By Laju Iren
A LITTLE over three weeks ago, very few people knew Blessing Ebowe. Although a smart software developer, her fame was limited to friends, loved ones and her colleagues at Andela. Andela itself is another story altogether. Andela is a startup coding school, which recruits intelligent, local talent through a rigorous testing and interview process and then pays each student each month, with benefits.
Many of the recruits are young men and women in their mid-twenties about to enter the job market. With campuses in Nigeria and Kenya, Andela’s business model centres on training these students to be proficient in software and web development, before making their talent available to companies around the world in need of engineering talent.
Launched with six students September 2014, the venture founded by two Nigerians, two Americans, one Candian and one Camerounian has quickly grown to become a tech entity in its own right; adding even more stripes as it received a $24 million Series B funding round from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative founded by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan earlier this year. But it was Zuckerberg’s visit to Nigeria that made the company a household name and changed everything for Ebowe.
The Facebook founder’s live chat with developers and entrepreneurs in Lagos has garnered over 3.5 million views from around the world, doing for the country’s image what years of international relations and billions of dollars could never do. His honest assessment of the Nigerian people could make anyone realise that the country isn’t just defined by fraudsters and terrorists. His words: The thing that is striking for me is the entrepreneurial energy. When you are trying to build something, what matters the most is just who wants it the most. You feel that here in Nigeria.
As soon as you get off the plane and start talking to people, you feel the passion and the entrepreneurial energy. I can tell you two stories just from last night when I talked to probably not more than 100 people and I was really blown away.
Ebowe happened to be first Nigerian he mentioned meeting on his trip. He said: “I had the opportunity to meet Blessing Ebowe, she told me the story of how she applied to the Andela program and the first time she didn’t get in and that didn’t stop her, she showed up anyway and she showed up again. They figured that they had to give her a try.”
Now, Ebowe relives her meeting with the world’s seventh richest man in an encounter with Hi-Tech.
Who is Blessing Ebowe?
BLESSING Ebowe is a software developer at Andela who is interested in utilising the creative power of programming to optimise human efforts in daily life.
At Andela, Blessing has worked with Ruby on Rails to build web applications, APIs, and command-line gems. One of the web applications she has worked on helps event organisers to manage promotions, ticket sales, email notifications and website sub-domains for their events, more easily.
She has also worked with the PEAN stack to implement new features on a web application used within Andela to record, track, and analyse performance assessments of developers conducted by the developers themselves, their peers, and their trainers.
She is currently leading a team at Andela that is contributing to Free Code Camp, an open source project that helps users learn how to code, connect with other developers in their local community, and build technology solutions for non-profits.
She is currently also part of The Releaf Group team working as Quality Assurance engineers, ensuring software products are standard.
Blessing graduated from the University of Benin with a degree in electrical engineering.
What was it like meeting Mark Zuckerberg in person?
It was awesome, not just because I got to see Mark Zuckerberg in person, but because through our conversation, I got to understand, to some extent, who he is, what he believes in, his passion and what drives him.
What did you both talk about?
We talked about the challenges of being a software developer here in Nigeria, and how I got into Andela; how much my journey at Andela has improved me not just as a developer but also as an individual.
From your discussions, how would you describe Zuckerberg’s perspective of the IT ecosystem in Nigeria and Africa as a whole?
I can boldly say he believes in us not because he assumes that we will rule the technology world but because he has seen the proof, especially at Andela where the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative invested in Series B round .
If you were to mention one thing you learned from the visit, what would it be?
From this visit, it really sank that brilliance is evenly distributed and opportunity is not, as our co-founder, Jeremy Johnson says.