Lead Developer for FrontlineCloud and FrontlineSMS (SIMLab)

Company: Social Impact Lab (SIM Lab)

General Information
  • Job Type: Full-time
  • Location: Nairobi, Kenya

Reporting to: CTO

Contract duration: Permanent

Salary: Senior grade

Hours: Full-time

Based: Nairobi (option to work remotely after ~6 months if required; negotiable)



The Social Impact Lab (SIMLab) lowers the barriers to social change using mobile technologies. Our main product, FrontlineSMS, has become one of the best-known ‘ICT4D’, or ICT for development initiatives in the world, used in everything from election monitoring, to healthcare, to disaster response, to climate change research, and it continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. Within the last year, our software was downloaded as many times as it was in our first six years combined – a testament to the skill of our Kenya-based developer team and the years of user feedback and experience that underpin the design.


FrontlineSMS is free, open-source desktop software that enables users to send, receive and manage SMS over a mobile network. It has now been downloaded over 100,000 times and is in use in over 135 countries. It runs on a laptop connected to a GSM modem, a mobile phone, or an online SMS (or text message) service. It can work without the need for Internet access.


For the last six months, our team has been working to build FrontlineCloud, a web-hosted version of our platform launched in August 2013 – to solve our users’ largest challenges, reach a new type of user, and ensure the sustainability of the Frontline ecosystem for years to come. FrontlineCloud is available for a modest subscription. In order to send messages from this online service, users will be able to choose a web-based SMS service from a list for the best option for them based on their country of operation, or use an Android phone running SMSSync.


We have an ambitious and exciting product roadmap, managed by product owners with input from our clients, \o/ heroes (our faithful volunteers), users and the development team. Our Cloud beta launch marks a shift from chiefly grant-funded Foundation to full-service SAAS firm with a strong product-based revenue stream – with all that means for the pressure on us to deliver consistent software and support.


FrontlineCloud and FrontlineSMS are produced by our dedicated agile development team in Kenya. All but one are Kenyan and many are recent graduates. We are looking to cement and expand the skills base of the team in the coming year and the Lead Developer will be critical to this for leadership, mentoring and technical expertise.


Our whole development team is colocated in a single office in Nairobi (we can see the same post-it notes that way) and other areas of the company are run currently in Washington DC.


Reporting to the CTO, the Lead Developer will be accountable for driving the evolution of our software development and architecture processes, executing the product vision and meeting all required technical challenges.



Being the Lead Developer of SIMLab is a full-time role based in Nairobi, Kenya.  It requires someone with experience of running a high-level agile production team to lead the team through the next goals and ambitions of a highly-regarded tech company. The team runs product development iterations using the scrum methodology with a team of 5-7 developers.  Support and general improvement work is managed using a back-up kanban process.


-Leader of all things technical within the development team.  A technical leader and chief technical architect.

-Accountable for direction and quality of ongoing development, testing, bug-fixes and maintenance for core codebase covering both apps.

-Platform architecture of the team’s products, currently FrontlineSMS and FrontlineCloud.

-DevOps.  Maintain and support our servers achieving 3+ 9’s uptime.

-Help the support team with their tasks by ensuring the necessary technical experience and knowledge is shared throughout the development team.

-Manage and develop the capacity of development staff and volunteers. This includes joint responsibilities with the CTO for recruitment, performance management, appraisals, training, personal development and support.

-Represent the SIMLab team at events and meetings as requested by the CTO and the CEO.

-Undertake any other duties reasonably requested by the CTO or CEO.

-Uphold and embody our values.


Person Specification


-Expertise in one or several RAD web frameworks such as Grails, Rails or Django

-Developing for the full web stack from front-end, through application logic and domain to underlying infrastructure

-Ability to write JavaScript, HTML, and CSS with eyes closed.

-Ability to both learn from and teach other engineers

-Project and production management experience

-Knowledge, experience and belief in proper agile and lean production processes

-Experience of working in, and leading, teams in previous companies

-Thinks strategically and with a long-term view to the platform’s development, as well as ensuring that short-term problems are solved

-Ability to juggle a varying and complex workload, and help lead in prioritizing the team’s tasks

-Capacity to work with remotely located non-developer colleagues over email, Skype, phone, and other tools.

-A team player with a flexible and open-minded approach with a willingness to get stuck in with whatever needs doing at this small, dynamic organization!



-Experience scaling a web application to hundreds of thousands of users and beyond

-A passion for mobile technology and social media and their power to reach people

-Experience working in a start-up

-Experience in Java, Grails, Groovy

How to Apply: Email CVs and questions to: info@frontlinesms.com