For this new edition of #HowWeGotThis, we are meeting with Chris Allexandre, one of the coaches who helped LFSF students during the 2021 edition of Start’Up Lycée, the project-based program designed to introduce Gr 10 students to the process of launching a startup. Chris is sharing his experience with this year's online format, and how he managed to help students fully benefit from the project.
LFSF : Hi Chris, could you please introduce yourself and tell us more about your background and your role in the LFSF Start’Up Lycée event?
Chris: My name is Chris Allexandre and I am a parent of 3 children at LFSF, respectively in 11th, 8th and 6th grade. My wife and I moved with the kids to San Francisco over 6 years ago, after living in Germany and China for a few years and now have settled here permanently. Professionally, I am a senior executive in a listed company in semiconductors (chips industry). I am also an active investor and a member of a few boards. I started to engage at Start-up Lycee with Olivier Combeau last year as a coach and again this year. To be honest, I loved the event so much the first time that I immediately volunteered for the next one. I was able to attend the full two days this year and find it very exciting.
LFSF : As a coach, what are your main missions in this event ? How are you helping the students develop their projects?
Chris: Our role as a coach is to help, support and guide the students through the process of defining and presenting their project. Like in any project, there are ups and downs. Some moments of excitement, some moments of doubts. Our role as coach is to cheer them up when they are down, and channel them forward when they are up. I personally never view my coach role as to give them the answers, neither to give a framework to succeed.. But more as a guide, asking questions mostly so they can think it through, keeping them on point when they go sideways and most importantly ensuring that the group remains inclusive with everyone in and together.
Above a screenshot of the online meeting between Olivier Combeau (top left) and the coaches.
LFSF: This year, the event had to be adapted to comply with the safety restrictions imposed by the pandemic. How was your experience given the mostly online format? What were the advantages and challenges you had to deal with, as a coach?
Chris: Of course, this was different. I remember vividly last year when the students were writing on the walls, brainstorming out loud, laughing while working etc… however, I would say it went very well online this year and beyond my expectations. The students are very handy and used to the tools to collaborate like google docs, zoom video etc.. They jumped into it super easy. It was a bit more difficult for them of course to stay on all the time but they did very well. As a coach, I dealt with basic challenges like ensuring everyone contributes, overcoming wifi issues and other conflicts. But it worked well overall. What I found interesting with the online aspect this year is that students could almost forget the coach was in the “room”... It was very learningful to listen to them discuss and collaborate, so I could help them even more.
(Above a picture students on site during the 2020 edition of Start'UP Lycée with the theme "Bold Business For A Better Planet")
LFSF : What are typically for you the most rewarding moments of the competition?
Chris: The most rewarding moments of the competition is actually not the competition itself…. But the process to get to the final results. I really like when the groups get their “ha-ha” moments or when they get together in full motion and start to create. I find this fascinating and it is as much a team collaboration and leadership exercise than a creation of a concept. Successful teams know very well that the best part of achieving something great is not the outcome but the journey. For us coaches, it is very rewarding to be able to see the students working together, taking guidance, as well as coaching and delivering something they feel good about.
LFSF : Beyond the competition itself, what do you think Open Learning events such as this one bring to LFSF students?
Chris: the students are together for 3 days to deliver something under a tight schedule and with high expectations. It is indeed far from being easy to go from a blank sheet of paper to a start-up concept including products and business model and deliver it in a pitch of 5 minutes, all this in less than 3 days. This environment forces them to work in teams beyond what they usually do. The best teams are the ones that collaborate the best way, that leverage each other's skills and contribution the best way. Like in real professional life, this helps the students to understand the value of collaboration and support of others. Many students also come out as natural leaders in their group and this helps develop their leadership skills and experience.
All the projects were stunning by their creativity, purpose and objectives.We have to remember that those students are in 10th grade and to come out with so many great ideas and projects is simply awesome.
LFSF: Thank you very much for your time! Before wrapping up, do you want to share a few words to the winning teams and all participants?
Chris: My words would be that even though it is a competition and the winning team (Sea-weed burger) did very well and deserve their victory, everyone won for me. First of all, all the projects were stunning by their creativity, purpose and objectives. We have to remember that those students are in 10th grade and to come out with so many great ideas and projects is simply awesome. Second, while some did better than some others on creativity or delivery, they all did an amazing job to deliver something meaningful and for me, this is why they all won.
The other “winners” we should highlight are Olivier Combeau, Christine Riez and the entire Start-up Lycee team. This is their event and our kids are lucky to be part of such an amazing school that provides such learning experience. A lot of work goes into making this such a great event and I didn’t want to close this discussion without highlighting their great contribution.
#HowWeGotThis is our series of testimonials showing how our teams and community are pioneering, reinventing themselves and imagine new ways to operate in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.