A Chat to Inspire with Estelle Yomba : 5 Takeaways
For the first episode of our new project "A Chat to Inspire", we were given the opportunity to have an insightful conversation with young Cameroonian social entrepreneur Estelle Yomba. At the age of 30 only, Ms. Yomba is the founder of Sunshine Africa Education, an organization based in the United States that seeks to promote quality education in Africa. She is also the Founder and CEO of Seven Group comprising Seven Advanced Academy which is a professional IT Training Institute in Douala, and Seven Global Procurement and Sourcing, which is an IT incubation center. All these, she was able to accomplish with her team, through hard work and perseverance. Furthermore, Ms. Yomba also works as a Senior Technical Program Manager at Google and is a proud mom and spouse. There is just so much that one can learn from a woman with such a rich and unique background, but we have selected 5 key points that we think you should write down as takeaways from our conversation Ms. Yomba.
1. People make a company
As a company or an individual, who is navigating this season of Covid-19, you probably turned to remote work as a solution to carry out your various activities. the following is a key highlight from Estelle Yomba's experience of managing a team remotely:
" People make a company, no matter what business you run. The people, they are everything [...] Over the years, I have had people that are with me not because I said so. But they are with me because they believe in what we do, and they are willing of sacrifice a lot to make that happen [...] We have shifted the energy in Seven not to be too company-driven. By the end of the day, we are Africans and I just love it about us. There is that connection on top that we meet here to work. There is something beyond that. And when you have a team like that, you have peace of mind."
2. Replace 'What if I fail' with 'What have I achieved'
Talking about the challenges of being a young female entrepreneur, Ms. Yomba highlighted the fact that a lot of people would put so much pressure on themselves that it becomes a challenge, preventing them to have peace of mind with what they already do.
" We feel like we always have to get things right and we don't tolerate the mistakes that we make ourselves before even people get to judge us. That is something that very early I have always told myself : "I am not here to impress anyone. If some of you know my struggles, no matter what I do even if it is a failure, you will have a different view, and will not necessarily judge me quickly. The things that I do, I do them from the bottom of my heart. My goal here is to inspire young Africans. It's to be able to be a mentor for many, make them dream again that things are possible. And I am doing that through education because education for me is the key. And so, I am not on a competition or whatsoever.'
That helps me remove that pressure of 'What if I fail?' I don't ask myself that anymore. I look at 'What have I achieved?' instead of 'What is yet to be done?'
3. Everyone has a part to play in building a properly working ecosystem that is favorable for quality education
Quality education is key. To achieve quality education, however, it is important to acknowledge the realities of African countries and to build an ecosystem where governments play their role by implementing favorable policies, businesses bring their contribution by promoting the hiring of the local workforce, and individuals play their role by seeking knowledge rather than diplomas.
" What we lack is not what is in the brain. We have it. I think the smartest ones that I met in life were in Africa or are in Africa. But why are we not making it? It's because quality education is lacking. I define quality education not only by the material or the content of the course. It's beyond that. It's the infrastructure or at least the environment you surround a student with: Having access to some very nice classrooms, where when they get in they feel like this is knowledge already; being in a place where they don't think of 'What if power goes off?' because there is constant power; being in a place where they can have access to the Internet [...] It is only on top of that, that you can really shape these students minds to knowing that they own their future, they own the future of Africa; we need them to be able to take the lead."
4. Soft skills are key to boosting your competitiveness in the job market
According to Ms. Yomba, it is key for each young African to be able to do something specific and to be aware of this. She, therefore, calls for the need for more experts on the continent than just generalists. This problem also reflects the educational system being broken. However, she also highlights the to not only have hard skills but soft skills. This means being able to market yourself and/or your product or idea, understand people and their behaviors, make decisions, set yourself apart from other candidates with the same technical background in a job interview.
" Out of this whole broken system, there are still some who struggle to find their way out and they still end up good. But they are affected by the fact that they are in an environment where we usually don't know what we know. And so, we cannot sell ourselves. And when you cannot sell yourself, whoever wants to buy you will never be able to buy you at the value that you are worth."
5. Success often requires a vision, hard-work, perseverance and collaboration
To you who seek to innovate in Africa, Ms. Yomba says you need to seek to solve real-life problems. Education is just one of those. But you will need to have a vision, to strategize, to work hard, to get back to your feet when you fall, and to partner with other young people in order to go far.
" Some of the products that you use today, if you knew how many times they have failed before getting to where they are today, you would not believe it [...] Make sure you have a vision as to where do I want to be in 5 years because that vision thing is the key. When the tornadoes will come and they will shake you in any direction, the only thing that will hold you still is your vision."
For the full conversation with Ms. Estelle Yomba, check out this first episode of
"A Chat to Inspire".