Christina Sass

Co Founder and COO at Andela. Formerly at The MasterCard Foundation and The Clinton Global Initiative

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON August 17, 2017

Discussion

Christina Sass@sasschristina · Co-Founder and COO, Andela
Hi - I'm Christina, Co-Founder & COO of Andela, a company that identifies and invests in Africa's most talented software developers. We then place those developers as full-time distributed employees with companies from all over the world looking to overcome the tech talent shortage and build high performing engineering teams. I'm based in NYC but spend just as much time traveling back and forth to Andela's Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda campuses. I fundamentally believe that brilliance is evenly distributed and that the future of technology will be written in Lagos, Nairobi, Kampala, and cities across Africa. Excited to hear from you all -- ask me anything!
Nick Abouzeid@nickabouzeid · Words at Product Hunt ✌️
What does success look like for you?
Christina Sass@sasschristina · Co-Founder and COO, Andela
@nickabouzeid Hi Nick. Success in 5 years looks like thriving Andela offices in 5 more countries, partners around the world that find "Andela" to be synonymous with top tech talent from all over Africa and Andela graduates and alumni starting companies, building products, leading tech teams, and serving as leaders in their communities.
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What is your morning routine?
Christina Sass@sasschristina · Co-Founder and COO, Andela
@jakecrump Coffee coffee NPR coffee Lots of Slack messages coffee NYT
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
What growth tips can you share with the Product Hunt community?
Christina Sass@sasschristina · Co-Founder and COO, Andela
@jacqvon Jacquleine, growing quickly is its own beast. One of the things we think about constantly is how we maintain the thriving culture that we want even as we bring on lots and lots of new people every month. We are certainly still learning, but the one thing I would share that we've done right is to explicitly make it know that everyone at Andela owns the culture. As my Country Director in Nigeria, Seni Sulyman, says: "You aren't just joining Andela. You ARE Andela." That kind of ownership is the most powerful way to ensure that all new Andelans feel connected to and empowered to build and shape the culture even as we grow quickly.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What have been the biggest challenges in getting Angela off the ground? How did you overcome them?
Christina Sass@sasschristina · Co-Founder and COO, Andela
@ems_hodge Thanks, Emily. One of the things I love most about the Andela team is our ability to rally around a common challenge and seek out creative solutions. When we first launched in Lagos, we had long dinners with our first cohorts of software developers and just listened to all their challenges - long commutes in terrible traffic, lack of good quality high speed internet, lack of mentors in their career paths. We basically aligned the team to knocking out these challenges one by one. We got housing to avoid long commutes, we put the fiber cable right into our offices, we sought out technical mentors from around the world.
Francisco Mendoza De La Miyar@franciscomendozadelamiyar · Co-Founder of Cargo Click
Hey Christina, truly intrigued by your solution for software developers in less opportunistic countries. Which brings up my biggest concern, should we be teaching the next generation to code when the looming presence of supercomputers is closer every day, a skill which requires a higher understanding and talent to program. Or do you think there will still be a vast need for general software development?
Christina Sass@sasschristina · Co-Founder and COO, Andela
@franciscomendozadelamiyar HI Francisco. Looking at the amount of open tech jobs right now, I would say the prospect of replacing them all with supercomputers anytime soon would be a high-class problem. That said, I want Andela developers to be programming those supercomputers to solve the world’s most pressing challenges. Based on the sheer number of new internet users entering African markets every day, I don’t see a time in the near future where we won’t need highly skilled software developers to build products for a global consumer base.
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What inspired you to build Andela?
Christina Sass@sasschristina · Co-Founder and COO, Andela
@jakecrump Thanks for this. Conversations with thousands of young people around the world inspired me to build Andela. What I found was that across the globe, education systems were still not connecting young people directly with jobs - with life long career paths. It was that gap in the labor market and the passion of so many young people that led me to seek out my own solution.
Sara Mitchell@sara_mitchell · Almedina Ltd
Hi Christina, I recently became involved in an early stage tech startup. My background is in economics, so I have definitely found myself in unfamiliar territory. I am trying to read a lot to learn as much as I can about the tech startup scene, but I've been disheartened recently with a lot of the stories making their way through the media...and even a few experiences of my own. I know that we have a good idea. I can see the need for it in the work I did in academia during my PhD and now in economic consulting (my day job) with the various clients the company serves. I know my startup partner (the software developer) has done an amazing job turning rough ideas into an elegant solution. Yet, for the first time in a long time, I am quite frequently second-guessing or doubting myself. I'm having a hard time finding my voice in an industry where it is difficult to stand out and, unfortunately, where some people are more likely to doubt my credibility or the value of my ideas simply because I am a woman. I was wondering if you had any thoughts or advice that might help me (or anyone in a similar position) regain some lost confidence. Thanks for your insight! :)
