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Name: Coralie Colmez

Job Title: Co-founder and Product developer

Organisation: Unifrog

Number of years in current position: 11

Qualifications: BA in Mathematics from Cambridge University

Explain what you do on an average day at work.

Day-to-day I work on the platform itself, which means deciding if any changes or updates need to be made, and what new tools we should develop next. I work with our data team, design team and our developers to make it happen.

In my role as founder, I also discuss with our CEO his updates on how the company is doing, and his plans for how we should grow.

I work from home and always have done, even before Covid, because that’s how I concentrate best, and I like to be flexible with my hours. Being a company founder, I often must work on weekends and evenings, but in exchange I get to take breaks during the day or even take a day off if I don’t have much to do.

What do you like most about your job?

The best thing about my job by far is when we get messages from students or teachers telling us how much the platform has helped them. That’s the whole reason Alex (my co-founder) and I started the company in the first place.

In terms of work environment, I’m very independent, so starting my own company suits me well because I get to decide what I do!

What stimulated your interest in maths, and when?

Both of my parents are mathematicians, so I got to do a lot of fun maths at home when I was a kid. I was always really into it, and when my parents set me problems to solve I wouldn’t stop until I could do them (none of my siblings were like that, so it’s obviously partly down to my personality). I also had very good grades in maths at school, so I was able to keep going with it until university.

 What influenced your career choice?

The first thing was the area I knew I wanted to work in: education. I really think that education is what can help change the world if we can give every child the same chances to learn and to succeed. Career education is an area with a lot of inequality (rich schools might have a whole team of career counsellors, where schools in disadvantaged areas might not even have one).

The second thing was, as mentioned before, the way I work best. Which is with everyone leaving me alone to do what I must do!

Which skills do you consider to be essential for your job?

I think that you can start a company with many different skills, if you do it with people who have the skills you don’t (for example, my co-founder Alex is great at motivating people and having lots of ideas, whereas I am good at spotting which of his ideas actually make sense, and solving problems).

The skills every founder does need to have are:

  • (Rational) Risk-taking, because you have to just go for it or nothing will happen (I said ‘rational’ because taking risks doesn’t mean doing stupid things, it means trying things when you are not sure what will happen, but you believe they can work)
  • Resilience, because things will definitely go wrong, and you have to be able to keep going

Any advice you may have for other individuals considering your career path?

If you want to start your own company, I think you should:

  • Find an idea you really believe in. That means you think it can make money in the long run – make a plan to see if the numbers work out.
  • Make sure you also genuinely care about your idea. Maybe you think it’s something people really need, or something that can help the world, or just something you know a lot about, love or are interested in. If it’s just because you think you’ll make a lot of money, that can also work, but you probably won’t want to spend years doing it.
  • Find people to do it with who have complementary skills to yours and who you think you can work with well (unless you decide to do it on your own, which is hard but can also work)
  • Be prepared to give it your all, at least for a few years.
  • Also be prepared to stop if it doesn’t work out (which is fine and happens a lot – you can try another company later)

Then just go for it!

Your future career plans?

We still have lots of ideas for Unifrog, so that’s what I’ll be doing for at least the next few years.

In a post-Unifrog life, I’d concentrate on the things I do outside of work now: writing books (I actually wrote a YA novel with maths in it already, called The Irrational Diary of Clara Valentine), making art and playing music (I play the violin).


Featured Image by Alexis Brown on Unsplash