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Vivian Chan of Nextech AR: “Learn how to be a good listener”

I think everything we do is about entertainment. How do I capture your attention, retain information, progress knowledge? Nextech AR has developed an incredible Augmented Learning Experience platform with Ryerson University. We can now teach first- and second-year students how to dissect a 3D rat with mistakes driven learning integrated into that experience. No rats […]

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I think everything we do is about entertainment. How do I capture your attention, retain information, progress knowledge? Nextech AR has developed an incredible Augmented Learning Experience platform with Ryerson University. We can now teach first- and second-year students how to dissect a 3D rat with mistakes driven learning integrated into that experience. No rats are harmed in this learning experience, the university saves a lot of money going digital and increases their teaching capacity.


The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this.

As a part of our interview series called “Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Vivian Chan.

As a senior technology executive at Nextech AR Solutions, Vivian has been involved in the launch monetization, sales, and marketing management for three different waves of disruptive technologies — Analytics, Cloud, and AR/VR. Over the past few years, Vivian has worked with high growth start-ups on developing levers for growth and minimum viable product & solutions, leading Eyexpo Technology’s expansion into the Destination Marketing and Tourism Sector through strategic partnerships and product innovation. She has 20 years of experience creating monetization strategies for emerging technology, scaling three high-growth start-ups, and is also the Globe and Mail’s Top 50 executive and a 2021 YWCA Women of Distinction Nominee. Currently, Vivian is Global Head of Digital Sales at Nextech AR Solutions — a Digital Experience Platform that combines enterprise scale Virtual Events with the wonder of Augmented Reality.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

I was born and raised in Canada with both Western and Eastern Values. Growing up, I would make regular visits to Beijing and Hong Kong during the summer to visit family, so I grew up speaking Mandarin and Cantonese. Canada was an amazing place to grow up, we were taught about the value of diversity very early on and celebrated different cultures and traditions.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Clear Leadership by Dr. Gervase Bushe. In my last year at Simon Fraser University, I attended a 4th year Organization Development & Leadership course taught by him. In the course, we were put into T-groups that had no explicit agenda, expressed goal or structure. We learned how words and actions can trigger emotional responses in the way we communicated with one another.

His book Clear Leadership has had profound impact in how I communicate with people. Bushes’ approach requires authenticity, embraces conflict and seeks to develop an awareness of our own biases towards people and things.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in the X Reality industry? We’d love to hear it.

I discovered XR through a special work assignment. At the time, I managed Simon Fraser Universities Innovation initiative and was asked to develop a summary of recommendations on how to support XR research, talent and faculty at SFU. Over the course of a summary, I met with over 30 different researchers who either advanced XR technology or used the medium to create valuable outcomes. There was Dr. Diane Gromala a world leading expert Virtual Reality for pain management, Dr Mohamed Hefeeda immersive video streaming and AI to Dr. Nicholas Hedley who is using XR to visualize impacts of climate change on topography.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?

I have a ballet background and can still do a triple pirouette. Ballet has taught me grace under pressure and how to project energy and presence especially in an online setting.

I quit my job in 2014 to volunteer for Climate Change organization based out of the UK and got fired after 2 months for being too disruptive. I was attending Climate Change conferences across the EU and asking publicly questions like “We have limited funds, so what is your criteria for success and funding look like?”, “How do you create a culture of collaboration and joint research VS a system that rewards those with a patent or an award-winning paper?”

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I would say one of the biggest mistakes I made early in my career was not knowing that I could say “No”. I experienced burnout because of that and so have had to learn that in order to be strategic, you need to prioritize and in order to prioritize, “No” is the most important word.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I believe there is rich learning from everyone we encounter. But Marty Homlish comes to mind as someone who taught me the importance of “nemawashi” the informal process of quietly laying the foundation for some proposed change or project, by talking to the people concerned, gathering support and feedback. By being thoughtful in how you roll out and communicate change you bring those along your vision.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

There were so many people that were affected by COVID-19 in terms of loss of work, disruption of their industry and stress of the unanticipated. I had founded a start up in immersive technology that focused on Destination Marketing and Hotel sectors that were impacted. Two weeks before things got shut down, I was a keynote speaker at a Tourism conference to a packed standing room only session. Two weeks later we were all trying to make sense of where our futures were headed.