Ashish Patel@ashishbpatel
What is the biggest challenge you face with a technology company in the developing world that is taken for granted in the developed world?
chuchu@mojo706 · Developer, Andela
What impact has Andela had on your life, especially working with Africans, what misconceptions did you have and have they changed?
Christina Sass@sasschristina · Co-Founder and COO, Andela
@mojo706 Hi Chuchu. Thanks for this question. Andela has no doubt changed my entire life. It's hard for me to even express the richness and fullness I've gained by working with my colleagues in Lagos, Nairobi, and Kampala. They challenge me. They push me to grow and think differently. They tolerate my somewhat cheesy camp counselor traditions. They enlist me in everything from community projects to musical groups to soccer matches to raging dance parties. I cannot imagine my life without them.
Christina Sass@sasschristina · Co-Founder and COO, Andela
@mojo706 I had so many misconceptions. One of the facts I share with people often is about the tech scenes in Nairobi and Lagos. I ask people to think of the first time they ever transferred money on their mobile phones. Meanwhile, the Masaai tribe - one the oldest tribes on the planet - has been transferring money on their mobile phones since 2007 in Kenya! We have so much to learn from these tech ecosystems. Even at Andela, we're just scratching the surface.
Ayrton De Craene@ayrton · Code @ Product Hunt
What is the number one piece of advice you ever received? How did this impact you?
Christina Sass@sasschristina · Co-Founder and COO, Andela
@ayrton "Find purpose. The means will follow." That was Gandhi - wish he had given it to me personally, but nonetheless, this piece of advice drives me every day. Even during the hardest most challenges days at Andela, I wake up fired up and ready to keep working, keep problem-solving because it is my life's purpose.
Rehema Wachira@remy_stack · Software developer, Andela
Hi Christina, what are some of the qualities that define high performing engineering teams? How do the Andela developers embody those?
Christina Sass@sasschristina · Co-Founder and COO, Andela
@remy_stack Hi Rehema! Two qualities that we seek out that might not be obvious are 1. high social and emotional intelligence and 2. ability to receive feedback and quickly incorporate it. We also look for more traditional qualities like problem-solving and logical reasoning. However, the main differentiator in Andela developers and other developers is that they are on a larger mission. They are not looking for a 9 to 5 job - they are deeply investing in building the next generation of tech talent across the continent. When they reply to a partner about a problem, it is not just about fixing that bug in a system. It's about building a global reputation that proves African tech talent can change the world.
Winson@winsonng12 · Bitcoin @ CoinZodiac.com
What currently on your reading list? Can you name some of your fav books?
Christina Sass@sasschristina · Co-Founder and COO, Andela
@winsonng12 Thanks, Winson. On a plane yesterday, I just finished a book about how the Cubs won the World Series for the first time since 1908. I was drawn to it because of a critical similarity in their recruiting tactics and Andelas---we both seek out people with impeccable character. Very interesting read.
Winson@winsonng12 · Bitcoin @ CoinZodiac.com
What characteristics do you admire in people?
Winson@winsonng12 · Bitcoin @ CoinZodiac.com
What advice would you give millennials or the iGenerations trying to start their own company?
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
If you had to swap lives with a tech CEO who would it be and why?
Ingari A. Joan@joan_ingari · Software Developer
Hi Christina, do you have any mentors? and who are they?
Christina Sass@sasschristina · Co-Founder and COO, Andela
@joan_ingari I feel incredibly blessed with a truly outstanding group of mentors. I've learned immensely from leaders like Fred Swaniker of African Leadership University and Patrick Awauh of Ashesi. I also have incredible female mentors - both more advanced in their careers than me and less. Reeta Roy of the MasterCard Foundation is one of the most humble and thoughtful leaders I know. So is Ann Cotton of Camfed. I also learn from Tolu Komolafe, a developer in our second cohort in Lagos, every day.
Stefan Dunjic@stefdvb · Head of Product, Joule Assets
What are some cool products developers from Andela have been working on? Also, what's the story behind the name of the org?
Christina Sass@sasschristina · Co-Founder and COO, Andela
@stefdvb We're about to hit 500 Andela developers this month..! They're working on engineering teams for just over 100 leading tech companies around the world, ranging from IBM and Viacom to venture-backed startups like Gusto, CrunchBase and Zapier. They're also building out internal products that we use to scale Andela, such as our internal Stack Overflow clone and systems that we use to track developer growth and learning velocity.
Christina Sass@sasschristina · Co-Founder and COO, Andela
@stefdvb Our name: My cofounder and dear friend Jeremy Johnson and I named Andela on a call in May 2014. We wanted something that everyone in the company could own and feel connected to. We wanted something that translated to a global audience. We were inspired by global youth leaders and movements. The instant we came up with Andela, we loved it and it stuck!
Stefan Dunjic@stefdvb · Head of Product, Joule Assets
@sasschristina Thanks, sounds like you're doing really well. Wish you all the best in the future!
Chad Whitaker@chadwhitaker · Product Designer at Product Hunt 👋
What are your top fundraising tips for first time founders?
David Adamu@alternatedayve · Maker.
Hi Christina, Big follower of Andela here (& the EPIC values). How does Andela manage to maintain and scale its Culture across different countries? Also, do you think publicly showcasing your Culture is directly related to the quality of hires seeking to join your team?