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.