I Need A Developer Like Yesterday – Part 1

7702900836_0106e4e49a_b

Photo credit – Ryan O’Shea

I remember working with an Indian developer called Ajay in 2003 whilst building a VOIP billing portal to interop with Vocaltec’s proprietary VOIP gatekeeper. Long story but Ajay never delivered and he also made away with a database of clients. We ended up working with Vlad, a developer from Ukraine to complete the project.

Now over the years I have needed to outsource a number of projects I have been involved with. I don’t code and my skills in this respect remain limited to project management, requirements gathering, and planning. I could throw in some basic UNIX, HTML and PHP, but that’s about it.

So being the patriotic Nigerian that I am, my first thought when I have a project to execute is always can I get a developer in Nigeria to implement this? Would they execute per plan? Will they deliver on budget? Will they have the right skill set? Will they deliver to expected standards/quality and best practice? In most cases I have found it rather difficult to give a yes answer.

I am rather sure my quest isn’t an isolated one.

Now I am not saying there are no skilled developers/technology professionals in Nigeria. The question is where are they? If I needed a good developer like yesterday, where would I go without pulling teeth? If the visible players like iROKOtv have their development teams in London and not Nigeria where labour is presumably cheaper, then it is worrisome what ecosystem is really being built.

In a similar light, a few months back I heard of a new app and wanted to read up on it as it was well hyped up (name withheld). I Google the app only to find out the app was actually designed by a freelancer in Europe. But why would they need to go all the way to Europe I thought?

It’s really simple in my view, if we don’t have the required skill sets, we certainly don’t have a technology ecosystem. No doubt there is a  market to exploit, however we must recognise there is a huge skills deficit.

Are we really open for business?

There is no doubt there is focus on how huge the Nigerian potential is. The pitches are similar if you have been listening. We are underexploited, a country of 180m people, year on year GDP growth even close to double digits.

These are mouth watering propositions to any investor but I would question how open we are for business.

FDI inflow

The numbers speak for themselves. Countries like India and Brazil have come a long way. Good fortune? I would like to think not. I pulled out the FDI numbers for Nigeria, India and Brazil – they give a glimpse into our readiness and openness to trade in general. Our numbers are worryingly lukewarm.

The Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission Act 1995 was enacted to attract foreign participation in Nigerian enterprises. Twenty years down the line, the numbers speak. The bulk of incoming FDIs still relate to the oil and gas sector.

A skilled workforce (like the developer I needed like yesterday) is certainly required to build this budding ecosystem and no doubt FDI will play a significant role in accelerating the current skills deficit via skill transfers, education and training. A nationalistic plea to keep the ‘foreigners’ out will certainly not resolve the current skills gap. I also don’t think the willingness and gravitas of one individual (without the right policies and environment) will do so. The change has to be driven by policy, yes government policy.

Having the right skill set is one thing, having the enabling environment to use those skills another. This is not what people want to hear but all evidence suggests we have a huge skills deficit driven by years of corruption and neglect. Who will build these awesome technology companies?

Follow me to Bangalore, the Indian Silicon Valley

bangalore

Bangalore contributes around $83bn to India’s GDP primarily from IT and BPO services. Now that number is close to a 3rd of Nigeria’s GDP before the current GDP rebasing. These impressive stats have led the Bangalore ICT cluster being dubbed the Silicon Valley of India.

India’s GDP make up has gravitated steadily into a service industry driven primarily by technology and innovation. When multinationals and major corporations join the outsourcing race of major IT services to countries like India then you need to stop, look and listen.

The Indian story is an intriguing one, a story built on a clear vision to be at the forefront of technology and innovation. For me, the greatest takeaway is the highly skilled workforce serving both local and international markets.

Can Nigeria surpass these stats? Most certainly we can. We have the potential to do so with the right leadership and vision.

What market do we really speak of?

