Mission Ready co-founder Diana Sharma. Photo / included
Diana Sharma and her business partner Alan Kan talk to Rahul Bhattarai about their unique partnership that led to their educational startup Mission Ready.
What is your company doing?
Mission Ready is a tech career
Development agency. Our courses are recognized by the NZQA and we help individuals transform and launch technical careers through our accelerator programs.
In less than five months of full-time study, individuals with no technical experience can become software developers, UX designers, or technology founders (entrepreneurs who develop / develop their own technical product).
What is your background
Diana: I come from a completely different background, have spent several years at Unitec and had a unique educational perspective, as I have developed new educational partnerships with educational providers worldwide in various roles.
I started in the hospitality industry and then worked for multinational companies in sectors such as energy and telecommunications before moving into business education.
I was involved in finding new industry partnerships and alliances to create new educational models. The direct impact of these programs on the lives of individuals and their families inspired me to do things differently and that led to who I am today.
Alan Kan co-founder running an accelerator program in May 2021. Photo / Delivered
Alan: I have a technical background with over 20 years of experience, but I studied both accounting and information technology. During my first month of internship as an accountant, I realized that I was more interested in technology than accounting.
After three years at Unisys in 2001, I switched from writing programming code to designing software.
What was the motivation to start?
Diana: The technology industry is faced with a growing shortage of skilled workers and traditional educational pathways would not solve this. On the other hand, a large number of professionals from various industries are seeking a transfer or further training for advanced careers in the technology industry. There wasn’t a smooth transition bridging the skill-to-employment gap, which is why we created New Zealand’s first tech career accelerator.
Alan: When I was working at Unitec about 10 years ago, I did some work that went down very well with the students and made me wonder if I should start my own business.
I’ve always been passionate about teaching and meeting Diana who shared a similar interest was a perfect partnership.
Our motivation for starting this out is simple, the impact we can make in transforming careers, making dreams come true, and all of this with the highest return on investment and the lowest risk of change. We make the transition to a tech career easy.
Mission Ready co-founder Diana Sharma. Photo / included
How big is the team today?
Diana: We are a team of seven with a large extended team of industry mentors and moderators who are commissioned to provide specialist training.
How has Covid-19 affected your business?
Diana: For us, Covid-19 was a hidden blessing. Lots of people wanted to change jobs and we saw our enrollment increase. And as a tech company, it’s easier for us to work remotely than for any other type of job.
How long has your company existed?
We have been around for a little over two years, our first accelerator started in November 2018.
What’s your focus for the rest of the year?
Diana: Our focus is on working closely with industry to launch new tech career programs that get people into employment faster.
We are currently in the process of entering into a very exciting partnership with Salesforce – the leading Customer Relationship Management (CRM) service provider in Silicon Valley – to develop 300 qualified entry-level Salesforce developers to address the skills shortage among New Zealand Salesforce partners and customers to fight.
These career accelerators are a real win-win situation. Retrained employees are an ideal place for hiring, as they have gone through the processes and procedures of work in other companies and can quickly familiarize themselves with a new team – and they are super motivated by the career change.
What are your long-term plans and where do you see the brand in five years?
Diana: In five years, Mission Ready will completely change from what it is today. Our goal is to become a household name in New Zealand and to be able to offer more courses to people from a broader population.
Mission Ready 2021 student achievement celebration this April. Photo / included
How does your company stand out compared to other companies in the market – what makes it unique?
Diana: Our difference is that not only is it the fastest tech career transformation program, it’s the only one that includes real projects and real experience with tech companies while being mentored by industry professionals at work.
Our programs make it easier for companies to access diverse talent by unlocking talent they probably would not have encountered, as many of them did not follow the traditional path to technology. We help these highly motivated candidates get a foot in the door. Every year we offer scholarships for Māori and Pasifika candidates.
Usually our course starts at $ 2500 per person. However, this year we have awarded 42 scholarships. We have five other scholarships that we can award as part of our admission in September.
Mission Ready has trained more than 200 candidates since its inception.
The majority of our candidates are successfully trained in professions such as marketing, teaching, business administration, performing arts, dentistry, nursing and many more.
Mission Ready co-founder Alan Kan. Photo / Delivered
How do you market your business?
Alan: For our marketing we actively post on social media like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. I give a lot of public lectures like at the university, in career forums and at Techweek NZ.
What is the competition like in this market?
Diana: There are a number of small competitors out there, but none of them offer what we offer. Our program is very cost-effective, rather than completing a similar degree from a university over a three-year period, our students must do so within nine to 19 weeks of full-time study. That saves a lot of time and money. That encourages people to switch careers if they are looking for one, and we have a good track record of post-graduate employment.
Some of our students have worked in places like 2degrees, Datacom, and PwC.
What is your advice to people who want to start a business?
Diana: Start a business for the right reasons, heart and soul, and you’ll never feel like you really have to work again.