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Andela Is Building Africa’s Tech

Ecosystem—And Is Using Qualified To


Assess 130,000+ Software Engineers

BENEFITS ANDELA HAS REALIZED BY USING QUALIFIED

Low overhead Hiring at scale Better predictor of real


Andela’s candidate pipeline has Andela has assessed over 130,000 world performance
grown exponentially while their software engineers
Qualified assessments have helped
recruiting team has not.
Andela move beyond merely testing
for algorithmic skills.

While most of our tech news feeds are jammed up with stories of Facebook’s most recent
privacy scandal, stories like Andela’s far too often slip under the radar. But companies
that you know—Gusto, Invision, GitHub, and Skillshare among them—are already building
their products using Andela software engineers. And tech giants like Microsoft have taken
notice, moving into Nairobi as the global competition for software engineering talent
continues to heat up faster than a Sub-Saharan morning.

Founded in Nigeria in 2014, Andela was built around a simple idea—identify high potential
software developers, invest in their training, then place them on global engineering
teams where they begin to contribute and continue to grow. The company handles talent
assessment, on-boarding, and continuous improvement of the software developers
accepted into their program, supporting their mission of “catalyzing the growth of tech
ecosystems across Africa.” The company has hired software developers in 17 African
countries to date, and recently raised a $100M series D investment. Andela’s investors
include Google Ventures, Salesforce Ventures, and the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation
amongst others.
Aspiring Andela engineers must first apply to the program, where they’re screened for
basic technical skills, general aptitude, and learning velocity. The company has received
over 130,000 applications to date, leading to the hire of 1,300 software engineers.

Once accepted into the program Andela engineers are trained for six months in simulated
product environments similar to what they would encounter on global engineering teams.
They build real products, contribute to code standups, learn agile methodology, and also
have team skill sessions where they work on developing confidence, public speaking, and
learn best practices associated with being a distributed team member.

“A lot of developers that are coming out of Andela are interested in reinvesting in Africa—
they aren’t being pulled out of Africa,” says Neria. “They’ve gotten broad experience in
international companies, but they stayed locally the entire time so all of that money is
being reinvested into the local ecosystem. They’re founding startups here. They’re able to
mentor here, locally. And we’re seeing a huge boom in the startup scene here in Nairobi.”

SEARCHING FOR A PARTNER TO HELP ASSESS


THE TECHNICAL SKILLS OF A CONTINENT

While Adela’s mission is an easy one to get behind, the logistics of their operation include a
wide myriad of challenges related to growing a tech ecosystem in the developing world. But
Andela’s success is directly tied to a challenge much more familiar to even the best funded
tech companies in Silicon Valley—the company needed to find a repeatable way to identify,
assess, and hire engineering talent at scale. Sorting through more than 130,000 applica-
tions for their fellowship program was only the beginning.

In the early days, Andela relied on a combination of psychometric tests and a technical
assessment tool that their internal team hacked together.

“The issue was the internal tool was always buggy, and it assessed knowledge way more
than application of knowledge,” says Neria. “I also noticed that we didn’t really have a
framework for hiring that was consistent throughout our entire recruitment model, so we
set out to create that framework.”

The recruitment model that Andela landed on seeks to assess developer candidates on
three dimensions:

Values alignment and Output quality Learning velocity and


cultural fit (the degree of excellence in which ability to incorporate
people are showing skills and pro- feedback
ducing work)
“I did a big industry review of over 100 tools, both for values fit, technical skills, and
psychometric evaluations,” says Neria. “We looked at software like Codility, HackerRank,
and GapJumpers and I was really trying to see whether or not they’d give us more than just
the standard technical knowledge testing. The big thing that I was looking for was also if
candidates were getting feedback.”

“What we saw with Qualified is that you guys are taking a really, really
interesting approach in terms of your dedication to mimicking a real work
environment. So many technical tools out there basically don’t—they only
test theory and algorithms.”

“Qualified gave us a deeper level of insight into each applicant by providing insights into
things like ‘How are you applying and thinking through technical questions? And based on
the curriculum that we provide, how are you applying that knowledge to answer coding
challenges?’”

