10yrs ago Anita co-founded RaceRocks 3D and began her journey in the defence and security industry.. see more
Author: Marcello Sukhdeo
Ten years ago, Anita Pawluk co-founded RaceRocks 3D Inc. and began her journey in the defence and security industry. RaceRocks provides traditional, e-learning, VR, AR, media, story, and game-based training development, and big data analytics for critical decision making.
“My first introduction to technology-based work was when we got our first accounting computer in Base Internal Audit at CFB Esquimalt,” said Pawluk. “I jumped at the opportunity to use the tool and took my Certified Information Systems Auditor training.” After that, she became hooked and moved on to AbeBooks to bridge the gap between accounting and technology.
“I found that I loved working with the developers there. The owners also mentored me to become an entrepreneur – guidance that led me to co-found and take the role of CFO at RaceRocks,” she said. In this role, she discovered that she wanted to work more with the team and understand their products and motivations better. She later expanded into project management and became Director of Operations, and then took on her new role in RaceRocks.
Anita Pawluk has made a significant impact in the training field and is an outstanding leader. She was selected as Vanguard Game Changer for the February/March 2020 issue. Read on to learn more about her role and how they are changing the game in the industry.
What is your role at your organization today?
I am the President and Co-Founder. I build and model our great company culture, provide inspired leadership to the executive team, establish a collaborative working relationship with our board of directors, and set a course for company strategy. As a proud, Indigenous woman, one of the things I enjoy most is working with our diverse and inclusive team. We are one of the few women- and Indigenous-led high technology companies in the Canadian defence industry.
What was your most challenging moment?
In the early days, we were trying to sell leading-edge technology that wasn’t yet widely adopted. As the defence industry progressed, we gained traction and built partnerships to create pioneering products that met our clients’ needs. Our products, such as the MV Asterix and MARTECH Leading Seaman Electrical training platforms, are now training personnel at sea, online, and in the classroom.
What was your “aha” moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader? Tell us that story.
In 2019, we learned about the value of partnership. That year, RaceRocks worked with Boeing and Babcock on $1.2 million worth of R&D programs through the ITB Investment framework. At CANSEC, Boeing announced our investment into Big Data Analytics, and Babcock had our interactive class plan on display in their booth. We realized these successful projects are built on strong relationships. Looking forward, we will bring the power of data to the training products we build with our partners.
What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?
Creating truly decision-driven training! RaceRocks sees the potential of integrating data in learning products in an industry that is forever changing. We want our training to be immersive and adaptive so we can continually improve and learn alongside our partners. I am fired up to see how we can collaboratively develop creative solutions and build training based on informed decisions.
What is the best advice you received?
Tracy Medve from KF Aerospace, a defence industry executive, whom I admire greatly, told me to shoot for the stars, but have a contingency plan that keeps both feet on the ground.
What is a habit that contributes to your success?
My leadership style focuses on clear communication, goal-setting and employee motivation. Through a people-first mindset, I empower and support our team to take risks and be innovative. Together, we drive the company towards our goal to become thought leaders in immersive learning.
What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset?
Organizations that embrace creativity best embody an innovative mindset. Instead of starting with established processes and organizational structures, start with creative thinking.
How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?
RaceRocks is imagining and setting the industry standard for immersive and decision-driven training systems. We redefine learning by doing, by creating realistic, interactive experiences for the learner to practice and adapt. Our goal is to create a world of informed decisions.
Our cutting-edge, technology-empowered learning creates a seamless experience, more conducive to engagement and retention, and integrates the power of data to achieve optimal results. We utilize immersive game engines, appropriate pedagogical approaches, user input data, human factor tracking, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to consistently advance the state of training.
What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your industry sector?
The Canadian Armed Forces and defence primes truly want to innovate, but are often constrained by the IT, HR, contracts, legal and security issues that come with their size. By utilizing an innovative small partner, forward-thinking organizations can bypass many of these constraints and achieve their innovation agendas.
