Close your eyes for a minute and picture this: A few years from now, you take a stroll in Yaba, the beating heart of the Nigerian tech space, and the characteristic colour and vibe is drained out –a depressing and gloomy array of grey tech firms in its place, name placards are dropping off, and dangerous cobwebs don the walls.
Picture that, and you would have seen what the Nigerian tech scene could transform to in a few years –a ghost of its present self, set loose by the lack of a sustainable structure that can dynamically discover, groom, and create a stimulating environment for the growth of local developers.
We at hotels.ng understand and appreciate this threat, and it led us to invite and manage over 170 interns in a move that had a singular aim –developing the next generation of developers. We understand that aiding the growth and discipline of developers in the collaborative environment that the internship provided will create a ripple effect that will improve the quality and output from our tech scene in Nigeria.
We accepted 177 interns for our remote internship program. As of now, 100+ more people have applied already. People want to learn.
— Mark Essien (@markessien) August 17, 2016
In mid-August, Mark sent out a tweet to the world, inviting young people with basic coding knowledge to an internship programme irrespective of their academic background in a move aimed at prioritizing skill over certification. In just two days, the tweet had drawn over a 100 applications –proof that people were hungry to learn. The number would quickly soar to over 170 applications, a number that excited us and that created new challenges –office space for hosting the developers, and a fair remuneration package for the interns.
In our typical fashion of providing simple yet effective solutions, we adapted by making the intern developers work remotely and also designed a funnel system to reward the developers that showed the most passion to learn and creatively deliver. Just as a funnel converges to a small opening at the bottom, we retained only those who had shown great passion and creativity as the days passed by, paying them for tasks completed, and ending up with 30 interns after 2 weeks and eventually some 15 brilliant developers that completed the entire programme and walked out on the 16th of November, 2016 through our doors as pro developers.
Hotels.ng had a big story to tell, and together with everyone that reacted to that tweet from Mark in August, 2016, we did –spectacularly.
We wanted to tell a story that would demystify computer programming, one that would attribute great coding to hard work, passion and grit, and not to mere talent or genius, and with Vanessa Ekwegh, we did just that. Vanessa, before the commencement of the internship programme had never written code for the web, and she ended up as one of the outstanding participants, eking out a spot in the final 15.
We had to rewrite the all too familiar story – of Nigeria’s best talent being shipped abroad, and William Olojede, a Nigerian schooling and remotely participating from Cyprus did that for us, perfecting program front ends with the same ethos of minimalism, responsiveness and intuitive simplicity that runs through the entire company.
A story had to be told, of Nigeria’s abundance of hidden geniuses who only need to be located and placed in an engaging and competitive environment to thrive and with Stephen Afam-Osmene, a developer that started his university education at 14 and picked up programming at a very early age, we told that story.
We had to tell a story that painted pictures of the Nigerian spirit, perseverance, and grit, of ingenuity and the characteristic one-way-or-the-otherness, and every single one of the finalists did that for us – coding in cyber cafes where they could get electricity, coding back home and throughout the night on their phones when their laptop batteries ran dry, and making big sacrifices to learn and grow. They helped to tell stories of passion, of tenacity.
We wanted to show to the world that young and smart people can learn on the job, and in a display of efficiency that would stun even the most experienced HR managers, Faith Dike, one of the finalists managed and helped coordinate the entire project, and the entire 170 through virtual collaboration software.
We wanted to tell big stories in simple ways, show to the world that Nigeria’s tech space can rise to the heights of India’s Bangalore, China’s Zhongguancun, and California’s Silicon Valley, and we did show the potential. We couldn’t have told this story better than through launch of four heavyweight projects that the interns helped developed and that will revolutionize our approach to some basic everyday processes:
- Spots.ng – a listing software for points of interests and attractions in Nigeria,
- Raven – a simplified in-house mailing system,
- Locations API – a searchable database of locations worldwide,
- Hotels.ng for Businesses, a project that is being optimized for premium delivery.
In the same spirit of hiring and grooming the best minds at hotels.ng with the anticipation that they become internet entrepreneurs themselves or work for other tech firms, we anticipated a problem in the Nigerian tech space, and went right ahead to show Nigeria a solution that works with the expectation that soon the idea of technical and goal oriented internships become an established norm.
By January, 2017, yet another edition of the Remote Internship Programme shall commence with the primary aim of identifying, grooming and developing the next generation of developers.
Are you ready?