Coming Out (My Esoko Story)

David!I joined Esoko 3 months ago. Before joining the organization, I always saw the building on my way home from school, orange and white, and tall. I thought it was a software development firm; which is not completely far from the truth. Anyways, an opening in the communications department, freshly out of a communications school, an interview and a test later I got the job as a communication officer. Now I read about Esoko before my interview (obviously), so I knew it was not just developing software and collecting data prices but was heavily invested in changing the lives of small holder farmers and helping the growth of the agricultural value chain. It was all so nice in abstract and theory. Working here, I read a lot of success stories, case studies and heard Mark Davies, the CEO and other members of the team talk about the impact we were making. I got it and yet I didn’t get it. It was all like “ok so we are changing the lives of farmers, people can now make intelligent buying and selling decisions”… all nice, but it was on paper and it was people involved in the process who were telling me this. Like you know, blowing their own trumpet and stuff… ah well it sounded nice theoretically.
Three months after joining Esoko, our colleagues from our new office in Kenya came down for a visit to see how Esoko Ghana went about operations and to basically get acquainted with the platform. So as part of their visit, we arranged for Paolo, (MD of the Kenya office) and Clem (the Kenyan Sales Manager) to visit one of our beneficiary farms in Esueshia, in the Central region. When Vani, the head of Client Service told me about the trip and asked if the communications team (Garrett and I) would like to join, I was ecstatic. I was practically like a grade school kid going on his first field trip.

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Know your customer: Software developers visit farmers!

Most software developers just want to fix their eyes on their computers and write code – no disturbances, no distractions. ‘The business team should do all the client interactions, we don’t want to be bothered’, is the usual cliché.  But as with many other tech companies, Esoko understands the value of interacting with clients to know their real problems and develop solutions that will be most useful to them. Our engineering team has a “Know Your Customer” program in place – software engineers must go to field at some point to meet the farmers and other user groups they are building the tools for. Why? As Godwin Cudjoe puts it “By meeting them, we better understand the real-life consequences of our design decisions.” – and by the way, Godwin is an Engineering Manager at Esoko.
Erica and Samdan on the road.

Erica and Samdan on the road.

When Samdan was asked to join our recent field trainers on a trip to farmers in the Volta Region of Ghana, he was initially hesitant. “I tried to avoid it, my comfort zone is behind my machine, coding,  but I would have regretted not going”, he said after returning from the trip. He continued, “Every software developer who goes to meet with the end-user has an experience that he will cherish for a long time. You will see the impact and the change you are making, see the need of the people and solve it in your own small way to change someone’s life. I was expecting farmers to be literate but found otherwise, some couldn’t even open a text message on their phones and that meant something to me – simplicity! Now I’m motivated to do more.” Samdan shared an advice – simplicity is the best – make it simple and basic if you really want users to understand and use your product.

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