Diversity at School16 inspires alum Anne-Marcelle Kouama to create multicultural platform

June 10, 2022

In this interview, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Anne-Marcelle Kouama, an alum of our October 2021 cohort. She is currently working at Merit America as a Program Success Manager and Career Coach.

You say that the diversity at School16 was something you’d never experienced before. 

I’ve participated in bootcamps and felt like I had an isolated experience. When I started School16 I felt like wow, this is what the face of tech should look like on a bigger scale, and this company is going to get us there. I saw physical diversity but also diversity of thought. 

Explain why this is so meaningful to you.

I want to work with people who are really curious and engage with others from various backgrounds. So when I walked into a space like School16, it felt very affirming. 

I grew up in Côte d'ivoire, a small West African country, and when I immigrated to the U.S. I didn’t speak any English. I share an immigrant background with Vadim and Sergei and appreciated having that connection when I first met them.

How has your background influenced where you see your career heading in the future?

When I think about the African continent, I think about the next billion users who will one day use their first piece of technology and go on the internet for the first time. A lot of times, the people creating tech don’t look like the ones being impacted by it—the average person with a smartphone.

As a career coach, I see myself as a bridge builder who can create leaders out of the people being impacted by tech. I want that to be my legacy. I saw School16 as a vehicle to help me get there because we’re so aligned in terms of our vision of diversity.

School16’s mission is connecting students to their first or next tech role. You were able to find a pretty unique, nontraditional opportunity.

There was a survey my cohort filled out asking us how School16 could help connect us to other people. I remember writing that I was looking for a co-founder or fellow ally to do dope things and create a company with. I didn’t think about the form again after I filled it out.

I ended up meeting Michael during our cohort, and we had an instant connection. He’s a Vietnamese immigrant and we saw ourselves in each other's stories. Together, we’ve created Baesphere, a platform where people can express their interests in anime, K-pop, hip hop, you name it! We want our members to turn their hobbies into professional narratives that help them stand out and get hired!

How exciting! All the impactful work you’re doing sounds like quite the balancing act.

My day job as a career coach empowers adults to pivot into data analytics. Then I’m building my startup part-time and applying for grant funding. All of my work is integrated. My work as a career coach informs what I do with the startup and that synergy is really key for me.

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