In my mind the Nigerian technology driven market potential is two-fold

1. The use of technology to unwind the chaos of reaching out and monetizing the circa 180m Nigerian market

2. Creating a robust technology ecosystem with the right technical skill set and support framework to serve both local and international markets

It’s really hard to see how we achieve exploiting the market potential of reaching out to 180m Nigerians without a clear vision on how we achieve 2 above albeit for local requirements only. There are laudable strides being made but we must recognise there remains a huge skills deficit. That for me is a first step in the right direction.

I really don’t want to have to go to Ajay or Vlad when next I have that all so wonderful idea to implement. I would like to think we have the potential and ability to compete in this space. However the success criteria remains tied to having right government policies and enabling environment to achieve this.

If we dismiss the role of government policy in driving and enabling the future of this ecosystem, we dismiss the very opportunity we speak of.

I explore these markets and policies in my follow-up post.

PS. We are estimated at 170m 🙂

This post first appeared on Peter’s blog.

Photo Credit: ak5hath via Compfight cc

89 Comments

  • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

    This is such an important topic. Especially because the cost of training good developers has crashed over the last 5 years. You can literally create good developers in 3 months without any prior background in computer science.

    It befuddles me why no one is thinking about this as a business. The funniest thing is that these are fields where the job demand is global, there is literally 0 unemployment and you can get paid a decent wage consistently if you have the chops.

    Thanks for this article. We don’t agree on a lot but we certainly agree on this.

    • Excuse me, I beg to disagree with: “You can literally create good developers in 3 months without any prior background in computer science”

      Good things take time. It will pay us to understand this, as it’ll go a long way of ridding Nigeria of ‘anyhowness’.

      • chizaram says:

        True. It’s very important to deliver quality products. 3 months is really not enough to move from novice to expert – not just in programming, in many other IT fields. Experience gained on the job (working on real projects – be they web or mobile apps) takes time. You get better as you go along – and the learning never stops really.

      • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

        Fair point. But it really depends on your goal. If you want developers that can attack Odesk or Elance with the panache of an indian developer and get paid 2ce whatever they are earning now, it shouldn’t take more than 3 months to train in my opinion. So maybe using “good developers” is a mistake but I think to get a developer that can ship code and not get lost in code jargon, yea 3 months is enough.

        PS: The guy who is a “good developer” had to have worked somewhere 3 months in. No?

        • ajibz says:

          Do you mean 3 months working experience or for learning? In any case the 10 000 hour rule will apply here as well, since we aren’t spraying magic dust on the devs from the now infamous Ishawuru. 1 year is a reasonable timeline to go from scratch to an ok developer. You cant really short circuit that 10 000 hour rule IMO, some might get there faster than others though.

          • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

            working and learning experience. Nothing accelerates learning like having to actually deliver. 10,000 hours will always apply but you can start earning while you learn is my point.

        • fadeyi says:

          …and you wan build product that go worth plenty plenty millions of Naira and you have this attitude towards the process and profession that produce the stuff your product runs on? Ehn?

          Even though I no like to dey mention all these big American names, but them Zuckerberg, Codd, Allen, Woz etc? them be 3 months trained developer ba?

          • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

            Zucks code was terrible when he started. Learned by building and building.

          • fadeyi says:

            It seems there would be little to gain in belaboring the point. You are adamant at holding your flawed view…

            So yes zucks code was terrible, really horrible…so horrible that at the age of 12 he built Zucknet: a program that allowed all computers between his fathers dental office and house to communicate with each other…

            He was terrible to the extent that during his high school years, he built a music player that used machine learning to learn the user’s listening habits. It was called Synapse Media Player…

            So yes, my guy, by the time he started Facebook, he really deserves to be seen as belonging to the league of your “developers that are literally created in 3 months without any prior knowledge in computer science”

            All the best dude!

          • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

            Early Facebook employees will tell you zucks code was terrible and one of the major technical challenges they had to deal with when they started was refining zucks spaghetti code. I like that approach because it worked for where they were at. I have built ideas to prototype by just piecing Apis together and sold those for a couple hundred thou so it works for me.

