I love working in client success. Not only do I have the chance to connect directly with our client partners, but I also get to work directly with so many of our talented engineers all over the world.
At our recent webinar, I brought together Karim Hosny, Olla Ashour, and Mayowa Egbewunmi to ask them about a day in the life of an Andela engineer.
Karim is based in Cairo, Egypt and joined Andela just over a year ago. At the moment, he’s working with GitHub as a senior software engineer. Olla is based in Alexandria, Egypt, and has been with Andela for two years. She’s currently working at an Edtech startup. Mayowa joined Andela in February 2019 and is based in Lagos, Nigeria. He is currently working with Premise.
Below are the topics we discussed in the webinar.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Mayowa: I am based in Nigeria and the company I work with, Premise, is based in San Francisco. The time difference is 8 or 9 hours, depending on the time of year. This means I need to distribute my work and personal life to engage with my client team effectively. On a typical day, I take care of my team priorities in the morning. I look at my calendar and ask myself, “What do I need to think about? How will I contribute to my meetings effectively?” The morning is also the time of day I take care of my personal priorities. Typically, I actively do intensive coding development from 2pm – 5pm because I know it’s unlikely I’ll be pulled into any meetings. Later in the evening, there might be more meetings or some discussion around team coordination and engagement.
Olla: One thing that really helps me is having blocks in my calendar for all the things that I need to get done. My client team is also in San Francisco, so that’s a 9 to 10 hour difference. I block out 2pm – 6pm to do my work. After that, it’s just meetings and other partner-related stuff. Putting these blocks in my calendar for work and personal-related things helps me be more productive. Additionally, it’s important to know what your partner expects from you, what you should be doing, and setting those priorities accordingly. Not every partner has a daily standup, so you have to make sure you’re coordinating with your team members.
Karim: I’ve also noticed that clients don’t always have a standup meeting, but it’s crucial to give daily standup-like statements. It’s really important to make what you’ve worked on and what you’re going to work on next visible to the client. That’s because the client doesn’t see you, your colleagues don’t see you—everyone is working from home. You have to make yourself visible, whether through standups, asynchronous messaging, or whatever makes you feel most comfortable.
What would you consider your greatest accomplishment so far on your current client engagement?
Karim: One of the projects that we had a major contribution from our team was an initiative to enable unlimited free private repositories. We collaborated on this project from the ground up, and it went on to be one of the major projects for GitHub in 2019. Andela is particularly proud of this project.
Mayowa: It was important to me to convey to Premise that Andela can deliver, and we did! Our presence there has grown from two engineers to 15 core engineers, and that success is the accumulation of a lot of individual effort.
Olla: There are only three Andela engineers at the EdTech platform where I work and each of us is part of a different team. One of the things I’m super proud of is that we’re working on accessibility. As this is an educational app, inclusivity is so important, and we’re actively working on improving this for people. This is something I’ve been wanting to work on for a while and something that’s often missing in so many places. The key lesson I’m learning is that when you’re doing your code, you have to think about accessibility, because if you don’t, you’ll have a lot of challenges later on.
What’s a challenge you’ve been able to overcome with this client or with a former client?
Mayowa: One of my biggest ongoing challenges is having consistent access to internet and power. With that said, I work to ensure that these challenges don’t affect the quality of my work or how my team thinks about my availability. I focus on solving my problems, instead. I have three different internet subscriptions. I’m currently connected to one, and then if I need to, I can switch to a backup. Andela also provided financial support so I could stabilize my power.
Olla: My biggest challenge was the 9-10 hour time difference. Friday is actually a public holiday in Egypt, so the people in your family will be off while you’re working. Something that helped me is communicating with my manager about expectations. Most partners understand the time difference, so if I have a family thing or am impacted by the time difference, I make sure they know when there are a few hours I won’t be available. It’s also important to understand when you work the best. For example, if you’re not a night person, don’t force yourself to work at night. You need to understand yourself, what you need and how you can take care of yourself…and it’s really important to plan for that.
Karim: Be explicit about all the things you need to know. If the onboarding doesn’t cover all the required information, be explicit, raise your hand, and say, “Hey, I have a problem here.” People will help you. Communicating with your client is the most important thing. These are the challenges I think you have to address from the start.
Do you have any closing thoughts you want to share?
Mayowa: Managers want to know your communication style. To make yourself stand out as an engineer, you need to bring something unique to the table. Think about anything that will help you stand out—maybe it’s the CI pipeline, maybe it’s release automation, or maybe it has more to do with project management or coordinating the team. Those soft skills outside of your core competencies are the things that will give you visibility in front of the team.
Olla: You have to be very adaptable because some teams are very agile and some teams aren’t, some teams have daily standups and some teams don’t. You have to adapt to the way the partner’s process works and once you gain their trust, then you can bring solutions and improvements to the table.
Karim: There’s a big part of work that depends on being social. You are not there just to work and go home; you are there to make connections. Making connections is something that will benefit you for life. Try to set up one-on-ones with your manager and not just to talk about work. Most partners will treat you like a full-time employee; they’re not going to treat you like an outsider. You belong there, so make it a point to get to know everyone.