How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?
We empower our team to express themselves as thought leaders. This culture drives us and encourages our industry to be the best in the world. We don’t create gimmicks – we collaborate with partners and empower them with innovative solutions.
What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?
We believe that integrating data into immersive and decision-driven learning will fundamentally change training in the industry. It will empower the learner and enable organizations to make critical decisions. We are embedding data warehousing, visualization, machine learning, and artificial intelligence in our training products.
What is your parting piece of advice?
Embrace your roots and let your team embrace theirs. Diversity in collaboration always creates a better solution than a single point of view.
This partnership demonstrates how defence procurements can be leveraged to spur innovative research see more
Babcock Partners with RaceRocks 3D
Babcock Canada and RaceRocks 3D have partnered to complete a software product through an Industrial & Technological Benefits (ITB) Policy R&D investment into RaceRocks. The Interactive Class Plan (iCP) Visualization Software Product allows users to modify key schedule, resource, and technical planning data, to quickly and easily visualize the impact of changes, thus enabling more informed business decisions.
This indirect investment is helping Babcock Canada meet its Industrial and Technological Benefit obligations to Canada on the Victoria In-Service Support Contract. The ITB Policy helps create jobs and foster economic growth by requiring the company to undertake high value-added business activities and investments in Canada equal to the value of their contract.
Babcock’s ITB investment has enabled the R&D project to complete the prototype stage and move into commercialization through the creation of a Minimal Viable Product (MVP). The prototype was built to support complex decision making on the in-service support for the Royal Canadian Navy’s Victoria Class submarine program. Babcock presented the visualization prototype at the CANSEC 2019 expo in Ottawa. This innovative tool has a wide range of applications to enable critical decision making for aerospace and defence and commercial programs and is a prime candidate for export showcasing Canada’s high-technology capabilities.
“This partnership between Babcock and RaceRocks demonstrates how defence procurements can be leveraged to spur innovative research and development. This investment will create jobs and help to strengthen both firms, bringing an innovative product to market and improving the efficiency of our military.” – The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
“This tool allows decision makers to instantly see the impact of their decisions on the capability and availability for complex In-Service Support (ISS) programs such as the Victoria Class submarines. It’s designed to be easily scaled to support larger fleets and programs.” – Anita Pawluk, President and CEO of RaceRocks 3D.
“Our partnership and ITB investment with RaceRocks is part of our ongoing commitment to supporting innovation and R&D within Canada’s small and medium businesses. The interactive software prototype that has been developed can be a positive resource to help support naval ISS programs.” – Mike Whalley, President of Babcock Canada
Babcock and RaceRocks are committed to building on their partnership and the successful development of the iCP tool. They will continue to seek additional opportunities to fuse Babcock’s expertise in providing in-service support for complex assets with RaceRocks’ skills in data visualization, data science and software development. This collaborative approach will further the development of a digitally enabled asset management approach, aligning with initiatives such as the RCN Digital Navy.
In this Game Changer article, Vanguard would like to highlight Scott Dewis, CEO and Co-founder... see more
Source: Vanguard Magazine
In this Game Changer article, Vanguard would like to highlight Scott Dewis, CEO and Co-founder of RaceRocks 3D Inc., a technology company that is leveraging its media and gaming expertise to provide innovative learning services and solutions to Royal Canadian Navy, the government and private sector.
1) How did you start out in this industry and how has it brought you where you are today?
I started out with a Visual Effect and Video game business that was invited into defence by a company looking to increase the fidelity of its simulations. Trainers couldn’t understand why their multimillion dollar simulator didn’t look as good as their kid’s Xbox. From there I attended CANSEC in 2011 and saw a major opportunity to bring Hollywood and gaming into the defence industry. Strong relationships built between then and now with advisors, government, clients, and partners have brought us where we are today.
2) What is your role in your organization today?
