In January 2009 Willem Hoekstra formed a team of IT-trainers to go to Liberia. Main goal? Transfering our IT-knowledge to the employees of Tamma, other companies, government and students of the University of Liberia, in such way that they can be of added value for a healthy economy and living environment in Liberia. Tamma Corporation, a company that is doing IT assignments for the government and local companies, was founded by Abdullah Kamara, a former Atos Consulting colleague. We went in October 2009. All required IT-disciplines were available: Willem Hoekstra (organization) Henk Boer (requirements engineering), Petra Ansmink (testing), Mark Giesen (OOP, C# and ASP.NET), Walter Bressers (Project Management & BPM), Stefan van Liempt (CCNA Networking) and Taruna Ugahary (SQL development and PHP).
We didn’t know what to expect up front. Liberia, west coast Africa, not really the first holiday destination people would have in mind. Especially considering its history. Also on IT-level we didn’t really know what to expect, so we just started from scratch. And sometimes that means using real life problems, like “putting structure in your closet, with boxes and drawers” (tables in SQL) or “letting someone else doing the dishes” (functions in C#).
It was a totally different environment than what we’re used to: it’s 30/35 degrees all day; music outside was playing loud from 14:00 until night; you never know when there would be a power failure, but you do know that it is going to happen; even the fan and AC are louder than your own voice; Liberians swallow the end of each word, and you talking the same way is just a matter of time. Everyone, including the 70 trainees, has worked very hard. For 2 weeks there were 3 sessions of 3 hours a day. All courses were received and picked up very well and after our visit some groups even have started their own association, like the Application Developers and Testers.
Our main goal was the knowledge transfer, but luckily we also have been able to smell some Liberian culture: We played football with the locals, visited family, drove our own car, stood still several times with a broken battery, walked downtown and some non-touristic routes, went out to the beach, saw Liberia’s beautiful nature, had great lunches (except for the fufu), met lots of fun and interesting persons, heard nice music… and danced a lot to it. And although media and foreign affairs sometimes tell otherwise, there was never a moment that we felt unsafe.