Independence day celebrates the American values of breaking free from traditional social norms and having the courage to forge our own paths as individuals. We like people who have a vision of who they want to become, and the courage to bring that vision to life. At AUrate, we celebrate the risk-taker attitude to be unapologetically you. This means pursuing your individual hopes and dreams without the fear of being a bit different. We admire those who resist convention and keep pushing to make the world a better place.
Last year, Camille Agon packed up her bags and daringly moved to Johannesburg with a dream to empower a new generation of youth by teaching them how to code. Together with Arlene Mulder, she has since then launched WeThinkCode_ , a not-for-profit university with the mission to train 100,000 coders in Africa to drive the digital revolution on the continent and meet the increasing demand of tech skills around the world. We love how she is using her kindness to spark a global change. She represents the strong independent woman that we admire here at AUrate. In celebration of Independence day and the month of July, we asked Camille Agon to share her inspiring story through answering 7 questions.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about WeThinkCode_ ?
I’ve always been drawn to vocations that have a social impact. I began my career as a journalist before becoming a CSR consultant. But I quickly felt the need to go right to the front line, to take concrete action on the ground. This is why in 2012, I joined French entrepreneur Sebastien Breteau to launch the Breteau Foundation for Education with the mission to distribute the best digital education tools to children in developing countries.
It is through the foundation that I discovered South Africa and the untapped opportunities of training talented African youth for the digital economy. In August 2015, I met Arlene Mulder, and together we created WeThinkCode_ with the vision to unlock local potential to build and drive Africa's digital industry. Two years on and WeThinkCode_ has opened a campus in Joburg CBD, where it currently trains 300 talented software engineers. We are planning to open a second campus in Cape Town by the end of 2017. The course is tuition free to students and sponsored by corporates, who also provide students with internship opportunities and a clear path to employment.
2. What was the biggest challenge you faced starting a company in South Africa? How did you overcome that challenge?
The biggest challenge I faced starting WeThinkCode_ was myself and dealing with the emotional roller coster of the entrepreneurship journey. The company we started with Arlene disrupts all the education codes - it is free, open to all talent regardless of previous education and there are no teachers. This means we had to stand firm and believe in our vision and model to convince and reassure our stakeholders that this model was the solution to the digital skills gap in South Africa. Self doubt and questions would of course arise in addition to the emotional ups and downs of starting a business. I always stayed true to what I believed and worked to develop good self awareness to ensure I stayed focused and driven by my vision.
3. What does independence mean to you and how do you embody this trait in your daily life? How have you embraced this spirit in the past?
For me, independence means staying true to who you are, no matter what. Being independent is to continuously strive to discover and live by your truths, even when doing so is uncomfortable, scary or not socially acceptable.
4. It is always difficult to find the courage to be different. How do you stay true to your ideas and remain confident in the face of those who doubt your abilities/ideas?
I highly value other people’s feedback, especially from my family, friends and colleagues. It helps me question my ideas, which I find is critical to grow both as an individual and as a company. When people doubt either my abilities or my ideas, I first try to understand where it comes from - does it come from a place of love or from a place of insecurity? If it's from a place of love, I take it as valuable feedback. If from a place of insecurity, I make sure not to take it personally. Staying true to oneself also means having the courage to look at oneself objectively and critically — from a compassionate place of course!
5. Looking back on your own journey, what advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who hope to bring their dreams to life?
For me being an entrepreneur is learning and striving to become the best of who you are so that you can give the best to your company and your employees. Without them your dream would not happen! I would advise all entrepreneurs to look at the entrepreneurial path as both an individual and professional journey.
6. What do you like most about AUrate?
AUrate is the ultimate independent jewelry brand. It has stayed true to its founders' vision since the beginning, striving to always bring the highest quality and most beautiful designs at the fairest price. AUrate disrupts the jewelry world with style. With "a book for a look," Sophie and Bouchra have shown that beauty and luxury can be joined with doing good. I am extremely proud of them!
7. What is your favorite piece of AUrate jewelry and why?
I love the Inverse Cuff. For me it embodies the elegance of AUrate design with the rigidity of the gold metal.