Nadayar Enegesi is a co-founder and director of learning and development at Andela, a company that trains African developers and hires them out to global tech companies. Andela has offices in the US, Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
Being ignorant of the truth that [the] career paths of team members are critical in business strategy.
Our first training team at Andela was a band of young, skilled, driven, and passionate engineers.
In 2016, we decided to move to a more scientific and scalable learning model.
We built a beautiful and inspiring strategy. However, we did not invest time in thinking about the career paths and desires of our team and how they fit into the long-term strategy.
As a result – even if the team members were passionate and driven – they found it difficult to see themselves in the future of the team. Consequently, we lost 80% of that team. I was heartbroken for a year.
With that lesson in mind, we built the learning team with career paths in mind, and have attracted a new band of experienced, personable, and energetic engineers.
Now, Andela takes its employees’ career paths seriously. We look forward to getting to a point where we can share our people management practices with the rest of the ecosystem.
2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?
I’m proud of Andela’s team.
Anyone can start a company to scout talent and connect them to global opportunities. [But] no one else can build Andela. Why? Because Andela’s team is the secret sauce.
Our team is a diverse blend of nationalities, personalities, professional expertise, and mental models. This has led to a collaborative environment, where knowledge sharing is the norm and everyone is organically motivated to level up on a daily basis.
It’s no surprise that Andelans who have spent at least 18 months at Andela compare their growth in that short period to growth experienced [during] multiple years at other workplaces.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
The speed of decision-making.
I already mentioned how Andela’s strength is our team and how we outcompete through diversity. I believe that the diversity of input into a decision materially increases the quality of the decision.
Sometimes, this implies that the decision-making process is slower, which may not be favourable in the short run when you’re a startup.
In the long run, however, walking further to incorporate diverse input in a decision-making process increases trust in the company, which leads to more committed team members – that’s a massive benefit.
4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
“Before your series A, you hire missionaries; afterwards, you need mercenaries to succeed.”
In this popular nugget of entrepreneurial advice, “missionaries” refers to people with limited expertise and exposure, but have passion for the mission.
“Mercenaries” refers to seasoned professionals [who] only care about execution and how much they are paid for their work. Many companies have proven that you can foster a vibrant culture by blending the need for expert executors with an ethos of purpose and mission.
We are mission mercenaries at Andela. As a result, we have scaled to 900-plus employees with a 90% retention rate since our founding.
And we continue to put thought and effort in our team’s ability to learn and grow in expertise and size as we scale.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?
“Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint.”
I was familiar with the conventional wisdom but never internalised or paid attention to it. I wish I knew that deciding to be an entrepreneur meant deciding to be estranged from family and friends if not managed. If I knew, I would have [prepared] them better.
However, in the process, I’ve built an additional network of family and friends. And I’m grateful for that.
6. Name a business opportunity you would still like to pursue.
I’d love to materialise my phantom record label, RackCity Records, to empower people to share happiness, positive messages, and fun through music regardless of their actual musical talent.
For instance, Andela’s offices in our five countries came together to create a song and video about two of our favourite productivity tools – Slack and Trello.
I’m not sure about the actual business model side of it, but it’s definitely fun.
‘The journey so far’ series is edited by Wilhelmina Maboja, with copy editing by Xolisa Phillip, and content production by Justin Probyn and Nelly Murungi.