            Read the Facebook effect and yishan Wong on Quora

          • fadeyi says:

            …but really, nobody is against piecing API’s together, and building ideas to prototype…or that you cant do this with little or no expertise…

            The title of the post itself is not “I need someone to help me piece/hack API’s together like yesterday…”

            or “I need someone to help me build simple versions of rudimentary products like yesterday”

            The thrust of the post was about the shortage of skilled developers (not API piecing people) in Nigeria…a post you brashly responded to by saying “You can literally create good developers in 3 months without any prior background in computer science”…although you later shifted your stance by admitting that using *good might have taken it too far…

            Now you seem to be shifting your stance and move the discussion to activities that revolve around just hacking together prototypes and piecing API’s together…

            Thing is, it is not about being purist. It is about being professional. And realizing that the Tech ecosystem Nigeria seeks to create would have to be sustained by highly skilled Nigerians, lest we keep outsourcing development abroad or keep bringing expats in.

          • Solomon Adebola says:

            3 months is enough to become an entry-level developer.you acquire more skills while working at a start-up or on your own project

    • niyoma says:

      Our biggest export will be human capital. We however need to recognise this and invest.

      Ignore me, you are a passionate guy and I simply like to ruffle your feathers 🙂

    • Peter Akporume says:

      ” You can literally create good developers in 3 months” I beg to differ.
      Anyone who tells you that has either never developed before or he is lying to you.

    • Mark Essien says:

      That statement is very…unusual “You can literally create good developers in 3 months without any prior background in computer science.” Really? That is a statement that is super-wrong

      • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

        Fine good developers is bad phrasing. What I mean is developers who can ship code. Not “good” developers. Most of the developers in Nigeria aren’t good (Despite what they think) so let’s be honest, good is very relative.

    • Donnie Ibiyemi says:

      Please answer Yes or No

      1.Can you train a Good cook in 3 months?

      2.Can you train a roadside mechanic in 3 months?

      To be good at anything you need an average of 10,000 hours of practice and computer programming is no exception to that rule.

      Cheers

    • Anon says:

      In 3 months you can train someone who is interested in coding to write codes and develop apps.

      Does that mean he’s a good developer? Hell no, I bet you the person will write poor and shitty codes that gets the job done but makes some ish in the background lag and cry for mercy!

      I’m a self taught developer, I have no computer science background, I do build web apps. Am I a good developer? No! not at all, sometimes when I look at the codes I wrote, I do get mad at myself.

      Man, to be a good developer talk less of great developer ain’t 3 months job, it takes years.

    • fadeyi says:

      Kai! They have turn this profession into meta 10 kobo o!

      Am not sure what this says about anything…

      but to think this came out of someone who is supposed to be running a start up that runs on software? Who should have the general idea of what goes into software creation, the life cycle, best practices etc…even though he cant code?

      Well maybe it says a lot about everything then.

    • Bosun says:

      I will tell you right now. You cannot train someone to be an application developer, talk less of a good one, in 3 months. We need to be realistic.

      • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

        What’s a good time frame? I accept 3 months might be too soon but Infosys does 6 months. FYI : I go the 3 months timeframe after talking to a developer in the ecosystem who trains. Also see Anaele Iroh’s post on CTIC (which is a 3 month old program)

        • Bosun says:

          First of all, it’s not everyone that can be trained to be a good developer. And the time frame will vary by individual. Problem solving skills are critical to being a solid developer, and it’s not everyone that has it. A lot of those 3 months programs just train you on how to code and the syntax of a specific language. Nothing more! You can not hand those guys a problem and ask them to come up with a design. They will fail miserably! Bottom line – It will take years of serious hard work to be a solid developer.

          • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

            Yes but most coding jobs do not expect coders to solve problems. The design is usually done at the architect level and then coding happens afterwards..

            Usually architect has years of experience.

          • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

            Assuming you select for the many who can and are interested in coding. What is the average timeframe to train someone who can code a simple product like a website in php.

    • Onyeka A. says:

      I take it you don’t code.. at all. Your comments reek of a lack of appreciation for the field. The Indian developers you’re comparing with didn’t learn their craft in 3 months. And their cheap prices are a result of their environment tbh.

