‘Denmark is like a little America’

In the latest edition of My Danish Career, The Local met Santiago Obama, an entrepreneur raised in France who came to Denmark to 'make it' in the entertainment business.

'Denmark is like a little America'
Santiago Obama. Photo: Submitted
Santiago Obama is a 29-year-old Guinean who was born and raised in Nice, France. Since coming to Denmark, he has been involved in various ventures including running a modelling agency, working as a nightclub promoter and helping aspiring artists. 
Why did you come to Copenhagen?

It was random at first. I really wanted to play football and I tried to join FC Copenhagen, but mentally I wasn’t strong enough! (laughs) 
How do you define yourself?

I'm an entrepreneur. I’m always thinking about what could work and what people will like. And I think that this entrepreneurship mentality comes from my mom because she’s African so she likes to do business. She is a tough one when it comes to money and dealing with people, but I am not quite on her level yet.
How were your first months here?
I’d say it’s like somebody drops you in a dark room and you have to find the light and go out. It was very hard.
You are now managing different businesses: a modelling agency, a music label, working for Copenhagen nightclubs… How do you handle that?

The secret when you truly love something is to do it no matter what other people say. Some people will try to discourage you based on their own fears and other will take advantage of your good heart, but you just have to keep going. With my modelling agency, I work with around 20 models so I’m always working the phone, answering email, dealing with pictures, etc… I’m an ambitious person and I always try to do my best. It's not so easy to build trust in the modelling business; there are a lot of scammers.
Why did you start the modelling agency?

My ex-girlfriend struggled to be a model, and I didn’t liked the way she was being rejected with no further explanation, despite being a very beautiful young woman. There are a lot of young women out there who have been in the same situation as my her. My agency will give anyone an opportunity, as long they fit our clients' requirements. But if they can't get into our agency, we will take the time to explain it to them. 
What’s the favourite part of your job?

Everything I do is about other people, promoting others. I like to help people, even though I haven't always succeeded. I have been lucky in my life to develop my passion and I find great pleasure in helping others. 
Tell us a little bit about your record label/internet radio.

Soul2Soul Radio was born out of my love for music. We focus above all on R&B, soul and hip-hop, as long there is a strong message behind. I like to manage the label along with producer and co-founder Sajaan Tahir. I also love to decide what music it’s interesting for us like, for example, rapper Joseph Agami and my great friend DJ Magic Fingers.
 At this moment, we are not very active, but we are working on it to come back with something good.

How did you get involved with event management in Copenhagen nightclubs?  
I have managed and promoted different events at Rust nightclub, including Brooklyn Zoo and Keep It Real Hip Hop. I enjoy showing people that you can take a place to the top if you work hard enough and set your mind to it.

Do you think Denmark is a good place for entrepreneurs?

It doesn’t matter where you are – it could be in France, Spain, England or Sweden. It’s just about doing it. When you’re passionate about something you find the time and the means to do it, at least that's what I believe in. You should visualize your success, because having a vision of where you are going can have a big impact.
Do you think there are enough business opportunities in Denmark for everyone?

What I have seen around here is the fact that many people have good business structures but they don’t know how to make it work. But I think that there are plenty of opportunities here. Denmark is like a little America, if you’re smart you can achieve great things.

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Expat aims for gender balance in Danish tech

Bulgaria native Plamena Cherneva has created Codher to bring more women into the Danish technology industry and increase gender diversity within tech.

Expat aims for gender balance in Danish tech
Codher students hard at work improving their tech skills. Photo: Submitted

It’s no secret that Denmark has a rather good track record when it comes to technology. The small northern European country has consistently ranked near the top in studies comparing national technology industries and access to the benefits of the internet in an increasingly connected world.

In the past year Denmark has been named the world's most connected country, the most digital country in Europe, and was ranked number one in the world for green technology in a global report.

Yet the world of programmers and tech engineers has been plagued with one glaring issue: the lack of gender diversity. And not just in Denmark. At Google women make up only 17 percent of the technical employees, and at Facebook the figure is even lower at 15 percent. According to a survey conducted this year by Stackflow, out of the 26,000 programmers from 157 different countries surveyed only 5.8 percent identified as female.

Expat Plamena Cherneva is striving to bring gender balance to Denmark’s technology industry.

Cherneva came to Denmark from Bulgaria more than five years ago to pursue her ambitions in technology. But it wasn’t all roses and sunshine for her in her new home. 

“When I first came to study in Denmark, there were 20 students in my course but only two women including me. The only other woman dropped out before graduating due to a lack of support from the university,” she told The Local.

“It was certainly a struggle to graduate for me here in Denmark and to make a career for myself in technology. This was primarily due to the huge gender inequality I faced, which led to a lack of support and became a major barrier to developing a strong social network,” she continued.

This led to Cherneva taking the initiative to create Codher, a Copenhagen based organization that aims to “diminish the perceived barriers facing the IT industry and make it accessible for those who are interested in pursuing a career in the industry,” according to their website.

Codher offers workshops and seminars in programming, web design, IT project management and entrepreneurship. But the course offers more than just the educational side of technology, as Cherneva told The Local.

“Here at Codher we are not only helping students follow their academic ambitions, but we are supporting them and giving them a huge community within the world of tech, something I’ve felt is seriously lacking in Denmark,” she said.

Codher is not only available for women looking to get into tech, but to anyone wanting to get involved in the industry. The group has received support from many like-minded males.

“We don’t want to be labelled as some sort of new feminist organisation, so of course our doors are open to everyone. We are getting great support from men, helping us with organizing our workshops and mentoring our attendees,” Cherneva said.

Codher has already found a partnership with the Copenhagen based tech company Pandisign, which is are aiming to utilize the expertise coming out of Codher, and to improve the gender balance within the company. 

More about Codher can be found here