So now that I am in a hypergrowth area of Hybrid & Virtual Events with Augmented Reality, I plan to take what I’ve learned over the last 7 months and develop Industry 4.0 — What going digital means for MICE sector course. The goal is to integrate existing experience the MICE sector with digital know how. I think there will be a big demand for event technology roles that will need to be filled over the next few years. The industry is undergoing massive digital transformation.

The VR, AR and MR industries seem so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? Can you explain or give an example?

Holograms and NFP — digital twins will become the standard; how do you ensure your digital twin is secure and protected?

AI & 3D production. There is currently more demand for 3D models than our ability to produce them. AI will accelerate the quality and production of photorealistic 3D models.

Era of the Content Creation. Technology is lowering the barrier for creators to build a direct connection to their audience. Low-cost tools to produce newsletters, podcasts, and niche experiences allow individuals to create personal media brands.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the VR, AR and MR industries? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

How does XR environments change the way we relate to each other. Human communications are still really important, core skill we need to build irrespective of technology. Technology is not always the answer to an evolved society.

Cost of the devices/hardware makes XR not assessable to many people in the world. Especially VR googles or AR glasses. How do we bridge the divide and not exacerbate the haves and have nots?

Data — companies need to be transparent in how they use our data and speak in human terms regarding how they are using information to build better product or market to you.

I think the entertainment aspects of VR, AR and MR are apparent. Can you share with our readers how these industries can help us at work?

I think everything we do is about entertainment. How do I capture your attention, retain information, progress knowledge? Nextech AR has developed an incredible Augmented Learning Experience platform with Ryerson University. We can now teach first- and second-year students how to dissect a 3D rat with mistakes driven learning integrated into that experience. No rats are harmed in this learning experience, the university saves a lot of money going digital and increases their teaching capacity.

Are there other ways that VR, AR and MR can improve our lives? Can you explain?

Where do I start. Think about sending a holographic telegram to your family on the other side of the ocean. Being able to look at a 3D model of a shirt or piece jewellery and purchase it before its manufactured — think about the energy/waste we reduce if we get a vote on what is produced. AR is already increasing the accuracy for surgeons removing tumors or in difficult procedures. Overall it is going to change the way we tell stories, entertain and learn.

Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in broader terms. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? If not, what specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

I think we need more people in the workforce who are stronger listeners and lead with empathy VS ego. I think the shift is cultural and the younger generation is asking for a more authentic way of being. I think they are the ones that are demanding more diverse thinking and representation which cannot be a bad thing.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about working in your industry? Can you explain what you mean?

Technology jobs are hard work, and most people don’t become gazillionaires. TV shows can often make an industry seem really attractive, sexy and fun. But in reality, regardless of industry you are in, success is dependent on sheer hard work and having an ability to create value in everything you do.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned from My Experience as a Woman in Tech” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Know your stuff and don’t be afraid to be Powerful, Seen and Heard.

Find allies in both men and women in organization that see your value and recognize your contribution. Nurture those relationships and find ways to work and learn together.

Learn how to say “no”. Prioritization starts with not what you say “yes” to but being able to determine what is important vs nice to have.

Learn how to be a good listener. Your decisions are only as good as your ability to understand and decipher the information presented to you.

Enjoy this journey with humor and patience. You might not hit your 5 years goals within 5 years, but if you stay steadfast in your vision, it will happen.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

There has been so much division and conflict, my wish is for the world and humanity to come back together in the spirit of collective belonging.

Let’s hold each other accountable — by making empathy and kindness the fundamental traits to enable a more equitable and just society. If we work on ourselves, we are then able to recognize our own biases that contribute to ongoing issues.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why?

Brene Brown her book on vulnerability was a game changer for me. It gave me permission to trust my emotions and that authenticity can be an inspiring way of being.

“Courage is not staying quiet about things that make us uncomfortable.” -Brene Brown

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