Alan Kan, Co-Founder & Innovation Director at Mission Ready

From a young age, Alan Kan, Co-Founder and Innovation Director at Mission Ready, was interested in computers, and his passion for the industry has only grown over time.

After several years working for IBM and other large tech companies, Alan turned his focus towards reducing the tech skills gap and improving diversity and inclusion in the industry.

We caught up with Alan to learn more about why he founded Mission Ready, how they are tackling the tech skills gap, and what excites him about the future.

Thanks for sharing your story, Alan.

Firstly, how would you explain to a five-year-old what you do day-to-day?

Just like your teacher helps you learn maths or spelling, I teach people how to make real cool stuff with computers, like creating websites and computer games. And if they like it alot, and want to get a job doing this stuff, I help them with that too!

And for the adults, what does that translate to in terms of specific examples?

As the Innovation Director at Mission Ready, I am on a mission to design and implement tech accelerators that equip individuals with the most in-demand skills. Day-to-day, I am focused on creating and refining our programmes that help people transition into tech careers in an accelerated 19-week timeframe.

I'm lucky to work alongside an amazing and passionate team of expert trainers, mentors, and support staff, I am responsible for ensuring that our programmes deliver the highest quality content and real value to our participants. With a track record of over 85% employment success rate, the team and I are dedicated to helping individuals succeed in their tech careers.

To continue staying ahead of the game, I collaborate with a range of industry partners and thought leaders to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and emerging technologies. My passion for innovation and creativity is reflected in everything I do, from the design of our training programmes to the development of new strategies and approaches.

Ultimately, my goal is to position Mission Ready as a leader in the tech industry by delivering innovative programs that empower individuals to unlock their full potential.

Was working in the tech industry something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?

When I was 8 years old, I didn't know much about coding, but I knew I loved solving problems. My parents enrolled me in an after-school programme to learn computer skills which turned out to be coding using Logo and BASIC programming languages. That experience sparked my interest in software, and I never stopped learning more about it.

Even in intermediate school, I enrolled myself in learning spreadsheets (Lotus 1-2-3 for those of you who remember!) and word processing before I even knew what they were. My curiosity was the driving force behind my interest in the tech industry. I love how I keep learning something new every week and that keeps me excited about my work.

What is an example of an interesting problem you are currently tackling in your role currently?

New Zealand’s tech industry has been expanding and screaming for tech talent for many years... but there is a mismatch between the skills required by the industry and the skills that many junior tech graduates on the market possess.

Having worked in tech companies and taught at tertiary institutions, I experienced this problem first-hand. I knew that if we train these talents and other career changers with the relevant skills and support them to gain work experience in tech, they will become great assets to the industry.

To tackle this challenge head-on, I've created various tech accelerators including Software Developer, Salesforce Developer, Salesforce Consultant and UX Designer. These accelerators are continuously reviewed and run by industry experts to ensure they are up-to-date with the needs of the industry.

A key feature of our accelerator is the mentored industry experience we offer with business partners (or as we call them, our Mission Sponsors) like Datacom and Auckland Council. This is 10 weeks of hands-on experience and allows new tech talent to work in an organisation, to gain practical experience, receive support from knowledgeable mentors, and demonstrate their skills to potential employers.

And what is even better is that our Mission Sponsors get great benefit out of it too! They get early access to fresh tech talent, address projects that their core team can't get to, increase team diversity, and contribute to reducing the tech skills shortage. It's a win-win situation for all of us.

As someone who is passionate about solving problems, I find it incredibly fulfilling to see how our accelerator programmes are making a real difference by addressing this challenge and creating new opportunities for junior tech talent.

Tell us a little bit more about your career pathway and ultimately how you got into your current role at Mission Ready?

The Tech industry was not the most popular at the time when I graduated from college, but I was passionate about coding. When I joined university, I decided to study Accounting, which I thought would help me pay my bills, along side with Computer Science as a hobby.

I had a fortunate opportunity to work in a summer internship in an accounting firm to try working both as an auditor and a software developer. It made me realise my true calling in tech. I eventually landed a job as a consultant at Unisys, where I gained a wide range of tech and business skills and international project experience.

Over the next ten years, I worked at IBM where I helped large corporates to improve their software innovation process using latest methodologies and technologies. I became a frequent speaker in international conferences and an adjunct professor at Unitec, where I gained empathy for graduates and students struggling to find jobs in the tech sector.

I left IBM to join Launchspace Academy as a Programme Director, where I designed an accelerator programme that can train up tech talents in a fraction of time of traditional programmes, with near 100% placement rates in the tech industry. In 2018, I started Mission Ready with my business partner Diana Sharma.

We are both passionate for our social mission of reducing the tech skills gap and improve diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.

What do you love about working in tech and why might others consider a similar path?

What excites me about tech careers is that they come with a lot of great benefits like a good salary, flexible work hours, training and growth, and even travel opportunities! But what I really love about tech is that it can make a big, positive impact on the world.

There are different jobs in tech such as UX Design, Software Development, and Salesforce Development and consulting that offer unique chances to make a difference. For example, UX designers can create technology with seamless and meaningful online experiences.

Software developers can create products that revolutionise industries and help people's lives. And Salesforce developers and consultants can help companies improve their customer experience and satisfaction levels.

The people in the tech industry are pretty amazing, too! I've met lots of talented, big-hearted people who are excited about new technology and making the world a better place. ** Lastly, what is the number one thing you love about what you do at Mission Ready?**

The thing I really love about my work at Mission Ready is the impact we have on people's lives. It's incredibly fulfilling to know that we're helping individuals and their families build better futures through sustainable careers in the tech industry.

It's also very fulfilling to work with various businesses across New Zealand, providing them with exceptional junior tech talent, and supporting them in building a skilled and passionate workforce.

Almost every week, we hear of our graduates getting new job offers, and this is always a cause of celebration within the team knowing that we’re achieving our mission. I often refer to Mission Ready as “a happy business” because of all these positive news and successes we frequently hear about.

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