Software Engineering Manager
Gaza Sky Geeks (GSG) is Gaza’s first and only startup accelerator, run by Mercy Corps and founded with an initial grant from Google in 2011, and now a tech hub in the Google for Entrepreneurs partner network. GSG aims to provide Gaza’s most talented youth with opportunities to develop their skills and succeed as tech entrepreneurs. It conducts workshops and outreach to educate Gazans about technology and entrepreneurship, hosts major community events like hackathons and Startup Weekends, incubates promising startup teams each year, and facilitates seed investments into accelerated startups. GSG also hosts and trains freelancers and software outsourcers in its co-working space in downtown Gaza City.
Gaza Sky Geeks is a part of Mercy Corps, a global organization that has operated safely in Gaza for decades. Mercy Corps has facilitated travel for over 80 startup mentors from around the globe to Gaza in the past two years, and has international staff present in Gaza at most times.
GENERAL POSITION SUMMARY
As Gaza Sky Geeks’ first Software Engineering Manager, you will turbo charge Gaza’s engineering talent to enable successful product launches. You will be embedded into 10-25 idea stage teams, making critical technical decisions that will impact the companies’ success and providing meaningful growth feedback to the engineers on each team. By managing, inspiring, teaching, mentoring, and setting up effective systems, you will bring Gaza’s startups up to speed in source control, automation, continuous delivery, monitoring and cloud technologies. You will be charting new territory, iterating on your own approach as you discover what works with a variety of audiences, including fresh college graduates and experienced engineers. You will be measured based on the startups’ ability to launch a minimum viable product within 3-6 months and iterate on it thereafter, as well as your ability to work effectively with a wide range of people. You may also play a role in Gaza’s broader software engineering community.
This position is intended to be a full-time position. However, candidates who can only come for a specified amount of time will also be seriously considered, as long as they can commit to at least three months. Please make your preferences clear in your cover letter.
ESSENTIAL JOB RESPONSIBILITIES
During your first 3-6 months
● Be the embedded Software Engineering Manager for 10-25 idea stage startup teams entering an incubation program.
● Set up a standard DevOps process that all startups will use (select and then implement a technology stack, based on your own expertise and the local market)
● Make critical technology decisions for each startup team, setting each one up as best as possible for its upcoming trajectory.
During the next 6-9 months
● Teach excellent software engineering management practices.
● Through a combination of formal teaching, mentoring, brown bagging, experiential teaching, and modeling through own behavior, get Gaza’s startups to be fluent in modern engineering techniques such as source control, automation, continuous delivery, and monitoring engineering metrics.
● Ensure cultural / people practices of good engineering, including daily standup meetings, two-way code reviews, setting up an “on call” schedule, and blameless post mortems are met.
● Work closely with GSG’s Product Manager to establish a great software engineering process that is collaborative, iterative and tailored to the needs of the Gaza Sky Geeks accelerator
● Emphasize the need for engineers to continuously learn / self-teach. Model this behavior every step of the way, sharing examples of how you learned in your own life, exposing Gazan engineers to the gaps in their knowledge, pointing them to online communities and resources, and inspiring them to show up to their professions with a healthy balance of confidence and eager humility.
● Identify key individuals who can continue to establish and develop the DevOps mindset and culture throughout Gaza, and mentor them so that they successfully spread a great engineering culture throughout Gaza’s engineering community
● Define and articulate a clear vision that will enable Gaza Sky Geeks’ program to succeed over the next 1-2 years from an engineering standpoint, identifying the road forward to 1) get incubated/accelerated startups to launch products successfully, and 2) develop engineering talent so that Gazan engineers can secure an income through outsourcing/consulting/freelancing/distance working.
After 9 months:
● If time allows, experiment with ways to grow the pool of engineers in Gaza and deepen existing expertise. This could be at a small level (e.g., run meetups on technical topics) or at a much larger level (e.g., launch Gaza’s first developer bootcamp to grow the pool of engineering talent available to our startups).
● Work collaboratively and effectively with the rest of the Gaza Sky Geeks team, volunteers, and partners.
