Bringing Design Profession To Dakar

{ 🎙 } – Interview with Ayomidotun Freeborn

Bringing Design Profession 
To Dakar

A few issues of Phase Magazine back, we covered the design ecosystem of Lagos. We were more than impressed with all of the activities undertaken by the local community to bring awareness around the importance of good design into even sharper focus..

In this interview with Ayomidotun Freeborn, a Design Lead at Edacy, we take a closer look at the tech job market in Dakar, Senegal, discussing the main challenges local companies face and how these could be solved. What’s the impact of Edacy’s actions there? How are they designing for the change?

You can give a listen to the interview on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what do you do?

I’m a Digital Product Designer from Lagos, Nigeria. I currently work as a Design Lead at a startup in Dakar called Edacy, where I also design training programs. I’m designing the company’s platform and all of their internal designs.

Could you please tell us more about Edacy and the company’s mission?

Edacy is a learning platform where tech talents are trained both online and offline on our campus. We also offer training opportunities with our partner companies. We combine all the best of existing systems to deliver a comprehensive technical training system for young talents in Dakar.

The idea behind it is that companies around the world and in Africa itself are looking for talents and people to employ. But there are a bunch of unemployed yet talented people that don’t have the skill set required for technical jobs. At Edacy, we want to fill that gap and help people develop their skillset, train them, and prepare them for the job market. Edacy’s vision is to help African companies break into the digital economy.

Talents of Edacy's WorkLearning Program
Edacy WorkLearning Program

How is Edacy improving the design industry in Africa?

Our approach is to make design very accessible. And we do that by teaching the foundations of design thinking and advocating a problem-solving approach. We are raising a generation of design-centered problem-solvers. We cannot just train talents in design alone – we offer 360° training in both soft and hard skills. We also empower them to become problem-solvers by introducing them to design thinking methodology.

We offer 3 programs at our WorkLearning initiative: web development, mobile development, and data science. One thing that these 3 programs have in common is that they are built on the foundation of design thinking. Our talents are assigned to projects at the beginning of their training. They also get an introduction to the concepts of design thinking. Through the entire program, they apply the methodology to their work, where they simultaneously develop technical skills.

What’s the role of design in Edacy as a company? How does it help in running your programs?

Design is the core of what we do as a company – we practice what we teach. We are trying to solve a huge problem and to do that, we have to try different approaches. We prototype,test and validate these ideas. Because we are a very small team, we move fast. In the past two years alone, we have experimented with many methods of getting the best out of the talents we teach. Our design process doesn’t end after we’ve received some feedback. Once we hear back, we synthesize observations and refine the whole process. The design team is also responsible for running our online learning platform.

Edacy's Talents
Edacy’s Talents

What challenges do you face in your work as a designer at Edacy?

I think that every part of our process is a challenge. Before you can understand the importance of design for a company, you first have to sell it to your colleagues internally. It’s important to make sure the whole team understands why design is so important for us. I think I’m really lucky here because everyone in the company truly understands why we put so much effort into design and values its role.

Do you believe that your work as a designer is bringing change to the Dakar and African design community?

I believe so. The community in Dakar is improving recently. We try to support it by organizing events and offering training and services. To this date, we have organized 5 design bootcamps for young designers and enterprises. We also try to embrace design in the local dev community so that they understand the importance of design as well.

What are the biggest challenges in the African tech jobs market?

In our experience, we observed that the biggest problem that companies face regarding the job market is finding the right talents, from the perspective of both quality and quantity. When you’re running a startup or a company in Dakar and you want to build an internal product team, it’s really hard to find good developers, designers, and other talents. It’s a huge problem here. There are a lot of college graduates, but they are not prepared to start working. This is what Edacy is trying to solve with our programs and mentors.

Edacy is supporting Dakar's design community
Edacy is supporting Dakar’s design community

How is Edacy helping people get jobs with its WorkLearning program?

Like the name says, it’s working and learning at the same time. The program is at the core of what we currently do. It involves 3 months of working on a specialization, which varies depending on the chosen program. During these 3 months, you follow our online courses, where you have access to resources from us, our partners and educational institutions. Later you take a project and assignments, and every week you attend an offline section where you interact with the industry. After 3 months, talents present the projects they worked on in that time. The next part of the program involves working at our partner companies for 6 months, while following our online courses.

After 9 months, you have a full skillset and work experience, and you are truly ready to join the job market.

You also help companies to go through digital transformation with the OpenLearning program. How do you make it easier for them?

The OpenLearning program is a more intense, 1-2 month long version of WorkLearning that’s focused on company employees. During the program, companies improve their workflow and become more efficient all-around. That’s a really important thing here in Dakar because a lot of companies want to transition to the digital economy – they want to be a part of the global digital revolution. The OpenLearning program gives them that opportunity by giving a training to existing employees, and it includes subjects like design thinking.

Do you have any tips for designers that are looking for work opportunities in education?

One of the most important skills of being a good designer is being able to constantly learn. If you can do that, you can succeed anywhere. You also have to become better at solving problems, which is a core skill in any industry where design is used.

Thank you for the interview! Where can people find you?

If you want to be a part of Edacy, you can check our website. I’m very active on Twitter, where you can find me under @iamayomidotun.

If you want to contribute to next the issue of Phase Magazine, just drop us a line:

Nick Budden Avatar

Nick Budden / CEO @ Phase

Designer, and sometimes-writer. Canadian in Taiwan ✈ Berlin. Trying to help people enjoy being creative.