From 2 months to 3 weeks: how Andela helped streamline developers' hiring process

Develhope logo

Develhope is a social impact startup that offers programming courses to underdeveloped regions, primarily in Southern Italy. The company’s goal is to provide practical education in programming and teamwork, giving people access to training and helping them find job opportunities to repay the course. With a mission aligned to Andela, the company has partnered with leading remote engineers to augment their staffing approach, filling roles at short notice with pre-vetted and quality talent. In this interview, Develhope’s COO and CTO, Victoria and Sasa, share their experience collaborating with Andela, the value of Andela’s engineers in their development process, and how Andela helped the company achieve its hiring milestones.

We spoke to Victoria Leonhardt, Chief Operating Officer and Sasa Sekulic, Chief Technology Officer at Develhope.

Can you talk more about the Develhope story? What problem does the company solve?

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Sasa: We founded the company to solve a very specific problem. It was very hard to find talent that knows how to program and work in a team. That was the first problem that we noticed. Since I lived in Italy and Max, who is the founder, is Italian, we thought, “Okay, let’s do something that could help the underdeveloped regions, mostly in the South [of Italy].” So the idea was to offer programming courses that are practical and also teach them how to work in a team, what is agile development, and the roles involved. We also wanted to help them find a job, because if you just teach somebody without giving them opportunities, they won’t get very far. So those were the two ideas that helped us when we started the company.

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Victoria: Additionally, in terms of what we’re trying to do, we’ve seen that there is a global need for software developers. Statistics from the European Commission and Microsoft show that hundreds of millions of software developers will be needed in the foreseeable future. And with the digitization processes accelerated by Covid, we believe that this demand will further increase in the future. At the same time, in Southern Italy and many similar regions, there is a high percentage of youth unemployment, around 20% worldwide. These people lack opportunities and often don’t have access to training. So the idea is quite simple – to train them without upfront payment, but rather give everyone access to this training opportunity and then help them find a job afterward that will allow them to repay us for the course. It’s an accessible form of training with a social impact, aiming to put these people into employment.

That sounds very similar to the core mission of Andela, of course, focusing on different regions. Would you say that may have been part of the reason you found Andela or worked with Andela – mission alignment?

Victoria: Yeah, actually, it’s the first time we came across it, and that was the background on how we found it. For sure, this makes it closer to our mission. That’s why it’s something that appealed to us and that we wanted to look into.

Can you tell me about your team staffing approach before Andela?

Victoria: We typically hire candidates directly as employees, and in some exceptional cases as freelancers. We have a lot of junior developers on our team, and we’ve also hired some directly from our courses because we’ve been impressed with their progress. Additionally, we have sourced more senior developers ourselves using LinkedIn to identify candidates. Our interview process usually involves 3 to 4 steps, where we assess technical skills, team fit, culture fit, and interest in our social mission. We’ve been fortunate that this resonates well with people and that our team shares our mission wholeheartedly.

Typically, if we’re looking to hire a back-end developer, it would take us around 2 months or even longer, because we also care a lot about quality. But with Andela, we were able to onboard that developer within, I think, 3 weeks, and that for us was really decisive.Victoria Leonhardt, Chief Operating Officer, Develhope

Was Andela positioned for you as a solution to how you were previously staffing?

Victoria: Andela allowed us to fill some roles at very short notice. So for us, the speed of being able to bring someone on board was very helpful. Typically if we’re looking to hire a back-end developer, it would take us around 2 months or even longer, because we also care a lot about quality. But with Andela, we were able to onboard that developer within, I think, 3 weeks, and that for us was really decisive.

Additionally, we knew that this person was already pre-vetted. There was already a degree of testing that had gone into that. And for us, another aspect that was important was the flexibility. We’re a fairly young startup, and we have to be flexible in terms of our funding possibilities and the contracts that we enter, and Andela made it really helpful for us to be able to bring someone on board in that form.

How did you start using Andela?

Victoria: I think our CEO first came across Andela. I found a TechCrunch article about it that’s probably about 10 years old, so it’s something that has been on our radar for a longer period of time. Also, because the three of us, Sasa, the CEO, and I worked previously in another startup, and we had similar issues with hiring in Berlin, which is even harder due to a lot of competition. We had already considered bringing someone from Andela on board at that point, so I think it’s something that we’ve always had as a possible solution in the background. In terms of the process, we provided initial criteria of the roles and level of seniority we were looking for. We’re now on our third appointment with the third developer from Andela that we’ve brought on board, and it’s been a little different. The first time, we received a list of pre-selected candidates. The second and third time, we identified candidates from the pool. I have to say that it was easy to use. We set up interviews ourselves, and it had a self-serve character, which worked well for us.

Andela forced us to think and evaluate a bit more than we usually would because they have those checkpoints at 7 days, 14 days, and 21 days, and they ask for feedbackSasa Sekulic, Chief Technology Officer, Develhope

Sasa: I think what was really useful is that Andela forced us to think and evaluate a bit more than we usually would because they have those checkpoints at 7 days, 14 days, and 21 days, and they ask for feedback on something. So because we don’t usually do this, it’s like, “Okay, I need to write something,” so we had to give feedback, and that helped us organize our thoughts. It was really useful to kind of help us with the process, which is probably something that we should do internally for our own hires. That was a useful change, a useful addition to the process. Andela really helped us with that. The checkpoints were beneficial for us. So it was a good experience.

How has Andela helped improve your process?

