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The Arlene Mulder business leadership journey

Breaking education’s rules to solve one of its biggest problems.

In her matric year, social tech entrepreneur Arlene Mulder attended winter school where she solved a university level maths problem that her teacher said was impossible to solve. Problem solving is Mulder’s passion, and so it’s no coincidence that this former RMB investment banker created a business that teaches under-resourced students how to become top coders – for free – through solving real life problems for business clients.

If that sounds like idealistic daydreaming to you, in May 2017, Telkom subsidiary BCX invested R60 million in Mulder’s company WeThinkCode_ , with the intention to more than double the number of entry-level coders in the South African market by the end of 2018.

The problem that Mulder and her partner set out to solve was not only the lack of access to tuition for these students, but also the restrictions of conventional entrance tests and criteria. Her mission became ‘the democratisation of access to opportunity and training’ through both a different system for talent identification and free tuition. Her vision is to train 100 000 African world class coders in the next 20 years. How her company is doing the training, is innovative to say the least. Her business model, and how she is funding it, is remarkable.

In this full length face-to-face interview Mulder shares the lessons learnt at RMB, her journey to sustainable social entrepreneurialism, the failures, the feedback and the highly successful business model that is WeThinkCode_ today.

In partnership with FNB, Moneyweb presents this bespoke leadership video series with top business people. The interview draws on the person’s life, failures and the lessons they have learnt on their journey to the successful leadership positions they hold today.

Other business leaders share their stories here.


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