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How iPF Softwares is Building Capacity for the African Tech Industry

By Nelson Malekela  |  Oct 18, 2021

Prologue

“It’s an art of creation. Imagine just typing some lines of code on your computer and bringing your imagination to life, there’s no feeling quite like it, it’s just so profoundly satisfying ”. That has become almost the template response that Jackson, our Technical Lead at iPF Softwares gives whenever quizzed on what he thinks about Software Engineering.


I happen to share this same line of thinking, at least for the most part. I agree with the fact that building software products is satisfying and magical, I also agree with the fact that it is an art of creation. However, we differ in opinion on the phrase “it’s just typing code in your computer”,  and I have a feeling that if pressed, he too will admit that it’s far from that simple.


Every top software engineer I know has many soft and technical skills which make them stand out, but one trait I’ve noticed they all seem to share almost without fail is something I like to call the conceptual skill; which is the ability to see the bigger picture and imagine how various parts will come together to bring a software product to life. Of course, that is just one skill, there are a host of other technical and soft skills beyond just code that make a great software engineer, but I’ve found that the ability to imagine the end before putting hands on the keyboard and typing away to be the most common denominator among the best. 


The early struggles

In 2018, We ( iPF Softwares ) realized that it is becoming harder and harder to get competent young software engineers who know more than just writing computer code, most of them are extremely good at writing codes but some essential skills need to be developed for them to stand out and compete in this 4th industrial revolution, whether that is because of the way our colleges shape us as a community of software developers is an entirely different discussion, one that will not fit a 3-minute long article.


The Birth of HackItFriday

And so we thought, are we just going to sit here and complain? Well, the answer was NO, we had to do something, we decided to actively participate in solving this problem.

The initial step we took was to create an in-house training program with the purpose of elevating the level of every member of what was then called our software engineering team; we’ve since changed its name to customer satisfaction team. Now, as they say, actions speak louder than words and so to prove how serious we were about staying ahead of the curve, we decided to set apart  4 hours every Friday for learning and growth. Now while this might sound easy, it was far from it because we were, sacrificing billable time to purposefully stay true to one of our core values which is constantly learning and growing., Part of learning and growing also involved creating company-wide standards that would make us more competitive in the market and ensuring that everyone on the team followed them using reviews and peer sessions. We also took this time to experiment and test our theories and models on how we can create more competent software engineers, and the results of our bold move were very satisfying, and so we decided to invest even more into the program which we had by now casually dubbed HackItFriday.

To learn more about #HackItFriday Read: How we've made constant learning part of our DNA with our in-house training program.

From iPF Softwares to the World

In 2020 we launched a pilot of our then newest program iPF Academy., with the intention to test what we’d learned internally out in the wild with fresh, young minds, most of whom were still in school, just to see if our methods would work still work with this new category or if we’d need to go back to the drawing board. We kicked off the pilot program with 10 students, gender-balanced of course which is also one area we are very passionate about and are determined to get right.

Training the engineering teamTraining the engineering team



Testimonials from graduates were very encouraging, to say the least, and so we decided to spend 2021 to plan our next move so we can launch the next cohort, a more ambitious one in early 2022 which we’ve actually already started recruiting for, so if you are interested in becoming a student or training partner please visit the iPF Academy Website.


And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how iPF Academy, a platform aimed at building capacity for the African tech industry was born.

 
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