      • Taiwo J Orilogbon says:

        actually some of them did, it’s just that they end up giving guys like me nightmare when you inherit such code.

      • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

        You are right. I don’t code. I build businesses. Coding when I have to do it is a path to somewhere – a business. I do the frameworks with a lot of libraries and bring in the experienced experts when I have an MVP.

        And I have seen pretty good products come out of 3 month coding bootcamp where someone went from no knowledge of code to pretty good knowledge of code. Some of these have gone on to sell for millions of dollars.

        Infosys is about 6 months of training for non technical people and it is best in its class really. I think you could get programmers half as good as the ones from infosys in 3 months.

        I absolutely respect the profession, I just think we need to create jobs very fast or Nigeria will go to shits and I don’t know any other industry where someone can go from no knowledge of code to building world class products in 6 months.

        • Onyeka A. says:

          Well, that’s why in organized environments that actually care about quality, they get reasonably experienced people to work on important projects and newbies to tag along for the learning experience. I’m not saying don’t train people, but yikes, don’t let them build your actual product from scratch!

          The people in the industry, worldwide, who have built actual ‘world class’ products didn’t do it with 3 months of learning. Or 6. It might WORK okay sort of, but the backend would probably make an expert cry, or at the first sign of growth/stress the system falls apart. Twitter was built by experts and it still took years before we stopped seeing those fail whales every day.

          Like you said, there’s no industry where this is done, and I don’t see why tech should be different just because it’s less ‘structured’. I could learn the basics of carpentry in a month, but no one worth their salt is going to let me build an entire house. You said Nigerian developers aren’t good, but you’re advocating for people with 6 months’ experience to build world class products (not sure how you can tell since you said yourself you can’t ascertain code quality). K.

          However, if this is the approach you want to use that works, more power to you, but I believe you’re also the one who dismissed the importance of good quality UI/UX because ‘functionality is all that matters’. So yes, you might say you respect the field, but as you see it more of a means to an end, you don’t APPRECIATE the work and experience required and honestly, it’s not the attitude this industry needs to grow to one of international standards. I saw you mentioned paying $400 a month for someone’s time and skill. That is.. for lack of better words, terrible. I know semi-literate drivers that make more.

          Like Francis uptop mentioned, let’s get rid of anyhowness.

          • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

            First I never said I let new people build my actual products from scratch. I said demos. No one really cares so long as they look like they work.

            I hire only very experienced developers. At fora we have three all of whom have significant enterprise backgrounds at some of the largest companies in the world, blackberry, open text to mention a few. I can’t discuss compensation here but we pay really well (they earn more than me) and we offer very generous stock options too (m

            But when you are starting out you don’t need to pay 5k/head to a developer for something you are not sure will work yet. Esp when you don’t have 5k. That’s not being unkind or irresponsible it’s just common business sense.

            Also please let’s not get high on our

          • Onyeka A. says:

            You’re right, enough talk. Because to reply would require me to sound like an asshole, and there’s no need for that.

          • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

            Fair enough. I’ld love to hear what you have against me in person though if you are up for that. I’ll reach out privately because I am sure we are just misunderstanding each other.

    • Tosin Davies-Tuase says:

      This touches on many issues:

      i. Good developer: Good at what? If you are building a simple CRUD(GIGO) platform, it isn’t impossible for a smart person to pick up a programming lang and produce something tangible in 3 months. But a serious application such as AI driven platform or efficient video processing platform would take a much longer time; it would require a whole lot more than just knowing how to write codes.

      ii. Good code: Well there are more than one ways to calculate 500! Some would require a supercomputer while some would run on your tablet.

      iii. Earning and learning: I share the belief that earning money and having specific targets would accelerate the learning curve.

      iv. Freelancing: Then on using Odesk or other freelancing platform, I advice non-techie founders to get at least a second developer(or techie co-founder) to review the codes. A good no of codes that I have reviewed are nothing to write home about, and those codes are written by developers from places as diverse as India, Malaysia, Poland and Russia. Just to stress ii.

      v. Local developer: Or any developer at that, revert to the freelancing section at least until you can trust the output of the developer.

