of maybe 4-5 people, despite tens of thousands contributing to the creation of that same success.


I'd work at Facebook if the salary (plus benefits, coworkers, and mission) appealed to me. My compensation wouldn't become unappealing just because other people made more.


Acceptable to whom?


Good point -- workers.


But it's self-evident that it's acceptable to the workers: they're doing it.

As the article explains, some workers left for better opportunities - so clearly it wasn't acceptable to them.


I'm outraged that you're not outraged.


You have that right but its a bit presumptuous


I assume they are being facetious.


I have no doubt that they were exploited. Not necessarily because they were based in Africa but because they came from a position of inequality.

In my career, I have worked with very over paid and not so good engineers and I've also worked with very underpaid and very good engineers from "poorer" countries such as Israel, India, China or Iran who have been highly exploited (e.g. in the US on an H1B, they are contractors that we are paying $120/hr for but it turns out they are only getting ~$20/hr).

As far as the "market" is concerned, it's just arbitrage. Buy low/sell high. It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, you will be exploited.


I think this is a example of fire fast, hire slow. The fact is they saw since 2014 that their "Bench" had to many junior engineers. I find its not money but a lack of opportunity that breeds complete resentment in people, and thats exactly how it played out.

The only line that disturbed me is this one. “Why is it the private sector that needs to come in and innovate? Why can't schools, governments, etc, do that job?”

If I had any advice for these junior engineers is for one of them to start their own company to solve this problem because an individual can solve this problem not a government. Life's hard but it would only take one of you to find a solution to make at least some of those people life easier.


I remember when this first started, back then it was apparent that this was a for profit coding school/low cost outsourcing play. They tried to get an in into some volunteer tech training work I was doing down in South Africa, but I turned them down because it seemed exploitative. The social justice angle pulled in all of the people who were too naive to look past the hype. Nice to see that people are finally waking up to this. There are lots more where that came from including in the US not for profit space that use lofty mission statements as a thin veil for the upper middle class and rich to line their pockets in the name of otherwise noble causes.


Isn’t 1/3 higher than most offshore body shops? Last firm I used was a few years ago and our gross rate was $45 with devs getting between $4-12.


Ratio of bill rate to salary of 2.5 to 3.5 is pretty typical in consulting companies. Billing has to cover lots of things, e.g. training, utilization, supervisors, sales, office, computers, accounting, etc. I expect they have particularly high overhead relative to the costs of labor in Africa.


Even onshore it's about going rate for most of the consulting firms. The 200% markup pays for holiday, sick pay, insurance, CPD, office space and time on the bench


The company seems to be mixing up things that should be separate. The major challenges when you have a lot of junior developers is having enough seniors to manage them and work that is appropriate for them to do.

Andela raised a lot of money based on social justice capital, which is fine. The problem is that consulting is not a particularly good way to spend it. The best strategy, I think, is to combine a school, consulting company and a venture capital operation.

The school may be more or less self supporting, paid for by students or with scholarships. It can be challenging keep programmers engaged as teachers, as they can make good money for less hassle, and they need to have a particular set of interpersonal and teaching skills which is rarer in programmers. Subsidy can help to set up the school and pay teachers well.

The consulting company is a for-profit enterprise, and needs to have the right balance of skills, not too many juniors. The best graduates of the school may be hired by the consulting company.

The VC operation funds business opportunities executed using local tech teams. The business side might be local, targeting an opportunity in Africa, or remote. The VC provides seed funds for a large number of projects, and the consulting company executes. The seed round gives them money to develop an initial product and test the market. Then they are evaluated and may get another round or shut down. If they move forward, then the developers continue working full time with the startup, otherwise they go back into the consulting pool for another project.

This provides a nice, sustainable synergy between the parts. The consulting company gets a continuous stream of projects without a lot of risk. The school graduates get practical experience supervised by seniors, then a potential full time job. The seed VC gets early access to good deals, and some will work out well.

The system is financially self supporting, but can take advantage of subsidies or overseas investment.

The key problem in all of this is actually delivering projects with junior people, which means you need to make it attractive for senior people to get involved and stay engaged. They need to be paid well or have some significant share of the upside.

With the virus, we are entering a new age of remote work which will open up opportunities for people around the world. It is difficult for companies in the US to identify, nurture and manage remote talent in emerging markets. In some sense, that's the primary value of the consulting company, but it needs to be part of an ecosystem.


> they need to have a particular set of interpersonal and teaching skills which is rarer in programmers

This is a very Western belief and one that is rooted in a lot of bias. Maybe people who have a particular set of interpersonal and teaching skills aren’t becoming programmers because the people entrenched in the field don’t value interpersonal and teaching skills?


I do see the value in interpersonal and teaching skills. The best developers have them and are interested in helping others. In my experience, though, programmers tend to be introverted. One definition of introversion is that interacting with people drains them of energy. So being a teacher is harder work than just writing code and probably pays less money. That's why I said especially that it needs to be explicitly paid for in this scenario. Otherwise the developers will go elsewhere.

A similar problem exists in consulting companies. It's hard to find people who are great at programming, great at managing people, great at doing sales, and great at running the business. The rare person can do it all, but you can't hire for it. Everyone like that is running their own business.

So you end up with a split between the technical part of the team and non-technical managers. In this case it's usually the non-technical managers who make all the money :-)


There's a long and brutal history of Western countries and businesses exploiting African people and resources.

Is Andela an NGO/charity, or it is a VC-backed unicorn-track startup?

If it's a startup, have the employees been getting equity?

The article mentions some employees taking a pay cut to join.


Giving people jobs when there are other options is opposite of 'exploitation'.


Why would they get equity? Are you getting equity in any other software house?


I think their core problem is that they moved so fast and they don't have defensible and unique product. They grabbed people off the street and attempted to turn them into coders. That can't work! Engineers are not made in the classrooms(diligent message) but people with great ability and curiosity. This kind of mentality cannot be developed when they package IT and DevOp as shortest cut to enormous wealth.

I would not blame Andela for everything happening out there. Most of the developers have never worked with US based companies before. They don't understand the rigor, efficiency, and cold blooded capitalism of such enterprises. Capitalism hears one message, and that message is profit and value creation for shareholders.

I see opportunities for the continent if they try to develop locally and solve local problems.

Why can't Andela pivot to consultancy and compete with the likes of Wipro and Tata?

Disclaimer: I am African(live there) and I have no relationship with Andela.


If we try really hard we can destroy this company. Fingers crossed I guess?

To go in and create professional ecosystem's like IT in places where it doesn't exist is a NGO's fantastical dream, it might be possible for Andela to pull this off, but hit pieces like this, where they are just doing industry standard don't help.

Personally I'd bet against Andela, much as we want them to succeed, without an existing ecosystem, IT developers just can't get off the ground. People talk about self learning IT, but so much of that works because of the people around them, without the critical mass it's not possible. You can't just magic it up online either. If you could find a process that gets it to work, that'd be pretty amazing and world changing, but it's probably related to getting MOOCs to work, it's still missing something.




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