I am Emeka Afigbo Google's Program Manager for Developer Relations, Ask me anything


#1

Hello Radar community. This is Emeka Afigbo. I’m currently the Program Manager of Developer Relations at Google. For the past four years I have worked to help grow the Sub Saharan African tech ecosystem and it’s been an interesting journey. I’m excited to be here. Ask me anything! .
Needless to say, my answers will represent my views and not necessarily those of Google…or anyone else :smile:


Today's AMA Session is with Emeka Afigbo, Program Manager of Developer Relations at Google
#4

You can start dropping your questions for Emeka right away. He’ll start responding by 5pm.


Ma question
#5

You can start dropping your questions for Emeka right away. He’ll start responding by 5pm.


#8

Emeka,

Thanks for hosting this. What would you consider the current maturity state of the tech ecosystem in sub saharan africa and what do you think are the next logical steps to keep improving the state of technology in parts of africa?

There is a growing number of developers within africa but it appears there isn’t quite as many services requiring their expertise. How can folks contribute to the build-out of this aspect of the industry?

Thanks,
Olufikunmi


#9

Emeka I will like to thank you for a job well done considering your support towards the GDG community. It has helped inspire us and our audience of technical background and the offline content initiative is just super. My question will be, how do you measure the effectiveness of the offline content?…:smile:


#10

Hi @nke_ise

I’m really excited that perhaps the most enthusiastic developer evangelist Nigeria could have has joined us on Radar. I have been “stalking” you for years. For one who’s so active with developer communities offline, your social media profiles give us precious little to go on. I guess I’m saying that because you don’t provide as much blogging fodder as I would like :smile:

In a 2013 blog post about “boiling the ocean” for local developer talent, you said:

Do not take it for granted that you will find fresh developers who have a deep knowledge of you coding methodology especially when you have never taken time to impart this knowledge to them. You should even take it a step further and reach out to the developers in the community before they come to you to ask for a job. Offer to hold free trainings to introduce people to how you do what you do. Teach them your frameworks.

How has your thinking changed in the past 3 years, indeed, if it has, about the state of local developer talent? Has the situation improved noticeably, or is it still necessary to boil gallons of ocean to find the coders?


#11

Hi Emeka!

I want to say a big thank you for all the help and resources you have channeled into creating a vibrant developer ecosystem in SSA. I know we have not gotten there yet but at least, the awareness is getting better and more volunteers are championing this course.

My first question is how do Nigerian upcoming developers (Those still in the Universities) get equipped with the skills required to work in tech companies like Google? I know that what our Universities are teaching our computer science students are not the kind of skill that High level tech companies like Google uses for developing their products. Example technologies like Android, Google Cloud, Java, Python, Angular JS and other cool techs are not being thought in our schools.

Does it mean that a computer science graduate from any Nigerian University cannot work with Google?
The second question is what level of support is Google ready to give to wannabe developers?

Thanks and keep championing the dev ecosystem…


#12

Hello Emeka,
Your making it to Google is already too inspiring…

So I would ask you, what have you learnt so far as to what you think Africa needs to do to create global brands like Google…and secondly, will you start or fund any company soon?

Thirdly, what will it take to get you on an advisory board of a startup straight outta Nigeria?


#13

Hi Emeka,

Today, you are on the hot seat :smile:

So my questions -

  1. In your line of work - contributing to help grow this our ecosystem, which one thing has
    been the most rewarding moment of your experience so far? And also, the most frustrating?

  2. What can we do to inspire the air of experimenting and ‘just doing it’ around developers? Should it even be encouraged?

  3. What have you noticed about other ecosystems in Sub Saharan Africa that you feel we need to bring/emphasize more in Nigeria?

  4. At Google, I hear Googlers are encouraged to commit 20% of their time to something other than the usual ‘tasks’. What’s your 20%?

  5. Finally, do you still write code ?


#14

Hi Emeka,

Big fan of your work. One of the few “big tech” guys I knew when I was still an undergrad here in Lagos.

I have a couple of questions.