Victoria: Maybe one additional point is that in the past, we did not have a team fit interview as part of the recruitment process. We aimed to be quick, but we didn’t always include this element. However, for Andela hires, we decided to add this as one step. So we did technical vetting on our side, but we also wanted to make sure that even if we bring someone on board for just a short period, both the candidate and our team have the opportunity to meet and ensure a good fit, since they will be working closely together. So we’ve decided to make this team fit interview part of our regular hiring process too. So on the recruitment side, that’s definitely been a learning, and we’ve benefited from it.

How have the Andela talent or the Andela team contributed to your personal success in your role? Has it allowed you to take on other things or do additional work?

Sasa: What they did obviously is we have our own internal milestones and deadlines, so they’re always instrumental in helping us hit those. For example, on the previous project, we needed to finish it by mid-December, and if it weren’t for Andela developers, obviously we wouldn’t have been able to. And now, in the other two projects, obviously they are helping us to reduce the workload on the other developers, which then makes it easier to hit the deadlines and milestones.

Victoria: The same is also true on the hiring side. We have a hiring plan for this quarter, and by taking out these two roles that we’ve hired through Andela, it has allowed me and my team to focus more on other roles. So we’ve been able to hit those milestones, whereas if we had spent a considerable time on recruiting for two back-end developers, I think we would not be that far on the other roles. So I think it’s really freed up time for us and allowed us to focus on other priorities.

Hiring developers through Andela means that we are not bringing them on board as permanent employees. So, it also gives us more flexibility in terms of our forecasting, in terms of our costs for the foreseeable future.Victoria Leonhardt, Chief Operating Officer, Develhope

How do you measure success with Andela?

Sasa: For me, the most important thing is the speed of the team. We try not to focus on specific developers or team members. Generally, if you have a team that works well and communicates well, then you have a team that will be quick, that will resolve problems quickly, and there won’t be any blockers. Also, a team where you can reduce interdependencies, because if you have knowledge sharing, then you can have others quickly pick up when someone is on vacation. So, for me, the biggest indicator of success is having people in the team who work well with others, who communicate well, and where it’s very clear where they stand. Right? So, you know, if someone says, ‘Okay, you know what, with this, could somebody help me?’ or ‘I’ve done this, is there something else?’ So, I think for me, having multiple development teams, this is the biggest KPI I have: is everybody happy? And are we hitting the milestones?

Victoria: One other point that I’m looking at is the financial implications. And for us, basically, hiring developers through Andela means that we are not bringing them on board as permanent employees. So, it also gives us more flexibility in terms of our forecasting, in terms of our costs for the foreseeable future.

So, for us, I think, especially at this stage of our development and growth, this has been very helpful.

Can you share examples of how Andela talent work well with your team?

Sasa: Because we have two different internal products, and they aren’t green field projects. We’ve had them for some time, so it really takes some time to onboard more people, because there is also complexity. And also, you know, software projects are never finished. You’re always in the middle of something, and there’s always like, “we should do this, but we don’t have time for it in 6 months.” That being said, for our internal platform, we actually started rewriting from scratch, and Ezedin, who is one of the backend developers, joined. He said, “You know, I have an idea.” And basically, he prepared a document in one day on how the architecture could be and what it was. It was really unexpected, because that rarely happens, right? And he really had a very clear idea on what problems it would solve and what were the good points and the bad points. So that was really nice. It basically confirmed the ideas that we already had. Because, like what he said, those were the pain points of our previous version. Those were the reasons why we decided to go and rewrite everything, and he proposed how to do it.

Can you share examples from the operational perspective of how Andela talent have come on and made an impact?

Victoria: I think it’s probably a bit hard for us to measure it strictly. But my feeling is that by bringing on both these people, we have relieved some of our team members who have had a big burden on their shoulders, looking after many projects frequently. We’ve freed up some of their time, which I think will benefit their retention and well-being, and overall happiness on the team. Just by splitting the work between multiple people, because prior to bringing onboard some of the Andela developers, we had situations where really one person was looking after a stack or working on something, and I think that’s bound to put stress on people after a while. So, just by having another pair of hands, I think that’s definitely relieved some of the stress that we’ve had.

This was the biggest sell – Andela allows us to look at available profiles, find the right talent, request interviews, and the talent are responsive.Sasa Sekulic, Chief Technology Officer, Develhope

How has Andela helped you stay competitive in your industry?

Sasa: We have deadlines and milestones in our industry which has become pretty competitive, especially in EdTech. If you’re one month or three months late, then you might just be too late for the market. So having Andela’s help is crucial. As Victoria mentioned, finding developers isn’t easy and it wastes time that could’ve been spent on development. It ties up HR resources on something else. This was the biggest sell – Andela allows us to look at available profiles, find the right talent, request interviews, and the talent are responsive.

This was the biggest help, especially since we really needed them.

Which parts of Andela do you find most valuable, whether that’s about the partnership or about the product itself?

Victoria: For me, the access to qualified developers has been particularly helpful, whether it’s through the portal or by personal recommendation from an Account Manager. But I have to say, in addition to that, I’ve felt that everyone we’ve spoken to has been very responsive. We ran into a situation where we had to find a solution on a contract, and I felt that we came to a mutually beneficial agreement on that. Overall, everyone we’ve been in touch with has been very collaborative and clearly eager to help and make it work. I think for us, that’s been very helpful, especially because we’re not a big client at this point. Taking the time and being available has always been the case, and that’s been very helpful for us.

I think that’s also an important lesson for us to learn, that if someone is available, we have to take the opportunity. I don’t think I made many friends on this one, but I think it’s really an aspect to keep in mind. We need to be ready to bring people on board and to set the work up for everyone, so that we can move at the speed that we want to move.

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