I’m one of the Founders and the CEO. My role is to chart the company’s course, advise clients on future training strategies and emerging technologies, be the client’s voice within the company, lead business development, oversee creative, and conduct final QA of products.
3) What was your most challenging moment?
As a small company, cash flow is king, and payroll can sometimes be a white knuckle event, add to that the climate in Canada – no support for innovation other than R&D, and the climate in the West – no financial support for business other than the lowest tax, rightly believing that viable companies will simply succeed. So during the slow times over the last three or four years, as our competition was financially subsidized by various regional agencies and Ottawa, we had to pivot and make hard decisions; ultimately those decisions lead to a lean and sustainable business that can offer huge cost savings, and the sustainable long term contracts we are executing today, but there were definitely a few sleepless nights while we were first navigating the industry!
4) What was your a-HA moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader, tell us the story?
We started out believing that the only way to work in Canadian defence was to subcontract to foreign primes and pursue IRB’s, but after realizing IRB’s were paid lip service, and talking with end users RaceRocks implemented a new business strategy and started responding to RFP’s and working directly for the crown. We carved out a great piece of business for an SME as a trusted supplier to the Royal Canadian Navy. This lead to partnerships instead of subcontract relationships with companies like Boeing and Federal Fleet Services that really believe in economic impact and supplier development in Canada regardless off offsets.
5) What is the one thing that has you the most fired up today?
Project Resolve and the RCN have given RaceRocks the opportunity to help “imaginer” what Future Naval Training will look like, on the first clean slate Canadian naval platform of the digital learning age.
6) What is the best advice you received?
When you jump off a building, make sure to celebrate every window on the way down… That and when you are in Ottawa, where a suit in a solid color, blue, grey or black – no patterns or stripes, patterns are radical, and that makes you look rouge, rouge means insurgent.
7) What is a habit that contributes to your success?
Building strong relationships throughout our supply chain – advisors, contractors, clients, and partners. Contributing to advance our industry and constantly learning.
8) What is your parting piece of advice?
Never give up, or give up right away, everything in between is a lot of hard work.
9) What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset?
Boeing, (one of only 12% of companies on the Fortune 500 list in 1955, still on the list today.) Elon Musk, Apple.
1) How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?
RaceRocks believes learning should be entertaining, and aligned with the way people think work and play. We understand the demographics of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and know how to engage learners with the same media and technology they use in their daily lives. We are forging partnerships with like-minded small Canadian companies such as Modest Tree and Marine LMS to give CAF trainers and subject matter experts (SME’s) access to best in class Technology Enabled Learning (TEL)
2) What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in our industry sector?
The biggest impediment to innovation in Canada is how Canada defines the innovation it can invest in. Canada loves to support Scientific Research and Development, but R&D is only a small part of innovation. Innovation takes place across the entire value chain from corporate vision through to how you market your product. R&D by nature often fails, and although it can create IP or a new Widget, it takes innovation to a company to create a vision, hire Canadians, commercialize the successful R&D and market and sell a product. R&D can create a new form of strong malleable metal; innovation turns it into the first paperclip. Canada needs to invest in innovation at all levels including commercialization, not just R&D. Innovation creates jobs.
3) How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?
Our mission to make learning entertaining, and aligned with the way people think, work and play, was born in visioning sessions that included every employee, and purposely makes no mention of a single technology, because tools will change with every generation and technological advancement. RaceRocks looks at all sectors to find innovation that will enhance our learning products. For instance, Hollywood has perfected information transfer, video games have mastered engagement, and social media has revolutionized the sharing of ideas. New technologies are embraced if they can make learning better like Modest Tree’s software, not because of hype. We are tools agnostic, because who knows what technology will be available in 10 years, or 20.
4) What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?
