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Grails/Java/Groovy Developer for FrontlineCloud and FrontlineSMS

Based: Nairobi, Kenya
Reporting to: CTO & Chief Engineer
Contract duration: Permanent
Salary: KES90,000 – KES160,000 monthly pro rata before deductions ($13k-23k p.a.), depending on experience
Hours: Full-time
How to apply: CV and cover note to a


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 Chief Engineer 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.

We are looking to cement and expand the skills base of the team in the coming year and this is a developer role within the organisation’s technical production team to lead both technically, professionally and sometimes pastorally.


  • Participating in and taking responsibility within the technical development team

    • Ensure quality of product development, testing, bug-fixes and maintenance for codebase covering all apps

    • Participate in agile development iterations based on kanban and scrum, developing the products with the product owners’ direction & roadmaps, CTO and rest of the technical team.

    • Input into UX design, user-friendly in-app instructions, writing support articles and technical training

  • Take responsibility for certain products where agreed.

  • Mentor trainee, intern and junior developers

  • Provide user support via designated channels, such as our online user community, Zendesk tickets and direct communication (e.g. email, Skype and in person) as required.

  • Ensure delivery of projects and tasks in conjunction with the relevant project owner and Chief Engineer, and including CTO where appropriate.

  • Feed into our project proposals from a technical perspective, and assist with estimating development costs.

  • Represent the SIMLab team at events and meetings as requested by the Chief Engineer or CTO.

  • Undertake any other duties reasonably requested by the Chief Engineer or the CTO.

  • Uphold and embody our values.


Person Specification


  • At least 2-3 years experience working in a professional software or web company

  • JavaSE

  • Strong educational and professional knowledge of object oriented programming and design

  • Ability to quickly understand and learn unfamiliar technologies and frameworks

  • Strong administration skills, accurate, organised and punctual; working within a team not just coding

  • Ability to juggle a complex workload and prioritise duties, meeting deadlines without prompting and support

  • Ability to work independently, with limited supervision

  • Capacity to work with colleagues who work remotely using digital tools, email, & phone

  • Excellent written and spoken English

  • Flexible and open-minded approach with a willingness to get stuck in with whatever needs doing at this small, dynamic 7-yr-old start-up


  • Grails, JavaEE, Git, Groovy


  • Commercial experience developing web applications (or similar software)

  • Experience and appreciation of modern industry practices including scrum, pair programming, continuous build/delivery, and using project tracking tools, especially JIRA

  • Understanding of web fundamentals including HTTP, CSS, REST, Javascript, AJAX etc.

  • Experience developing for mobile

  • Active contributor to open source projects

  • A passion, interest or experience of mobile technology and social media

  • Experience of writing user support documentation in English

>> Email us at telling us why you should join the team, and attach a CV or link to prove it.

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