University of Georgia
July 2015
Global Connections

Alumna champions global stewardship

Company works to train software developers in Africa.

Since graduating from UGA in 2002, Christina Sass has made her dreams come true.

Her passion for empowering others inspired her to co-found Andela, a global talent accelerator that produces world-class remote software developers and connects them with companies around the world. Andela finds the brightest young people in Africa and gives them the training and mentorship to thrive as full-time, remote developers for companies ranging from global enterprises like Microsoft to startups like Udacity.

Sass describes Andela as a pilot of a model that she’d been dreaming about finding for years, “a scalable way for brilliant young people living in places where economic opportunities are scarce to receive training and employment that leads to lifelong careers without debt and without leaving home.”

“It solves two critical global problems: youth unemployment in places where opportunities are most scarce and filling the global labor gap that employers experience in the tech field. Andela also allows students in places like Lagos to learn, earn and save simultaneously without debt, without leaving home, and all while creating an international resume.”

Sass said the company helps to unlock the world’s untapped human potential and create a talent pipeline for global industries, most of which struggle to find tech talent.

Sass was recently honored by the New York Business Journal for its inaugural Women of Influence Awards. These awards celebrate women business leaders in the New York City area who innovate, succeed and “pay it forward,” who stand out for their business achievements as well as their commitment to community. In her personal life, Sass considers her father, Jurgen Peter Sass, to be her greatest inspiration.

“He left post-war Germany at 22 with only a suitcase and $200 and built a meaningful life. He instilled in my brother and me, the way that only a German can, that education would be the greatest determining factor of the quality and richness of our lives. He fueled my endless curiosity about the world and gave me the initial courage and street smarts to travel everywhere!”

As Andela continues to grow, Sass hopes that her work inspires recent graduates to look around them and find ways to create global impact.

“Young people will benefit from thinking globally because it will open new markets, new approaches to problems, historic examples of incredible impact, as well as revealing a great deal of work still to be done. Beyond a very rich career with more opportunities across the globe, I think young people will be personally changed for the better: more empathetic, more open to different ways of thinking, and more humble when exposed to the human genius and heroism evident in all cultures across the world.”

She suggests people look for the overlap between their personal passions and what the world needs most.

“Listen when you are out in the field,” she said. “Have hundreds of cups of tea and just listen. Never stop asking yourself if this is truly the best (most efficient, most effective) way to solve the problem you are trying to solve.”

Andela’s path to success has not been without a few bumps in the road.

“Our first training center was a donated space with no power on the weekends unless we brought diesel and poured it into the generator ourselves. Our second office had a roof cave-in during a rain storm one day in the middle of training,” she said.

Andela’s current home is Amity Campus—complete with dorm rooms, offices, fiber cable Internet and a rooftop deck with a view of Lagos, Nigeria.

“Walking into the Andela office and seeing 70 people (25 percent young women) who have a new career path and who feel like a family because of Andela—that is my proudest career accomplishment.”

Though life has taken Sass far away from Athens, she still feels very connected to the university.

“I met a group of friends in Myers Hall that are still some of my closest friends in the world. We all spent the millennium New Year’s Eve together and have spent every single New Year’s together since 1999. That’s 15 years of dear friends who meet annually to watch UGA bowl games and to ring in the New Year together.”

What’s one final piece of advice Christina Sass has for future generations of UGA graduates?

“No matter where you go—even to the farthest corners of the Earth—never stop loving the Georgia Bulldogs.”

—Jamie Lewis, development and alumni relations