With a Masters in Engineering majoring in mathematics, Olivier knows a thing or two about systems organisation and data analysis. Having graduated from École Centrale in Paris and MIT in Boston, he’s built a career out of grappling with problems to create solutions that offer real value.
“There’s always more to learn.”
After completing a stint as a research and teaching assistant at MIT, Olivier left Boston and immersed himself in California’s start-up culture. For the next two years, he drove international business development as a senior associate at Amonix Inc, a fast-growing start-up that developed solar power systems and renewable energy solutions.
At the same time, Olivier had his first introduction to South Africa, and over several business trips to our shores – he fell in love with Mzansi.
The Spice of the South
“There was something about South Africa; life here feels more thrilling, more flavourful,” says Olivier. “What some might not like about emerging markets, I enjoy. In California, I sometimes felt like I was in The Truman Show, everything was super easy and polished. Here, in South Africa, I feel more challenged. There are unique and inspiring problems to solve. There are all these different cultures, mindsets and climates. I find South Africa very rich as a country because of the diversity ”
In February 2014, Olivier immigrated to South Africa when he stepped into the management consulting world at Bain and Company.
Over the next five years, he worked on numerous high profile projects in South Africa, Zambia, Ghana, Qatar and Spain. However, after half a decade on the road in the ever-changing consulting space, the need to make an impact took hold once more. The East Coast had always appealed to him, so he started to search for opportunities in Durban. Then he found iKhokha.
“I think everybody wants to care about what they do every day.”
Finding Purpose on the East Coast
For some, a nine-to-five is all about the paycheck at the end of the month. For others, it’s an opportunity to build something that will enable their fellow man. It’s a chance to reinvigorate an economy and uplift a nation. For these types, making a difference and feeling concrete change is job satisfaction.
“I wanted to find the excitement I had working for a start-up,” says Olivier. “I wanted to work for a company where I could be the change I want to see in the world. And a company where the product has a positive impact on society.”
For Olivier, this fulfilment comes not only from working towards a higher purpose, but in having the space to create. It’s a unique combination that he has found in abundance at iKhokha.
“What you work on and the mandate you have is pretty cool,” says Olivier. “It’s more greenfield work, more responsibilities and somewhat more challenges. I enjoy having a blank page in front of me, with fewer constraints than at a big corporate.”
Olivier forms a key component of iKhokha’s product leadership team, tasked with ensuring that iKhokha’s product set truly makes business easier for entrepreneurs. As Product Manager, Olivier oversees all of our product development – from innovations to day-to-day maintenance. It’s a new role which, like many of the others in recent months, was created to meet the demands of our rapidly scaling company.
“It’s a new team, so it’s very exciting,” says Olivier. “We have the opportunity to build from scratch. I’m excited about all the profiles we’ve hired. We have smart, dedicated, impact-driven people, and we’re building iKhokha together.”
It’s All About Impact
A pessimist might say that, more often than not, companies talk more about making a difference than actually taking action. But when you look at South Africa’s economic landscape, it’s hard to argue that the enablement of SMEs can lead to anything else than positive change.
“We are enabling the economy. I strongly believe that.”
As Olivier says: “A country’s economy thrives when small business thrives. If you want an economy to grow, you need a healthy small business ecosystem. By helping small businesses accept payments, we’re enabling that ecosystem. So, we are enabling the economy. I strongly believe that.”
While you’ll often see Olivier around the office well after 5pm, it’s not all work for the Frenchman. When he’s not in the office, you’ll find him catching a wave or two at North Beach or further down the south coast.
“Surfing is outdoorsy. It’s physical. It keeps me challenged. It helps me reflect. When you’re in the ocean, it reduces all the noise. It clears up your brain,” he says.
And that clarity and forethought, combined with a true sense of purpose, is a critical component in what’s driving iKhokha forward. He believes in the dream we’re building – as do we all in the iK Tribe.
Are You Ready to Make a Difference?
We have a unique opportunity to make a real impact. Through our shared vision and skillsets and the rich collaborative culture we’re fostering at iKhokha, we can truly embody Gandhi’s words and be the change we want to see in the world.
Like Olivier says: “I enjoy the impact. Working on something that has a positive impact on society, that’s very important for me. I found it working in renewable energy, and I’ve found it again working at iKhokha.”
Looking to be part of a purpose-driven organisation? It’s time to #Jointhehustle! Visit our careers page to view the latest job vacancies.