Born in the Ivory Coast of Africa, raised in France with educational and professional stops in Hong Kong and London along the way — including law school — Ange Kokora experienced a lifetime of diversity before arriving in the United States in 2015. He now works as a business manager for Daymon, an Advantage Solutions business focused on private brands. He is also an active member of Black and African-American Network Diversified (BAND), the Advantage employee resource group for Black teammates and their allies. He lives in Grand Rapids, Mich., with his wife Vivian, daughter Angela and son Carter.
Kokora brings his background of diverse experiences to his family life and career every day. We spoke to him as Advantage celebrates Black History Month this February.
Tell us how your background helped to build your passion for diversity.
I’m a big advocate for diversity. For me, there is no life without it. That’s the reason for my travel around the world, meeting people, experiencing cultures. Learning from everybody is important.
I moved to Hong Kong where I lived for 10 years. At the onset of my career, I dedicated myself to serving in non-governmental organizations and non-profit entities, contributing to educational and healthcare institutions. It was during this time that I met my future wife, a native of Hong Kong, and we welcomed our daughter into the world there. Following this, I transitioned to the legal sector, taking up a position at a law firm in Hong Kong where I specialized in intellectual property law. Subsequently, I relocated to the United States. My professional journey has been varied and multifaceted.
What does it mean to you to celebrate Black History Month not only in the workplace, but in your life outside of work?
It’s an opportunity to promote education and dialogue about Black history and culture and to support Black-owned businesses and creators. It shines a spotlight on Black culture that can carry on throughout the year.
Why did you join BAND? How has your ERG experience impacted your work/employment experience at Advantage?
I wanted to connect with individuals who share similar backgrounds to me as a Black person. I missed that a lot living and working in Asia, where there aren’t many Black people. Coming to America, obviously there are a lot of Black people and a lot of issues here, and I arrived at a particularly explosive time over the past eight years. Being from another country, my experience has been different from that of many of my coworkers. While the Blace experience is unique to each individual, BAND helps me connect with others and learn more about living and working here and being a Black American.
Diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace are also very important to me. BAND and other ERGs provide a sense of community and support and belonging within the organization. Being in BAND, as a group we also have influenced decisions on the leadership level as it relates to diversity and inclusion in the company.
How important is it for a company like Advantage, or any company, to support diversity?
It’s very important. First of all, a diverse team leads to innovation and creativity, bringing fresh new ideas and perspective to a company. And an inclusive environment helps a company attract and retain more diverse talent. Diverse teammates also bring greater market understanding into different customer segments. Different perspectives lead to better, more informed business decisions as well.
How can teammates show support and appreciation for Black History Month, or for their Black peers in general?
Black History Month is a time to recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black individuals and to amplify Black voices. But not only during Black History Month — it has to be every day, every month. Our history is a shared history, so it’s important to understand contributions of Black individuals and communities.
It’s up to all teammates to create a sense of belonging, be open to new experiences and perspectives and stand with their Black teammates. In this way, we can foster an inclusive and respectful work environment where everyone feels valued. That’s what Winning Together is all about.
What advice would you share with the next generation of Black talent, those coming into the workforce?
Embrace your identity. Black is beautiful and special. Recognize that.
You’ll find mentors and allies who can provide guidance and support to you as a Black person coming into the workforce. Take advantage of those connections. Be proactive in pursuing your career goals and aspirations. Stay resilient, learn from your setbacks and stay focused on your goals.
I always try to be a role model to my peers and people who come after me and let them know it’s possible to have both a family and a successful career. You need to prioritize your well-being and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
We all lead different lives and come from different backgrounds, but we essentially want the same things, which includes realizing our personal and professional goals.