SUPERVISORY RESPONSIBILITY: None
REPORTS DIRECTLY TO: Gaza Sky Geeks Director
WORKS DIRECTLY WITH: Gaza Sky Geeks Team Members (Accelerator Manager / Startup Coach, Product Manager, and Local CTO in Residence, Operations Officer, Mentorship Coordinator, and Women’s Program Coordinator. You may sometimes interface with volunteers (e.g., mentors) or partners (e.g., investors)), Startups, and Gaza Tech Ecosystem Leaders
KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE
● Top notch software engineering manager. 8+ years of experience including managing teams of 20+ engineers. Your direct reports want to work with you again.
● Shipped multiple products successfully using an iterative, incremental, user-focused, and data-driven approach.
● Great track record working well with a cross-functional team of product managers, designers, product marketing, user research, etc.
● Excellent ability to communicate complex concepts clearly to a wide audience, including laypeople
● Very motivated to teach, mentor, and coach people of various levels of experience
● Decisive yet collaborative approach. You are excited to be a part of a team and eager to learn from your team’s prior experience, especially in Gaza.
● Ability to thrive in early-stage environments: driven, self-directed, willing to experiment and learn from failure, prioritizes rigorously
● Experience working in cross-cultural contexts preferred
● English proficiency required; Arabic language a plus but not expected
We’re eager to shape this into the experience you’re seeking. Let us know what would excite you and we’ll consider it. In addition to the obvious (incredible social impact + an opportunity to learn from a dozen early-stage product launches), some possible opportunities in this role include:
● Spend a day a week in Tel Aviv to network and learn what’s cutting edge in Israel’s startup sector.
● Build your startup network throughout the Middle East – if you’d like, we’ll send you on (a) business trip to places like Beirut, Dubai, Amman, Cairo, etc.)
● Hire a team in Gaza to work on your startup for you. (We’ll cover the salaries of the first 3 employees.)
● Possibility of receiving equity in the companies you work with – will discuss with interested candidates
● If you fall in love with a particular startup, you could end up joining it as a founder!
This is an exceptional role: energizing, full of potential, creative, and challenging. Gazans are amongst the most inspiring people in the world and you will arrive at a potential tipping point in Gaza’s tech sector. You will literally see the impact of your work from month to month. You are seasoned engineer who is fantastic with people, including people who are at a very early stage in their professional development – Gaza’s engineering community is isolated and you’re coming to catch it up to speed. You are eager to have positive social impact and you love to teach. You are analytical and rigorous, and you have emotional intelligence and build strong relationships. You are professional and fun. You are flexible and quick to adapt to new challenging situations. You do not flinch at power outages or border crossing delays. You are a strong believer in the tech sector’s ability to change the future of frontier markets.
WHAT THIS ROLE MEANS TO US
Your role represents a pivot in our program design. In our second round of working with startup teams (2015-2016), we taught lean startup methods in Gaza for the first time. Our teams quickly understood the concept of launching prototype products and iterating rapidly, but struggled to ship their products due to lack of awareness of DevOps, automation, and other engineering best practices as described above. You will fill the gap we have identified in Gaza’s ecosystem by giving our teams the best possible learning experience: being managed by someone who models excellent software engineering behaviors. In other environments, engineers learn from working with someone who is more experienced than them. In Gaza, you will be the guru whose presence will enable us to leapfrog many years of learning by making mistakes.
LIVING CONDITIONS/ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS
The position will be based in Gaza City during the work week (Sunday-Thursday) and Jerusalem or Tel Aviv on the weekends, and will involve commuting in/out of Gaza weekly by car. Occasional weekend and evening work may be required. In Jerusalem/Tel Aviv there is individual accommodation covered by a housing stipend, full freedom of movement and excellent amenities, access to medical care, and access to a car. In Gaza, there is shared apartment accommodation with freedom of movement if accompanied by local staff and using Mercy Corps drivers (depending on the security situation).
Mercy Corps Team members represent the agency both during and outside of work hours when deployed in a field posting or on a visit/TDY to a field posting. Staff are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner and respect local laws, customs and MC’s policies, procedures, and values at all times and in all in-country venues.
Organizational Learning: As part of our commitment to organizational learning and in support of our understanding that learning organizations are more effective, efficient and relevant to the communities they serve – we expect all team members to commit 5% of their time to learning activities that benefit Mercy Corps as well as themselves.
Accountability to Beneficiaries: Mercy Corps team members are expected to support all efforts towards accountability, specifically to our beneficiaries and to international standards guiding international relief and development work, while actively engaging beneficiary communities as equal partners in the design, monitoring and evaluation of our field projects.