Less than 72 hours after word got out that Andela was laying off 135 employees (approximately 10 percent of its workforce) due to concerns related to the global pandemic, the company announced a bold plan to go completely remote.
“This week, we announced at an all-hands that we are going to be a remote-first company. While we’ve always been a leader in distributed work, we’ve now proven that we can operate fully remote by delivering excellent work to our customers over the past couple of months,” Andela CEO, Jeremy Johnson, had revealed in a Medium post published on May 8.
Andela, the leading engineering talent development and outsourcing company in Africa, had cut some employees loose in May. It was, at least, the third time in 8 months that the company had triggered an exodus of some sort within its ranks. But the most recent wave of layoffs was swiftly followed by some big changes which Andela has now implemented.
As Andela exclusively revealed to WeeTracker, the software talent company has now gone fully remote across all of its locations.
Before the most recent layoff and subsequent radical shift in how the company operates, Andela had over 1,300 employees across offices in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana, and the United States. Now the entire team has gone remote as all offices have been exited and assets sold off.
“Andela is now fully remote in all our locations (US included),” the company told us. “As we have now moved to a fully remote model, we have moved out of our physical leased offices in all locations and all Engineers and Enterprise Staff are working from home.”
“Of course, as a result of this, we have to move out our assets – some of which have been sold off to employees and others to third-party companies, who have shown interest in the items we no longer need,” Andela said.
This development underlines what can be concisely described as the ‘evolution of Andela.’ In the last 18 months or so, the company has undergone a metamorphosis. Its business model has gone through a series of tweaks. And critics like to point out that Andela, in its current form, has strayed far away from the vision it sold upon arrival.
When Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Nadayar Enegesi, Christina Sass, Ian Carnevale, Brice Nkengsa, and Jeremy Johnson co-founded Andela in 2014, the goal and model was clear; admitting and training developers on a four-year contract and then generating revenue when these developers land jobs with global companies in need of their skills.
“Talent is evenly-distributed but opportunity is not,” was the watchword. The idea of unearthing talent, polishing and nurturing it, and then connecting it with best-in-class opportunities had many people sold.
But in recent times, a number of factors that cannot be ignored have pushed Andela further away from exciting edtech to hardcore HR-tech, which actually makes great business sense for the company at the moment.
Andela has raised nearly USD 200 Mn in venture capital since launching in 2014. Before now, the company’s business model involved training African software engineers at virtually no cost to the trainee, absorbing and employing trained engineers as full-time paid staff in office locations, and eventually outsourcing them to “partners” which are usually companies overseas that can fork out good sums for engineering talent.
However, in September 2019, Andela had to sever ties with more than 400 junior developers, declaring that the market for junior talent was now saturated such that it had more engineers on its books than it could place. At the time, Andela’s CEO, Johnson, said they had misread the market demand.
After closing its junior developer (D0) program, Andela began to only seek senior talent, even going ahead to launch a senior talent-focused branch in Egypt in November 2019. But in February 2020, WeeTracker broke the story that Andela was, yet again, struggling to secure placements for some of its mid-level/intermediate engineers who had been on the bench for months.
Subsequently, we exclusively uncovered that the company had kickstarted a voluntary exit scheme in which developers who can’t get placement can “choose to walk away with certain benefits,” or be declared redundant anyway. Apparently, the storm hadn’t passed.
But any more talk of such internal placement struggles may have died down somewhat during the most recent wave of layoffs which did not affect even a single developer on the company’s books.
The new Andela (maybe Andela 2.0?) can be described as a remote company of distributed engineering teams, open to not only the company’s employees as before but also top (possibly freelance) engineers from across the continent, and eventually around the world.
In the earlier-mentioned Medium post, Johnson said, “Moving forward, we will expand the network to include top engineers from across the continent, and eventually around the world — and we won’t require engineers to be full-time employees to apply for opportunities.”
Andela claims to have trained more than 100,000 people through programs like the Andela Learning Community. Up until now, in order to actually be placed with a company, engineers historically had to be a full-time Andela employee working from any of Andela’s offices in Africa.
But Andela 2.0 is an entirely remote company that has binned that long-standing arrangement which tends to limit the opportunities the company is able to provide, while also limiting the breadth of talent available to customers.
Commenting on the transition to remote work, Andela said, “We have been at the forefront of remote and distributed work for years, and switching to being a fully remote global organisation has been an interesting but challenging transition.”
“There are advantages around talent supply and flexibility but also the usual challenges around infrastructure (especially in our African locations). These challenges aren’t new to us as we have been operating in the African space for years now and the operations team has been working with the company to anticipate and overcome any challenges, so the process has been as seamless as possible,” the company told us.
Contrary to claims making the rounds in various circles, WeeTracker gathered that Andela is NOT keeping any “sales office” open in any location. This quashes earlier speculation that the company was looking to retain at least one office in either Nigeria or the United States.
Featured Image Courtesy: Andela
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