Consultancy

Raising Andela’s Pocket Change

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How do you fix a thing that isnt broken?

John Doe was terrific at Java. John left the university, worked for a software company here, and even found time to lecture at the University. A USAID project came looking and John was the natural fit – top and exceptional Java talent to run a mega IT project. Soon, the project came to a wrap. John – now accustomed to an 8-figure salary and great perks couldn’t get rehired by regular companies. John couldn’t find gigs small enough to sustain his life. Also, there weren’t many Java projects in town – the tech stacks were fast and fluid, the specialist left feeling jurrassic! After a while, John landed an opportunity – but he had to relocate abroad. His skill, though precious and top-notch, is now fit only in specific markets, for people who are ready to pay 8 figures (I know, wait, I mean Ugx). You could say, John is not a fit for this Ugandan “ecosystem” anymore.

Andela is currently being vilified for what smaller software companies are now calling “a drain of the ecosystem” – of all the top developer talent. Junior developers are not spared, they even run a teen-code club (by the way its an excellent free program!). What happens to this talent? The simple version – Get in, get a mac, get trained, and for 4 years develop, as part of a team, world class software, for a global market! Surely what’s evil about this?

Until you start to see the net (and unintended) effects on the ecosystem. Andela requires that developers work in teams, on solutions that are not born of your neighborhood, for a client that stays in a city you only see in the movies. You get a world class education in software development techniques and a great office to work in (Kampala, Kigali, Lagos, Nairobi, New York, Austin, San Fransisco with HQ on the Internet!). Moreover, soon enough, you start earning a really great 7 figure salary. For some of our impressionable young people, its hard to look back. The problems you solve for clients in the global market are so big.  Its like tasting the fruit of the garden… Your eyes are opened, you are wiser, so much more – and now, your peers are in Mumbai, San Francisco, Barcelona and Toronto!

Again – you have to ask, what is wrong with all this?

Andela believes that while brilliance is evenly distributed, opportunity is not. Their mission is to make available opportunities to brilliant talent on the African continent. (Strong Applause Here).

Here’s what I think Andela should consider, in repairing the unintended consequences of its brilliantly executed model:

1 – Reconsider hiring talent straight from the University – because such impressionable kids will loose an opportunity to exercise their skill locally, before it becomes available globally. Moreover on the back of holistic development, Andela would benefit from hiring great software development talent that has actually experienced industry – Education, Agriculture, Health, Finance etc.

2 – Ask your Devs to Develop Others – as part of their full-time contract. We already know that training others supports mastery of any skill. Holding 2-3 mandatory community training sessions by 15 senior devs will create a give-back attitude, strengthen mentor-coach skills and add to the soft skills needed to produce a great Andelan. Just their tee and mac is sufficient branding. Moreover, the social capital one gains from that tends to be invaluable a few years later. Where its happening, take the ALC away from the building.

3 – Give Devs back to the industry – without turning your own lights off. Andela is perfectly positioned to support devs – in partnership with carefully selected local non-profit partners – to work on local technology solutions. This partnership model would be available to companies below a certain budget threshold. Carefully managed, this model has every opportunity to use local problems as the sandbox for training and development – a much added value.

4 – Some people are not cut out for working away from home – or relocation, or working in 4 time-zones. Some people are  perfectly fit for the local market. Andela can create a pricing model that makes such talent available for the local recruitment needs. Yes, they wont be paid top dollar relative to their colleagues, but that’s the opportunity cost of choosing to enjoy all 12 hours of the equatorial sun! And there’s nothing wrong with that.

This morning when I went over to the Andela breakfast, it was to honor an invitation to hear President and Co-founder Christina Sass. I enjoyed listening to her passion, but mostly to her compassion. I agree, we needn’t attach intention where there is none. Andela is not evil, and no they are not snatching the top 1%. Andela have a model, that works. Kampala has talent, that’s brilliant. The world has opportunities, ready to be filled.

