Ask a BAM Mentor: Hiring and Training for IT Companies

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!


Dear BAM Mentor,

I am hiring in a more deprived, less developed context, how do I find the right people with an aptitude for IT? Any other tips and ideas you have for hiring and staff training?

~ IT Starter-upper

Dear Starter-upper,

I think there are seven keys to finding the right people with an aptitude for IT in an underdeveloped country:

  1.           Keep relationships primary
  2.           Share your motivation
  3.           Develop a very close Friend
  4.           Be a close friend to Christian expats and their NGOs
  5.           Know the owners of other local IT companies
  6.           Serve the head of the IT department at local education institutions
  7.           Empower nationals to hire other employees

I co-founded an application software company in the USA in 1991. We’ve been ‘impact sourcing’ programming jobs in Afghanistan since 2007. We currently have six programmers in Kabul helping maintain and customize our application.

My journey to Afghanistan began in 1978 as a college Senior. In August of that year, I felt that God called me to business, missions and Afghanistan. The first two calling unfolded immediately after graduation. I had to wait 24 years for Afghanistan.

When I started going to Afghanistan in 2002, I always stayed and spent time with Christian NGOs. I made a habit of visiting the country twice a year. My NGO hosts helped me get acquainted with the country. They introduced me to many of their Afghan friends.

After two years of visits, I concluded that I would not be able to ‘impact source’ any work from our company in the USA to Afghanistan, yet. So I waited for the IT infrastructure and training to improve while I kept visiting. During those trips I developed a relationship with an Afghan living with one of the NGO expats. Although he had a good embassy job, he was very interested in helping me. He became a ‘man of peace’ for me, a real ‘Friend’.

In 2007, after five years of visits, I felt the LORD nudge me to earnestly plan on opening a programming shop in Afghanistan. With the help of my ‘Friend’, I began visiting local IT companies and IT training institutes. The infrastructure and training looked favorable. The IT market was developing rapidly. But most IT opportunities were in hardware and networking, not software.

My ‘Friend’ also arranged a visit to the best public university to meet the head of the computer science department. As we got to know each other over tea, I shared my desire to open a software development company. I mentioned my motivation to combine godly business practices with software development as an extension of our software company in the USA. He told me there was not such opportunity currently in Afghanistan. After the encouragement from the head of the computer science department, my Friend and I began looking for an experienced computer programmer who could also serve as our manager. We interviewed friends and friends of friends, from most major ethnic backgrounds. After some ‘Afghan-style’ background checks, we hired our first employee in August 2007.

After five months of training remotely from Afghanistan, our manager was ready to hire four programmers. In January of 2008, we hired four new graduates from the university. One of them is still with us today. He is our senior programmer in Afghanistan. Our first manager has moved on to start his own business, but we are still close friends. Many times, I rely on his insight to support our operation. The universities are our primary source of good IT candidates. We have added another university in town to recruit our employees. We are drawing quality candidates with godly character from both institutions.  […Read more]

~ Dave

Dear Starter-upper,

Information Technology is a knowledge industry that relies almost entirely on the knowledge of people working in the industry. If you are setting up an IT company you will need to look for people with skills and experience that are aligned with the services you aim to provide.

If you are unable to find people with the right skills and experience, I suggest elevating the skills of people living in your region by setting up an IT training institute. I assume you are an IT professional and that you would have the skills required to teach. Additionally, you might want to recruit one or two staff members or volunteers who are able to teach IT as you prepare a workforce. IT training in itself can be a profitable business, depending on the ability for students to pay for courses, and you can ultimately benefit from your end product of trained IT professionals. From among this newly trained workforce you can recruit your staff for providing IT services in the long run.

In terms of aptitude for IT workers, things to look for are mathematical skills, logic and analytical thinking. I personally prefer mathematics, engineering or computer science graduates to other branches of arts or sciences. If it is difficult for you to find college graduates, you might look for high school graduates who excelled in mathematics and physics in their school work. In addition to an aptitude for learning, look for those who have a sense of loyalty. Since you will be investing heavily in terms of time, effort and perhaps money in their training, you need to ensure that there is return on your investment which can only happen if some of the best alumni will work with you after their training is completed.

I recommend setting up a four step process for interviews. First, give a written test involving problem solving using logic and analytical thinking. Second, have an oral interview in which you can assess their willingness and enthusiasm to aggressively learn new concepts and skills. Third, assess their soft skills such as written and verbal communication skills, team spirit, flexibility in work timings, and so on.  Finally, put them through an HR interview in which practical matters such as remuneration, length of employment, work hours, job title, company policies, etc. are discussed. […Read more]

~ Joseph

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