To start, I know you have been heavily involved with the Google Student Ambassadors program and also the GDG groups on campuses. Comparing the skill you have seen there with what obtains in more technologically developed countries, what would you say is lacking ?

From my knowledge(forgive any misconceptions), google does not take in too many Nigerians (schooled in Nigeria) into development positions, I would like to assume that this is due to a widespread technical debt. In your opinion what would be the best way of offsetting this debt.

I’ve seen the interns :smile: , how is life at google like ?

Finally:
Also like @dftaiwo asked, do you still code ?


#15

Hi Chief,

I have a few questions from East Africa

1.You have been working at Google for a while now and have have been able to see much of Africa from West-East-South and to the Central. Could you give us in your own opinion what you feel about the SSA eco-system in the mentioned regions, in relation to Community Spirit, Level of Expertise, Government Support and lastly the demand for developers?

2.What does it take for an African Bred Graduate to join Google ?

  1. As @dftaiwo asked I have to ask if you do stlll code ?

#16

Hi Emeka,
I am always inspire by your works.
my question is:
Will the Android Study group started in various Universities in SSA recently Sustained?
Most wannabe student developers keep asking me this.


#17

Hello @Olufikunmi_Ajayi,
Thank you for your questions .

I would place the Sub Saharan African Tech ecosystem as a whole as being in the “advanced startup stage” if there is such a thing.

While I agree with you that the number of developers in in Sub Saharan Africa has grown considerably in the last few years. , I am not sure I would totally agree with the point that there are not as many services requiring their expertise.

While there are no huge development firms that are doing for the software industry in Nigeria what the MTNs and Airtels are doing Infrastructure sector, from what I have seen, I would say that the supply of capable software developers is no where near the demand.
Pretty much every development shop I know is on the look out for good developers, the problem is that many of the good ones are either working for someone or are committed to their own startup and so are quite expensive to hire.

The key is in being able to create a steady pipeline of young developers who know their stuff and can be hired by companies in the startup and growth phase at an affordable rate.
This will achieve two things:

  • Give these young developers an opportunity to kick start their careers and grow their skills to a point where they can justify a higher paycheck
  • Enable the small companies who hired them to scale easily, earn more, grow bigger and be able to pay the developers more

This brings me to your other question which is what are the next steps to grow the ecosystem? To this I would reply:
Work at the problem from both ends.
What do I mean by this?

  • Continue to grow the pipeline of talent, this is already happening through a lot of the community work that companies like Google have been doing in the region (e.g Google Developer Groups, Udacity Nano Degrees etc) and the work that companies like Andela and Moringa are doing. Regardless of these efforts I think at the end of the day, our educational sector (Universities, polytechnics etc) has the ability to solve this problem once and for all (that is why they are there). In my opinion, the educational sector is the single largest difference between Sub Saharan Africa and India. To move forward we need to resurrect it…or disrupt it (I could talk about this for the entire day).
  • We need to see the first two or three software engineering oriented companies from Sub Saharan Africa that are totally home grown that are worth as much as any of the top 3 Nigerian banks or telcos. How? Useful deals and partnerships between the existing players. If you look at the story of Silicon valley in the mid 70s to mid 80s , you will see that the Apples and Microsofts of today worked together on a lot of things , indeed they still do. We need to have a similar mentality here (Again this is a discussion for another day).

Hope this helps


#18

Hello Muffy,

Always a pleasure.

Measuring the effectiveness of offline content is tough because as you know the content is offline.

At this time we try to get an indication of usage by using Good old Google Analytics :smile:
While this can only tell us if the content was used while the user’s computer was connected to the internet, it gives us an indication of the spread of the content (so we can tell that someone somewhere in Nigeria has used it). It also gives us an idea (not really accurate) of relative usage.

We also rely a lot on feedback (there is a feedback form on every page ) through which users can tell us what they like and do not like about the content and also how they are using it.

There are also people who have found it very useful and have shared about their experience on social media.