Let’s not fail to feed the very ecosystem on which this model thrives.

 

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2 Commencement Speeches I liked

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Glossophobia is still the world’s #1 fear, yet we have people who seem to have been born with a golden mic in their mouths. They wow us all the time. One of the best seasons to feed on the genius that oratory can be in the commencement speech cycle. They come once a year can carry platitudes and/or conjecture, but often they are delivered by people from all walks of life to inspire and challenge that next generation of leaders. Here are 2 that I took time to dive into…

Mark Zuckerberg – As a young man growing up and working in Africa’s nascent technology space, this man, perhaps together with Google, have had the biggest influence on my generation. I love that he is coming into Africa to see how far a dollar really goes.

“Change starts local. Even global changes start small — with people like us. In our generation, the struggle of whether we connect more, whether we achieve our biggest opportunities, comes down to this — your ability to build communities and create a world where every single person has a sense of purpose.”

My work is in Leadership development, and for me these words cannot ring any truer. If you have heard me say it once, you have heard me say it again, I love computers and all the magic but I love people more. If we can give people a sense of purpose, build a community around service, we cannot get it wrong.

 “Ideas don’t come out fully formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You just have to get started. If I had to understand everything about connecting people before I began, I never would have started Facebook.”

In his book, Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi writes – Be brave enough to put it all out there, stuff that worked and stuff that didn’t, with your insights on why and how to fix it for next time.

Zuckerberg is famous for dropping out of Havard, but that is not his most proud failure – its facemash, a prank site he put up which drew attention of the ad board. As he awaited his fate, he met Priscilla and as he says, “ But without Facemash I wouldn’t have met Priscilla, and she’s the most important person in my life, so you could say it was the most important thing I built in my time here.”

Oh how we need to teach the virtue of failing smart.

 “I hope you find the courage to make your life a blessing.”

You can read (or watch) Mr. Zuckerberg’s full speech.

 

Donald J. Trump – Quite frankly, as a non-citizen global health advocate working in the expensive bubble that New York is, I happen to share a home city with the man many of my ilk have come to hate. But he is still the leader of the free world, so we got to listen.

“Adversity makes you stronger.  Don’t give in.  Don’t back down.  And never stop doing what you know is right.  Nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy.  And the more righteous you are, the more opposition that you will face. “

…this after the rhetoric on how the media has treated him and his political sojourn thus far.  That’s not how the speech begins, though; he dishes out quite many thankful remarks to leaders, and graduates alike. He also pardoned cadets for minor offences and offered them a clean slate. I wish that life and the rest of us did this for our young people – that at the turn of important milestones is NOT the only opportunity to turn a new page, and a clean slate, but that you have that opportunity daily. Yes, every time the sun comes up, it’s a new slate, a new chance to make it better.

“Just days from now, you will put this vital skill into the service of your ships, your sectors, and your country.  You’ll serve as deck watch officers on our amazing Coast Guard cutters. You’ll bring law and order to the dangerous waters as boating officers.  You will block illegal shipments of cash, weapons and drugs.  You will battle the scourge of human trafficking — something that people are not talking about, one of the big, big plagues of the world.  Not our country only — the world. 

The call to service continues to ring out, as if a call to this generation. I could not agree more. Service is the new way to work; service is the new entry to employment.

Americans will place their trust in your leadership, just as they have trusted in generations of Coast Guard men and women, with respect for your skill, with awe at your courage, and with the knowledge that you will always be ready.  You are Always Ready.    

For a man under so much fire, this speech came off as very composed. Perhaps thoughtful of his first world trip, and realizing the opportunity to speak a less combative audience, Mr Trump did make some strong remarks which are clearly of a bigger vision than his own political lifeline.

You can read the full speech text.

You can catch up on extra snippets as captured by Business Insider and Fast Company

ICT Audit Volunteers Appeal

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Hello there,

I would like to, starting with myself; and my workplace, volunteer (and thereby source) services, skill and time, from people who would like to put their massive experience around ICTs to form a team that is willing to offer pro-bono ICT Audit services, as a way for the ICT community to develop each other.

