Jan Cayo Fiebig is the Co-Founder of CodersTrust. He started his career as a consultant working for Accenture and then at AT Kearney. Then he worked for Mercedes Benz in Beijing, China. After finishing his masters from Canada, he started his own consulting firm for a brief stint. And finally, he co-founded CodersTrust with Ferdinand Kjærulff-a dynamic, Copenhagen born entrepreneur.
At the ‘about me’ section of his blog, Jan-Cayo Fiebig wrote, “I lived in eight countries and survived an earthquake, tornado and a lighting hit.Whatever comes, be curious,everywhere and anytime!”
This entrepreneurship from Denmark who co-founded CodersTrust -an one stop learning and training platform for the freelancers- is indeed a curious person. When I visited the CodersTrust office in Banani, Fiebig was sipping a freshly brewed Turkish styled coffee.
“This has become my latest obsession-brewing coffee in different manner,” said Fiebig, “I am very curious about it,” he laughed and then offered me a cup.With that cup of coffee, Fiebig also provided the secrets of doing well in the freelancing world. He also talked about what CodersTrust is doing in Bangladesh.
FINTECH: Tell us something about you.
JC Fiebig: I am German and based out of Copenhagen, Denmark. I think for the last eight or nine years I’ve lived and worked in eight countries.So I really love change and progress and Bangladesh is my new home now. My career started off as a consultant working for Accenture and then at AT Kearney. While working there, I realized that although I was working as hard as I would have if I had my own Startup, in the end I wasn’t the one executing the work,the clients were.
So then I shifted to a corporate life and worked for Mercedes Benz in Beijing, China. After I finished my masters from Canada, I started my own consulting firm for a brief stint.After that, while I was in Copenhagen, I met Ferdinand Kjærulff. A very dynamic,Copenhagen born entrepreneur and that’s when the journey of CodersTrust started!
FINTECH: Well you have a very illustrious career to speak of. What sparked the idea of CodersTrust in the first place though? Why not stick to your day jobs?
JC Fiebig: It started off with Ferdinand. He was a reconstruction officer in Iraq during the gulf war and his job was to go into cities and help rebuild it. In this one city he was working in, there was an internet café and there he saw the power of the internet. People used to come to this one single cafe every day to check if the war was over. Ferdinand often hired freelancers and one of them told him about how he used to go 40minutes down the road to an internet café and taught himself how to code just by watching videos on YouTube.
So seeing the power of the internet and how it can benefit people through education, Ferdinand had the idea of CodersTrust. For me, seeing how the different education systems operate in all the countries I’ve lived in, I was immediately hooked to the idea of universal access to paid education.
FINTECH: What does CodersTrust do in Bangladesh?
JC Fiebig: As we do around the world, we amplify and uplift the potential of everyone in need.Everyone doesn’t have the same opportunity. For example, I was born in Germany and was raised in Denmark where education is free. But here in Bangladesh, education is costly, so it creates an entry barrier for the talented minds around us.Besides, this is a nation of 160 million.
So, from the very onset we are working on to find the cheapest and the quickest way to create the next generation of digital heroes. We believe that we can do that by teaching them the technical skills, the soft skills, and connecting them into the online skilled labor market.
CodersTrust is now providing 10courses with experienced and skilled trainers. So far, it has enrolled 1,500students and of them, 600 are now proven freelancers. CodersTrust provided them with training on preparing the right personalized curriculums, one-on-one mentoring and maintaining office hours as per the schedule of the international market along with the training on coding.
FINTECH: I have attended a seminar in Daffodil University sometimes ago and in that seminar you talked about how we are not doing the freelancing in the right way. Bangladesh has the reputation of providing cheap labor into the market place and that’s not good for Bangladesh’s future. Why so?
JC Fiebig: This is because you should never out-compete a competitor with cheap pricing in the IT market. This is not sustainable in the long run. The RMG industry was there in Denmark 100 years ago. Then it moved to Portugal from there, then it moved to Turkey and then to China.Now it has moved to Bangladesh.Why, because of pricing. Bangladesh now offers the lowest price for making the RMG product and that’s why the market has moved here now.May be soon, a sizable portion of Bangladeshi RMG market will move to Myanmar because they have started offering competitive prices.