All of these are some of the ways we measure the effectiveness of the program.
So I would encourage anyone who has gotten the offline content to give us feedback so as to help us improve the program


#19

Hi Emeka, big fan of Project Kesa

  1. What was that eureka moment for Project Kesa - when you thought, “darn, this can really work”? Please tell us that story.
  2. What other projects do think can build off of this project to buff up developer talent in Africa?
  3. And yeah, do you still think companies should bootstrap tech talent? I’ll much rather tertiary sylabii in Nigeria be overhauled. Please weigh in on this.

#20

Hello emeka,

Hope am not late, my question is how does African ecosystem contribute to GOOGLE when its come to GDG.


#21

Thank you for having me @lordbanks.

I am a keen follower of Techcabal.

I plead guilty as charged to the accusation that I do not blog as often as I should and I would blame on the usual scapegoat: Work wahala . It takes me about 6 months to finish a blog post. Maybe I need lessons on time management :smile:

With regards to your question around the state of local developer talent , I would say that things are getting better but my thinking has not changed much, a lot of boiling is still necessary in my opinion.

Signs of improvement include the fact that more an more local companies (startups , growth stage and established) are dedicating more time to community outreach, examples include the machine learning hackathon held by hotels.ng some months ago and the contest that was sponsored by Interswitch around its APIs sometime in 2014.
We also have lot more developers getting hired straight out of school to work on production level code (some of them are even already doing it while in school)

BUT…the fact still remains that like I told @Olufikunmi_Ajayi in my response to him, the demand is way more than the supply.
Every week I get a call from someone who is looking for a developer and every other week I get a call from someone who knows someone that studied computer science and is looking for a placement for their first job, NYSC or internship but do not have the basic skills expected of a computer science student i.e. able to write code to solve a quadratic equation.

What does this tell you?
For me it means that until the educational sector in Africa gets it right…or is disrupted , we will continue to face this issue.


#22

Hello Mr. Emeka, glad to have you on here. My question is thus… What are the values/principles you hold strong as a software expert and as a person? Thanks


#23

Hello Emeka !

I have a few questions.

1- What observations do you do on the last five years in Africa?
Establish the same observation, specifically for Central Africa, West Africa, East Africa.

2- In your opinion, what explains the gap between Francophone Africa and Anglophone Africa? What are you doing to strike a balance?

My questions concern the ecosystem of developers. :grinning:

Thanks


#24

Oga Gino,

I hail o.

Thank you for your question.

In my opinion , For a young African developer to make it into the Google engineering team is not impossible, in fact its very far from it.

Really all you need to do is to focus on the fundamentals of computer science.
Many of us (myself included) because of the way we learnt to code (self taught using the “do it until it works” method) , we end up knowing HOW without knowing WHY.

A crude analogy would be comparing a roadside BMW mechanic to an engineer in a BMW accredited shop.
The roadside mechanic learnt his trade by trial and error and even though he/she may become quite good at this trade, he will always be stumped when he comes up against a new type of problem and will have to go through several trials to get it right.
A engineer in the accredited shop on the other hand has a mental model of the car engine in his/her head. So even when he or she is faced with a new problem they can immediately come up with several possible solutions without a lot of pain

Bringing it home, because we do not focus on the basic fundamentals of computer science:
i.e. data structures (when do you use a hashmap versus a treemap ), sorting algorithms , scheduling algorithms etc. How does computer memory addressing work? etc We find that even though you as a developer can build an awesome looking web app that has all the functionality, what happens when 1 Billion people try to access that website all at once and you find out that the default implementation of sorting in Java is not fast enough…? what do you do?

In summary, even as we learn how to build apps, we should also focus on learning about WHY the apps we build work in the first place.

Some of the ways to do this include:

  • Going through and practicing various algorithms tutorials (there are a zillion on the web)
  • Exploring and participating in open source projects(My favorite)

The later option can include something as simple as picking your favorite web development framework (e.g. Cake PHP or Django) and browsing through the code.
You will be amazed what you will learn.

Most engineering companies like Google and the like have interviews that test you on these basics. The more you use them in practice, the better your chances.