Whereas I know this is probably someone’s bread and butter, I can only look at the ICT Community and more so our own LUG to find persons who I know will willingly and happily give of 2 half-day Saturdays, to work together to help me review the ICT structure, functions and systems here at IHSU.

Ideally, those people would have shared experiences spread among ICT functions, vital for a University such as Wireless Systems, Websites/Intranets, Server Administration, Networking and Administration.

I would like to do a strategic plan for IHSU’s ICT Department for the next few years, and a comprehensive ICT Audit would go a long way in providing rich input for a document and plan of this nature. For that, I need Alex Kisakye to lead a volunteered team.

What do you think?

Off my head, this team, could then use this experience to ‘audit’ other Universities (if willing) and/or companies that are heavily (or greatly intent on) using Free and Open Source Software.

Hoping to appeal to the entire ICT community.

Ngong Road & the iHub

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The Nairobi sunset is always interspersed with cloud leaks – from the 4th Floor of Bishop Magua Center, they seem to compete for my attention. Thats if you are looking at the far end of the horizon. Quite near by, is a Big blue Ad – THINK BIGGEST, is pasted in bold white, you cant miss it even if you were blind. There is another 180 degree view but i have already picked my spot at the Nairobi iHub, and i will settle to tell you about Ngong Road.

It cuts to the West of Nairobi, dotted with a bunch of niceties like Uchumi, and Nakumatt (and all that usually piggy back along them), but am staying at the Hotel. Ngong Hills Hotel has been my abode the last 3 days, and will be the next 4, as I and a team of 7 other gentlemen are honored to develop an LPI Manual for Certification.

As you can imagine with all Open Source ‘things’ there is always somewhere to start from, and there is always something for free. Such as the super fast speeds at Ushahidi’s base. Free if you can keep your hands busy and useful and committed to benefiting someone else.

Inwent and ict@innovation have contracted me and 2 other Consultants to develop and LPI Manual, ideal for Certification as well as Training of Trainers. Its quite a job, especially when you have alot of free stuff lying around that you can pick from. I am honored to be in the presence of Chris Brown, a seasoned author, and Mark Clarke, an experienced trainer. Its possible to feel small even though i comprise the final third!

But thats not all, Trust Zifa, Bernard Angua, Ken Mutua and John Matogo, together with Evans Ikua compliment a team of passionate LPI enthusiasts. Our job is to make a guide, that you can benefit from. But thats from 8 to 5.

After 5, Ngong Road becomes something of a feat – the traffic to beat, the kenyan to admire and the meaty dinner to look forward to. Ngong Hills Hotel is strategically placed, iHub, Uchumi, a Bed and by the end of this week, an LPI Certification manual!

Kwaheri!

IDLELO 4

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Idlelo 4 was hosted at AITI – KACE in Accra, in May 2010. IDLELO 4 is very significant to SoftSolutions, because it marks the birth of SoftSolutions. I was fortunate to be there, thanks to INWENT’s ict@innovation and FOSSFA . For all the action and inspiration, i have listed below my one-word captivations thru – out the event:
John “Maddog” Hall – for FOSS like never seen before
Nenna – for such typical African energy
ICT@INNOVATION – for taking me, and bringing me back safely
Keutlilwe Leso – for inspiration
DG Dorothy Gordon – a great Leader
AITI – KACE – All centers should aspire towards you
FOSSFA – for the African FOSS connection
Elmina Castle – for much needed learning
FBT – for great minds, that think alike
Salsa – for all!
Omatek – for motivation
FEDORA – u came, u gave
UBUNTU – my PC is changed – for real, for ever!

There was so much more, the company of great friends – but also the birth of SoftSolutions. Idlelo 4 will continue to be a land mark event in SoftSolutions’ Calendar and will continue to be remembered.

Again, FLOSS