Alumna, Environmental Analysis, Nicole Quilliam

Major: Environmental Analysis

Profession: Project Analyst for the Information Division at Andela

Hometown: Menlo Park, CA

What are you doing now?

Based in New York City, I work at Andela, which invests in the most talented developers on the African continent and integrates them into top tech companies around the world. Using a data-driven approach, Andela helps companies build high-performing software engineering teams at scale. Andela is solving the tech talent shortage by serving as a network of elite developers that helps companies focus on creating better products while building the future for cities across Africa.

My work at Andela is manifold; I do all kinds of different things. I operate cross-functionally to help our teams use data to drive strategic decision-making. I do analysis on that data to identify trends or potential root causes of problems. I work to close gaps, make improvements and automate processes along the way. Andela is a fast-paced, cross-disciplinary and geographically dispersed working environment. We collaborate, we communicate, and we strive to build trust. At Andela, we are solving some of the world’s most interesting challenges in a way that has not been done before. The passion, excellence and entrepreneurial energy permeating through our offices is electric.

On the African continent, we currently have offices in Lagos, Nigeria; Nairobi, Kenya; and Kampala, Uganda. Africa has the youngest, fastest-growing population on earth, with more people joining the labor force over the next 20 years than the rest of the world combined. By connecting the world’s best tech companies and engineering organizations to the brightest individuals on the African continent, Andela provides a bridge to close the talent gap while investing in the smartest, most creative minds in software development.

How did you get there?

This is a cool story actually. Having studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, I quickly became fascinated with and passionate about high growth, emerging economies in African markets. After graduation, something started bubbling up deep down inside of me - a dream and a desire - to get back into that space. I just didn’t know how, when or where quite yet.

After graduating in 2015, I moved to New York City where I have been working and living ever since. Over a year ago, I was randomly researching the startup scene in New York City. Growing up in Silicon Valley, I learned to be curious about new and exciting startups on the rise. Andela came up as one of the top 5 tech startups to keep your eye on in NYC. At the time, we had just announced our Series B round of funding and everyone was talking about Andela. I vividly remember thinking to myself “I want, no wait I NEED to work here one way or another!” Not being able to sleep well that night, my mind could not stop thinking about how I was going to get my foot in the door. I felt so excited because I hadn’t wanted something that badly in a long time. 

Fast forward to a whole year later. Andela had since remained in the back of my mind when I came across a job opening that appeared to align well with the professional experiences I gathered over the past two years. In that moment, the how, when and where felt right. After a little bit of thought and a great deal of excitement, I decided to apply for the job. I stayed up until 2 a.m. making the final touches to my application and clicked submit.

For people who know me at all, they know that I love to run. It is how I expend a solid portion of my energy. On the first Saturday in August about five months ago, I suffered a serious injury to the bottom of my foot at the end of a New York Road Runners race in Central Park. That afternoon I went to urgent care where it started to sink in that I would not be able to run (or walk) for a while. Sunday was terrible; I was in low spirits with my motivation waning. That Monday, I got the offer from Andela. I honestly have not run much until recently, and yet I couldn't be happier because I found another passion in my work. It is funny how life has a way of sorting itself out. When one door shuts abruptly out of the blue, another one might just open up.

How did Pomona prepare you?

There are at least three things that come to mind when I think about how Pomona prepared me for life’s lemons. Or did I mean lessons?

  • Building and maintaining strong relationships rooted in trust.
  • Supplementing hard work with integrity. 
  • Always remembering that “when we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.” Thanks, Peter Marshall.

During the toughest of times, I learned that I can achieve or try really hard to achieve the aforementioned goals by activating two key action words - committing and investing. By committing to your goals, to strong principles and to change course when you start to lose your way, you can build the willpower to invest. Invest in yourself, in your relationships, in your work as well as your hobbies or side-hustles, and maybe sometimes in cool band aids when you fall down or someone pushes you.

I also played soccer for Pomona-Pitzer Women's Soccer (PPWS). The opportunity to be a student-athlete at Pomona was a true gift. Through soccer I met the most amazing and inspiring people in my life. From my coaches and trainers to my teammates and fellow student-athletes playing other sports, everyone I formed relationships with through Pomona-Pitzer athletics has helped shape who I am today. Being a student at Pomona taught me how to think critically, ask questions, write and much more; being an athlete at Pomona taught me how to navigate aspects of life and the real world today that I couldn't have learned in the classroom. The combination of the two gave me balance, a value that I learned is the key to life.

Pomona taught me so much more than I can put into words. In all seriousness, there are probably still a bunch of known-unknowns that I've yet to fully process and understand about my time at Pomona. To all of my professors and peers, coaches and teammates, family and friends that shaped the experience, I say thank you. Chirp chirp! Or in my most recent journey, ubuntu (I am because you are).

Any advice for prospective or current students?

There is this amazing ancient myth called the Galatea effect, often associated with the Pygmalion effect. It is this notion that if you start to anticipate or truly perceive that something can and should go your way, then it will. Expectations can truly be powerful and serve as a strong motivator to improve or help you get to where you want to be. Once you get there, make every effort to prove to the world that you earned that place at the table. Nothing strengthens your credibility more than demonstrating you are capable enough to generate results and drive value.

Oh, and two more things: be confident and don't forget to smile.