The journey that led us to start Andela began some time ago. In 2008, I co-founded 2U, an education technology company whose mission is to bring great universities online. By working with universities like Georgetown, Berkeley, and Northwestern, we helped build the first generation of online programs that had better student outcomes – graduation rates, job placements, and student satisfaction – than their on-campus counterparts. And because of that focus on outcomes, 2U became one of the fastest growing edtech companies in history.
During my time at 2U, the MasterCard Foundation, one of the largest foundations in the world focused on Africa, invited me to speak about the future of education at a summit in Nairobi. While we were there, I saw Kenya’s bustling startup community, and I also saw something all too familiar across the continent. I saw young people without any hope of a job or decent wage. I saw living examples of the fact that brilliance is evenly distributed but opportunity is not. I saw how an entire generation is being shut out of the formal economy because they happened to be born in a country where there isn’t a path for them.
And yet, even as young people in Kenya, Nigeria, and so many other countries are looking for work, tech companies around the world are having a hard time finding talent. At 2U, we struggled to find entry-level Salesforce developers for $100,000 a year. The fact is, there are four jobs for every developer in this country. And it’s not just startups that are looking for talent. Amazon has 16,000 IT job postings. Accenture, 14,000. Simply put, there’s a global skills gap and it’s getting worse, not better.
So, when I got back from Kenya, I started wondering, what if we could use the kind of education technologies we built at 2U to prepare young people in Africa to thrive in the digital economy?
And I wasn’t the only one thinking along these lines. There’s a reason that tech companies are climbing over themselves to enter African markets. It’s because Africa not only has seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world, it also has the fastest growing population – and the largest youth population. In short, the digital revolution may have started in Palo Alto, but its future will be written in Lagos, Nairobi, and Accra.
And with your help, it will be written by Andela developers. Andela is building a global talent accelerator that produces world-class developers and connects them with top companies around the world. We invite young people to apply for what were calling the Andela Fellowship. Then we evaluate applicants using a combination of online aptitude tests, in-person interviews, and a free Boot Camp, where we spend two weeks teaching participants the basics of coding and assessing whether they have what it takes to become an advanced developer. When Boot Camp is over, we select a small number of them to become Andela Fellows and put them through the most rigorous code training in the world. Finally, once they have 1,000 hours of coding experience, we pair them with senior developers who can guarantee the quality of their code and connect them with tech companies around the world that need remote developers. It’s one of the most rigorous and selective academic experiences in the world.
So far, the response has been overwhelming. We have a waitlist of companies looking to hire Andela developers. Meanwhile, we can’t train our developers fast enough. For the first 28 slots, we had more than 5,200 applicants. That’s an acceptance rate of .53%, which, as we’re proud to say, means we’re already ten times more selective than Harvard.
On one of my recent trips to Lagos, I heard the expression T-I-A. It stands for “This is Africa,” and it refers to the way things don’t work quite as smoothly on the continent as they do in other places. When the electricity cuts out or a shipment is running late, you may hear someone say T-I-A with a hint of exasperation.
At Andela, we have our own version of T-I-A. To us, it means adhering to the highest standards of excellence. It means bridging the global skills gap that employers are facing. And it means training some of the best coders in the world. To us, T-I-A means “This is Andela.”
– Jeremy Johnson
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