Andela coffee chat
After two weeks of settling in, we met up with the Andela team, Becca (‘18 AB Sociology), Ify (‘18 BSE Operations Research and Financial Engineering), and Avthar (‘18 BSE Computer Science), to get the inside scoop.
Andela forms high-performing engineering teams by discovering and molding the most promising candidates from Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda into world-class developers. They then connect their distributed team members with companies in the United States.
What has surprised you most?
Becca: I am most surprised by Andela’s focus on creating a business culture that makes the team feel like a family. They have welcomed us into the company, and at the end of our first week we all went on an awesome water rafting retreat. I am also surprised by how the company balances the informal work culture with high productivity. Everyone is incredibly intelligent and passionate!
Ify: Even though they are growing rapidly, they are making sure to prioritize staying connected. They make the time to have a team meeting every week. It is great to be able to be a part of these meetings and see how excited everyone gets about the company’s growth, even throwing in a few jokes here and there.
Avthar: Working at a mission driven startup, as much as it is all about the mission, isn’t much different from a tech focused company. Even if you have the vision of wanting to impact people you have to play by the same rules of business success— you still have to do the hard work and show that it is something worthy of investing in.
What have you been working on?
Ify: As a product manager intern, I get to work directly with one of their teams of developers. Every morning I check-in with the team and we trouble-shoot roadblocks, and whenever there is something we can’t seem to get past my boss is always happy to help. I get to work alongside people with five to ten years of product management experience, so I am always learning from them.
Becca: A lot of my projects involve coordinating with Andela’s Executive team and assisting them with different initiatives - which could range from drafting communications, researching for the team, and helping create systems that will be efficient as the company rapidly scales.
Why were you interested in interning for Andela?
Avthar: I’m from South Africa, so I grew up in the so called developing world. Even though I’ve been abroad for 5 years now, I’ve kept a keen interest in using entrepreneurship and technology to empower people in South Africa. Andela is an example of how for-profit entrepreneurship can be used to make massive impacts in developing countries. So I wanted to learn as much about their inner-workings, and use my lessons learned to help me successfully start and grow an impactful company focused on Africa.
What are you learning from your experience?
Becca: It has been really helpful in helping me figure out what I want to do in the future. Working with them has just reinforced that I want to work in education, for a company with a social mission, and cross-culturally.
Avthar: It is a huge learning experience from a leadership point of view because I get to sit in on meetings with the CEO and hear not just what’s being said but see how things are being said, paying attention to the subtext and how people are reacting. The opportunity to interface with individuals and people who are impacting a space in which I’m interested is really inspiring.
Ify: Seeing Andela’ s combination of a great business model with a large social mission shows me how a company can successfully mix business and purpose. It has made me realize how important it is to have a social mission.
Has your experience left you with new questions?
Avthar: A lot of entrepreneurship at Princeton is focused on how you get things off the ground and test things out, but Andela is a step past that, so now I get to see how a company considers growing and expanding. Watching Andela in its growth stage makes me consider what size and stage company I would like to work at in the future and where I will be be most impactful.
Have their been any particularly inspiring moments?
Becca: This past week we were trying to figure out how to get everyone together, and buying lunch for everyone was suggested twice, but both times the team insisted that they could bring in their own lunch. Just that small insistence was a testament to their passion for what they are doing. They would rather send the money back into the company than use it to pay for food.