I believe that in the short term, emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality will drive the biggest changes in our industry, but long term, trinkets always give way to great content. Great content is driven by story and the innovative use of technology to make learning more engaging, and more like life. Technologies that “get out of the way” of learning are the key. From a business perspective, I think top heavy companies that try and tell their client what they should think will give way to more nimble supporters and enablers like RaceRocks, that give their client access to the tools and support they need to transfer their knowledge and culture. The CAF members are the subject matter experts, they know how to train, and they simply need access to the creativity and technology of the industry.
A new training tool developed by a Victoria software company will save aerospace co's & government.. see more
Source: Times Colonist
Author: Andrew Duffy
A new training tool developed by a Victoria software company will save aerospace companies and government departments money and time when training staff, according to the chief executive in charge of the program.
Scott Dewis, chief executive of Race Rocks 3D, said a virtual reality set-up being developed by the firm will allow students to immerse themselves in worlds that do not yet exist.
That means they can hit the ground running when the equipment does come to life.
The program is being developed to help train crews for a new Royal Canadian Navy ship being built by Chantier Davie Shipyards in Quebec.
Race Rocks won a contract to provide the training systems for the Asterix, a container ship that is being converted into an auxiliary oiler/replenishment ship for the navy.
The software will allow the crew to get familiar with the ship’s layout, its systems and how it functions months before it leaves the shipyard.
The company has developed a brief “touring” virtual reality experience that takes anyone from a virtual office, seemingly on board the ship, onto a helicopter for a realistic aerial tour of the ship as it demonstrates its capabilities at sea.
“The goal is for a sailor who comes on board Asterix to already know the ship,” said Dewis.
Race Rocks is investing heavily in virtual-reality and augmented-reality systems for use in aerospace and defence training.
“Really, it’s all about blended learning,” he said, noting they will offer training systems that will use virtual and augmented reality, e-learning and gaming simulation.
“We want to make learning entertaining, so we pick the technology that lends itself best to that type of learning.”
“We are really excited about where this technology can go. It can reduce the cost and speed up the time it takes to train people,” Dewis said.
The growth area is likely to be aerospace, and Dewis said there is a natural fit with companies like Boeing, which is based in Seattle and has satellite operations in Richmond.
“They see Victoria as an untapped market,” he said, noting it’s up to this area to sell itself to the aerospace giant by showcasing its relatively inexpensive cost of living and superior technical talent.
“There is something there for Victoria — and it’s up to us to figure out how to present ourselves,” Dewis said.
While our tech boom is no longer a phenomenon, the sector keeps growing... see more
Source: Remi Network
Author: Rebecca Melnyk
As government moves to new Class A assets, tech companies snap up vacated, older stock
In an old two-storey brick building, once old home to the Victoria Stock Exchange, a start-up has moved into its new office digs. Previously situated in Langford, B.C., educational technology company RaceRocks 3D relocated to the Exchange Building in downtown Victoria to be closer to clients, save money on space and live in the rhythm of a prosperous tech haven.
“We’re right downtown with a lot of other creative people; there’s a lot of talent,” says Scott Dewis, chief executive officer of RaceRocks 3D. “We see the founders and staff of other companies at lunch walking around the street. It’s a vibrant place for an entrepreneur.”
After scouting 16 other local office spaces with Colliers International, the company found its home, knocked down the walls and created an open-floor plan with a kitchen. Now they have long-term plans to stay put in the area.
Startups like RaceRocks 3D Inc. are a common feature in Western Canada’s second oldest city. While the tech boom there is no longer a phenomenon, the sector keeps growing and is now part of a $4 billion a year industry. Dave Ganong, managing director at Colliers International (Vancouver Island), remembers back to 2000 when American company JDS Uniphase acquired Victoria-based optical-component supplier SDL Inc. for $41 billion in what was one of the biggest tech mergers in corporate history.
“The foundation of the tech industry has been there for 20 to 25 years or more,” he says. “But what’s happening is it’s becoming this incubator hub that is not just trendy, but sustainable.”