    • Cheefoo says:

      You are setting your project up for a super super flop if you get developers without fundamentals of computer science….

      • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

        well we’ll see. We got a lot of developers with “fundamentals of computer science”. The ones without the background seem to be doing better and completing projects faster.

    • Alabi says:

      Ur statement is logically false. I train people on web development and the content is HTML, CSS JS, PHP & MySQL structured for 2 months. To make life ease for them and myself I teach them Xhtml 4.0 strict, css2 and procedural PHP. And more than 90% of the class could hardly complete their course project of building a simple Online Library System.

  • Mark Essien says:

    When it comes to developing local software talent, the local companies are the only ones actually contributing to it. Konga has a 20 man developer team, all Nigerian. Interswitch does their development in Nigeria. All of the banks have local developer teams. Even us, Hotels.ng use a local in-house developer.

    The foreign invested companies are the ones using foreign teams, e.g Rocket does its entire development in Europe, billing MTN for that, paid for by your recharge cards.

    I cannot think of any foreign company doing software development in Nigeria. But there are thousands of Nigerian companies doing so.

    Nigerians don’t have faith in Nigerians, but Nigerians are some of the best developers in the world. Good development needs good project management, so the fault can lie in two directions.

    • Donnie Ibiyemi says:

      True talk. Nigeria has a lot of highly skilled developer/designers (although the most talented ones are not in Yaba/Lagos as Techcabal would wants us to think) so there is no deficit of talent.But what we have is a huge deficit of trust. Nigerians don’t trust made in Nigeria ware.If we can solve the issue of trust then we can easily innovate our way into the History books.BTW Mr Essien when is Hotels.ng expanding to South Sudan, just incase you jave not noticed. everybody is going there.lol

    • niyoma says:

      Mark agree we have the talent (or potential) but will question how easy it is to find this talent – numbers. It’s not like there is some heavy proliferation of talent out there.

      My other quibble is that there is a global demand for good devs but appears the good ones are doing 9-5s or busy building products for themselves. Not everyone should be chasing this startup dream. In fact I would go as far as saying we are too consumed in building startups. We need the builders IMHO to get anywhere. Even Konga you mention only started insourcing their development work.

      Small software houses earn a good deal of money. Nigeria is well placed to be highly competitive doing dev work and BPO services if you ask me (and I am not talking building startups alone). I can think of many reasons why we can start to pinch some of the global market but our key advantages are around cost base and English being our 1st language.

      What I want to see is small software houses that provide solutions for both local and global market needs at competitive pricing.

      • Peter Akporume says:

        “the good ones are doing 9-5s or busy building products for themselves” What sort of Statement is that?
        If you hire the developer is he not still doing 9-5s for you, if it is a developer without ambitions of starting up his own company, do you not expect him to leave you for better pay? You are contradicting yourself with this line.

      • Mark Essien says:

        Very few software developers are chasing the startup dream. Most are doing software for companies as freelancers.

    • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

      Mark it is not a matter of faith my brother. It is a matter of cost. Konga’s 20 man developer team is not cheap. So also are the banks and interswitch and etc. You have ONE in house developer (who I am sure you personally trained). For the quality you can get at the price you want, you will do better in Eastern Europe and Asia. Even Canada.

      This is just the fact.

      • Mark Essien says:

        A romanian contractor will take$1500/month. Pay N250k/month, you will find a developer of his standard. A Silicon Valley Developer will take $8000/month. Pay 1.2m/month to a nigerian developer, you will find his standard.

        If you pay the price, you get roughly the same quality as what you pay for. And in Nigeria, you actually get better quality than what you pay for (as compared globally).

        I did not train any of the Nigerian developers I’ve worked with. They came with their skills.

        • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

          My own experience, I got a pretty good developer from Azerbijan for $600/month. Got another good one from Indian company for a previous project for $400/month. I don’t know enough code to ascertain for quality but they got product right. Both hired off O desk.

