There was an old tweet from Mr Tomi Davies that was about how we can fix Nigerian tech. The chorus that has been echoed for years is always about how Nigeria lacks good developers. This statement may be true. However, another true statement is that Nigeria has produced a lot of good developers.
So how come there is still a skills shortage in almost every area of tech? From my little experience in the industry, a lot of companies don’t have competent dedicated IT staff, and this is a large majority.
The real problem is the revolving door of technology/developers in Nigeria. I often say that developers are not stupid. This seems like a given, but it is amazing how many Nigerian companies take this lightly. A lot of software developers in Nigeria have made the transition to business men, travelled abroad for further education or better job prospects, e.t.c.
As an example, for about every 1000 new entrants into the tech world, there are probably 500 exits of skilled veterans transitioning out of the field. This is merely a speculative number as it is not trivial to get accurate numbers. The effects of this are devastating — like a plant that is ever green which never grows, new entrants have to repeat the learning cycle that was already undertaken by their predecessors, make similar mistakes and when they are finally at the zenith, they are also on their way out, reinforcing the problem. A proper foundation to build upon isn’t available. There are no old and bold developers.
Why does this problem exist and what steps can be taken to change this positively?
The keyword here is VALUE. Companies do not value their assets well enough to have a long term view of the impact that asset has on the company, they also fail to realize that software development is a global skill and niche experts are coveted across borders. Placing short term value on your developers will only lead to quicken their eventual exit.
CFO asks CEO: What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?
CEO: What happens if we don’t, and they stay?
Value: Developers who feel underutilized will seek fulfillment in other places. If this doesn’t cause their immediate exit, they will prioritize what they value more. 80 – 90% of things said during interviews are mostly sweet talk and hardly any of it becomes reality after you sign on, except you push really really hard for it. Promises of breaking new ground become secondary to revenue mining. Employers can solve this by tempering expectations early or keeping a road map of each employee from inception and ensuring they agree and adhere to the development goals outlined for their own benefit. It will greatly increase their value and that of your company.
Innovation: Even though the company is your brain child, you should take into account that many developers have their brain children as well, and if properly nurtured can turn into immense value for your company. Acceptable standards and procedures need to be set to ensure that everyone is clear about the priorities and obligations. Each side’s responsibilities need to be met to ensure operations run smoothly. If the ambitious innovation of an employee is not in the goals of your organisation, it would be appropriate to advise possible routes to seeing it developed into a viable product or business. Although this is much easier said than done.
Communication: This is key to ensuring your developers are highly motivated and fulfilled in your organisation. It is also paramount to be fairly transparent about matters of pay, incentives, bonuses, promotions etc. Shrouding this in mystery may lead to harsh reactions once the curtain is pulled. People need to know early what their growth prospects are in your company and if it tallies with what they hope for themselves.
These are my two cents. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, “I used to be a developer”… you get the point.
With all that has been said, people come and people go, it is a way of life, but if the people coming are almost the same number as people leaving, then the ecosystem is perambulating around the same spot. It is important to hedge the outflow and collectively improve the Nigerian technology ecosystem.