“A lot of our developers were self-taught and so their in-depth understanding of


algorithms wasn’t necessarily that high—but they could still build great products, were
still mathematical, and could apply the concept of an algorithm to the way that they were
building products. That’s what really drove us to use Qualified—it was a combination of a
push to be more rigorous in the data that we collect from our applicants and Qualified’s
dedication to having people showcase the work that they would do in a real product
environment. Your technical skills assessments are really aligned with the real work
environment which we were hoping for in order to better predict on-the-job performance.”

LEARNING TO FIND, ASSESS, AND HIRE


SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS AT SCALE

With Qualified identified as a strategic partner to help Andela assess technical output and
predict on-the-job performance, Neria’s team set out to build a consistent recruitment
process capable of scaling alongside Andela’s lofty ambitions. While the process continues
to be refined and improved, talent acquisition and engineering leaders would be wise to
borrow from Andela’s approach.

Home study materials

All applicants are provided home study materials that cover computer science basics using either
Python or javascript.
Initial screen

After applicants receive their home study materials, they’re asked to complete an initial screening that’s
delivered via Google Forms. This first cut in their recruiting funnel is used to help sort through the
sheer volume of applications that they receive, by testing an applicant’s understanding of the home
study materials as well as their cultural and values fit.

Qualified assessment

Applicants that pass the Google Forms assessment are then invited to take a Qualified assessment,
which is designed to test their technical skills and ability to incorporate real world feedback. Currently
about 15% of students who complete the Qualified assessment are ultimately hired. “Our goal is to
continuously bump that up and make Qualified even more predictive,” says Neria. “Right now we’re
assessing junior developers, and I think for them technical skills are less indicative of quality and it’s
more about cognitive ability and learning. I think the predictive power of Qualified could be much
higher for developers that have more experience.

Six months of paid training

Applicants who are accepted into the program continue to be trained for six months, during which
Andela captures thousands of data points on their relative strengths and weaknesses.

Paired with a global engineering team

After training is completed, Andela developers become a member of a global engineering team. Their
skills continue to be assessed and the company invests heavily in mid-to-senior level developers that
provide ongoing mentorship to junior developers.

When I asked Neria about the benefits Andela has realized since injecting Qualified
assessments into the recruiting funnel, she’s quick to cite the scalability of the process.

“I think one of the things Qualified does really well is you offer the entire package of ‘How
do you assess software developers at scale?’ It’s not only the technology around automated
assessments and customization; it’s also the pre-loaded database of questions that you can
work through that are tagged and easily searchable. The keyword here is ‘at scale’ for me.”

“When you have 4,000 developers per month applying to your program you need a system
where you can pull questions, easily change or customize assessments, and see the results
over time.”
“Our recruitment team has definitely grown less exponentially than
our candidate pipeline has and a big part of that is thanks to Qualified
assessments. We’ve been able to keep our overhead costs down with
Qualified as a growth partner. It’s a very holistic package—I’ve seen
software products that provide one piece of the puzzle, and I see Qualified
as really being the full thing.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR ANDELA…


AND QUALIFIED

While Neria’s search for a technical screening methodology that predicts on the job per-
formance was undertaken with the recruitment process in mind, Andela has also begun
experimenting with Qualified Educate to upskill their existing engineers.

“For internal leveling, the platform allows us to test learners multiple times,” says Neria.
“One use case we tried was testing knowledge and behavioral reinforcements by continu-
ously testing our developers on important use cases like certain types of testing or debug-
ging. We wanted to make sure that developers are consistently being tested throughout
our training program on those things. We saw that Qualified helped with knowledge reten-
tion, which was really promising.”

Neria also sees Qualified playing a significant role in benchmarking developers of different
skill levels objectively—a need of increasing importance as the prevalence of remote work
continues to grow.

“The fact that Qualified provides so much data from their developer community on how
developers across the globe perform on different technical questions is huge. I would say
that’s a really big asset for anyone looking to hire more senior talent.”

“The fact that Qualified provides so much data from their


developer community on how developers across the globe
perform on different technical questions is huge. I would say
that’s a really big asset for anyone looking to hire more senior
talent.”
- Maya Neria,
Senior Product Manager at Andela