Victoria has a long history as a lively business centre, with miners and adventurers flocking there during the gold rush of 1858. Once a calm village, Victoria evolved to become a city where lots were said to go from $25 a piece to $3,000 each, immediately following the influx of gold-seekers. Eventually, government and tourism generated the greatest economic impact for the region.
Until the tech sector started creating a buzz. Now, more and more buildings fill with start-ups and early stage entrepreneurs every year. About 900 tech companies populate the city, employing a workforce of about 20,000 and growing. Local conferences accelerate the global reputation of Victoria and attract investors. Demand for new office space among the industry has now outpaced government in the downtown core, specifically in brick-and-beam buildings which tend to be Class B and C assets.
“There’s a building boom in the office sector in the downtown core where we’re doubling the size of our Class A inventory in the next 18 to 24 months,” notes Ganong. “That’s half a million square feet of space coming on—a massive increase. 75 per cent of that space has been preleased to the government or private sector, but what happens from this is we’re seeing a lot of vacancies coming up in Class B and C space where the majority of demand comes from the tech sector.”
Ganong has seen an exponential increase in leasing to the tech sector over the past three years, moving from 100,000 square feet to an estimated 300,000 to 350,000 square feet in 2016. This doesn’t take into account other competitors.
Developers and investors are also buying more on spec (some with tech companies in tow), looking to create flex office space where desks and common facilities can be rented.
Dan Gunn, chief executive officer at The Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council (VIATEC), a not-for-profit incubator accelerator, says his program’s success has resulted in a move to the downtown core, into a 100-year-old, 16,000 square foot building on Fort Street.
“We have 18 private offices of varying size and another 24 open desks that companies can rent at an affordable price,” he says. “We opened the building in September 2014 not knowing what to expect. The building was full in a matter of months.”
To accommodate demand and sector-specific needs, large buildings are being gutted for purpose-built use. For instance, the 20,000 square-foot Summit Building on Fort Street once stood completely vacant, but was fully revamped and open to tenants in September 2015. Several companies wishing to share a building can do so and expand as required.
Besides the flexibility and character of these older buildings, companies are also putting roots down due for lifestyle offerings.
“More and more companies trickling in from the rest of Canada are quite often going there through an acquisition or because one person leading a development team wishes to move their family to Victoria,” says Marc Foucher who brokered the RaceRocks 3D deal.
The proximity to qualified students graduating from local colleges and universities is also key. Change.org, the world’s largest online petition platform, is in the midst of renovations in its new office on the second floor of 1221 Broad Street and plans to recruit local talent. After the company wanted to expand its engineering team, it realized more room was needed. The landlord offered them a temporary space while they await finishing touches.
“Once we move downstairs, we’ll have plenty of room for growth and more meeting rooms,” says Chris Campbell, principal engineer at the Victoria location.
Campbell says the company, headquartered in San Francisco, figured that expanding its engineering office in Victoria was more affordable in terms of cost of living and office space. But it is also relatively easy to find suitable employees in the area.
The city no longer relies on tourism’s “shoulder season,” as Gunn calls it, between May to September, but a year-round tech economy that supports a large number of retail assets like the 11 craft breweries, independent coffee shops and North America’s second-highest number of restaurants per capita, behind San Francisco.
“Retail leasing agents who used to find it a challenge in the downtown core are starting to see some activity that is almost on par with the increases we’ve seen in the tech sector office leasing market,” says Ganong, adding that another factor here is tourism—an industry that could experience its best season ever this year.
In less than a year, Ganong says his company has seen storefront vacancy drop a full percentage point from where it peaked north of 10 per cent. The city has also been supportive in granting bonus density to start populating higher density residential development in the downtown core, which helps populate more retail activity.
“There is some sort of convergence here that is happening,” he says. “I’ve lived in Victoria for 33 years and some of my colleagues have lived here all their lives. They are even starting to feel something here they’ve never felt before.”