          But I don’t doubt you will get better quality than what you pay for in Nigeria as opposed to other countries. That is certainly true. My issue is hiring good developers tends to cost more money than startups can afford so they are better off offshoring to the $200/app guy to get started and they can rebuild later.

          • ajibz says:

            I think the real question here is what are you “developing” there is a distinction between web developer and software developer.

          • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

            Sure if we are going to split hairs. One was a web developer and the other was an app developer. Normal people (like me) don’t care. We just want our app or our website done. No fuss.

          • fadeyi says:

            They have come again oh? What is the difference between a web developer and a software developer? ehn? A web developer develops software that is consumed and use over the web.

            Maybe na web designer you wan talk? if not, then you are just confusing yourself by not understanding what you are talking about o.

            My 50kobo!

          • Taiwo J Orilogbon says:

            Lol

          • Seye says:

            Come guy! There is a huge difference in development platforms. Content is mostly what differentiates them, then you can add skill. I am a game developer and i can boldly tell you i can swap for a software developer anytime. Not really the case vice versa

          • fadeyi says:

            Mr Game developer, the game you dey develop no be software? maybe na playplayware? Right?

            It is exasperating that you are tripping over basic taxonomy like this!

          • k'net says:

            Oya tell me the difference

    • Chike Ikeorah says:

      when would this argument stop?foreign invested companies and local companies?Konga and DealDey was built by vinsol.com, they just recently started recruiting developers.

      I have been a developer for over 7 years and i have a lot of developer friends, very few are well paid and have great work conditions. Everyone wants great developers, but do not want to pay well, nor provide great work tools, trainings to make the developer skill betta.

      Employers are do not want to give anything but want to take.

      Abeg, next…

  • Freshboi Ekundayo says:

    im currently lookin for Developers to work with as Co-founders or on my Engineering team…would need directions… i just cant hop into CcHub sayin im lookin for a developer…any leads to where u can get them?

    • Taiwo J Orilogbon says:

      Yes you can! lol. See in this kind of hardships people experience in Nigeria, what are you willing to offer to make someone with a constant flow of income called “salary” leave his/her job to follow you?

    • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

      Get a proof of concept done by paying someone in Nigeria or on odesk, start ops or raise cash and then hire an engineer. Very difficult to find cofounder engineers in Nigeria except you have a Rolodex, or a fat wallet.

    • Stan Onyime says:

      If you are serious shoot me an email: stan AT acadar.com

  • Donfelix Odoh says:

    Yes, there is a short supply. For example i went into a certain tech talent community and some of the good nigerian developers there are already booked.

  • Seye says:

    Yes please lets drop the discussion. We all programmers, know we can’t be good coders in 3 months. Have 4 years experience and still think i suck

  • adeleke says:

    We have a lot of talented programmers but most of them are in secure, well renumerated jobs,especially banks or telecoms, and I don’t blame them . As for the nigerian freelancers, the really good ones I have seen on elance or freelancer are not really into your boring project. Try the east european and chinese instead. Run from the Indian.

  • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

    So I stopped talking and I’m in the game now. Please if you know anyone who you think could never possibly be a developer in 3 months, encourage them to apply : http://iyinoluwa.org/post/84696961562/no-experience-required

  • Alabi Rasheed says:

    So Sad. Who will take the lead in organizing a 1 year professional training to the potentials and not think of getting high pay? I am a potential professional programmer and would appreciate any such training. There is always a way to pay for such initiative beyond our imaginations.

  • Stan Onyime says:

    To tackle this problem, I am about to launch Hack Academy, a sort of hacker school to grow competent developers in Africa. What we have in Nigeria now are more of Joomla/Drupal customizers than hackers

  • Iyinoluwa Aboyeji says:

    We are hiring again for our next class of developers. Would be great if people could spread the word : https://app.plum.io/posting/lagos_office_it_training_and_job.html?pos=280

  • seunope says:

    There is wind of change… Let us start charting the course gradually if those responsible to do it can’t see it. It is our life and our time.

Comments are closed.