But there are some factors you need to consider here. Bangladesh mostly confined itself in producing low-end RMG products like T-Shirt, Jeans where the profit margin is relatively lower than the one of high-end jacket or trousers. At the same manner,Bangladesh freelancers are mostly confined them in doing low-end outsourcing works. Also there is a practice of underbidding among the Bangladeshi freelancers. If you offer to design a website for $5 dollar then you are not only just wasting your time end talent for next to nothing but also you are creating imbalance in the market.
That’s why you should always try to raise your standard. The classical mindset is that you have to please the client as the client holds all the power.So the easiest way to please a client is by offering him/her to do his/her job sin lower prices. But that practice is turning out to be bad for both. If you deliver a sub-standard work to your client in lower price, then s/he will suffer and his/her business will get hurt.
Rather offer the client to complete the task with rational prices. Justify your demand by addressing the client’s need. Try to conduct more one-to-one meetings with the client. Pitch your proposal in convincing manner. Make your client understand that these are your unique offerings and you can do this way better than anyone else in the market. And because of this you are charging higher.
FINTECH: I have talked with some of the freelancers and they said when they go to elance- odesk and upload their portfolio for bagging works, they find it difficult to compete with the Indian developers. This is because a lot of Indian firms have office address in USA but their developers are working in the Indian cities. The NRIs are facilitating this. But the clients don’t know this and they think they are giving works to US firms in Indian prices. So the Bangladeshi freelancers say that they have no option but to offer cheaper prices to bag work. What do you have to say about this?
JC Fiebig: You have to understand the psychology of a buyer in the online marketplace. Against a work in any marketplace, usually a lot of developers place their bids. Now let me get into the shoe of a client.Suppose I just put a project offering in the marketplace and I am looking for able developers with good portfolio and rating. Obviously, I will want to get my job done with as less money as possible but at the same time I know that quality work demands more prices.
Psychologically I will not opt for the cheapest options because my gut would tell me that the cheapest cannot be a good one. So, I will settle for the middle ground.
Many of these Indian firms are doing exactly what the doctors have ordered in this regard. They have been using addresses of USA which creates an immediate impression in client’s mind that ‘this firm is from the US, so it’s obviously good’ and at the same they are offering competitive prices because they are hiring developers in India with significantly lesser prices than the US developers. So here this is a win-win for both the parties- the clients get happy as they believe that they hire US firms in cheaper price whereas the Indian firms get happy as they are getting better deals.
The truth is-the Indian firms are way ahead of Bangladesh in this particular area as they have a strong head start because of the large active NRI community in the USA. So it will be difficult for the Bangladeshi developers to create an inroad here,especially in outsourcing works that require programming skills. There however are some unsaturated markets, where Bangladeshi developers can get head start.
Bangladeshi freelancers can focus on trending yet unsaturated areas like Instagram marketing, twitter marketing and others. The beauty of the freelancing market is that it’s moving. It is never stagnated. You have to monitor the market and keep in your knowledge about the latest demands. In doing so, you can get prepared for the market by honing your skills as per the market demands. Suppose, you find that there has been great demands for the developers with Rubi on rails knowledge. You can train yourself or you can hire or coordinate a group of skilled Rubi on rails developers and start bidding for the new projects in the market.
FINTECH: Suppose, I am a freelancer.What sort of skill I need to develop to get entrance in the high end job areas in the online marketplace. By high-end, I mean jobs that require programming skills because those pay the most.
JC Fiebig: The choice of attaining technical skill is not uniform. Some develop skills on Rubi on rails, some on .Net, some on Java, so the focuses is actually not language specific, rather the focuses should be put on freelancing skills. This is because IT market is ever evolving.
As a freelancer, it’s not good enough to be an awesome developer or an amazing graphics designer; you also need to sell your services to somebody else. And this is something that a lot of people that go freelance underestimate.Also remember that freelancing is competitive, so if you’re considering leaving full-time employment for freelance work, you will essentially become your own business and that requires shaking up your working style.
FINTECH: Any other advises that you want to give to the aspiring freelancers?
JC Fiebig: A robust network is a freelancer’s best friend. The goal is to start your business with “a group of people who really care about you”and who are ready to support you along the way. It’s important to have a few fellow freelancers you can turn to for advice and support in your network because knowing how much to charge is one of the things your network can help you with right away.■
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