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Alumni Engagement

Grad profile: Luke Kandia (Computer Engineering Technology, 1987)

October 17, 2012

Luke Kandia’s work as president and CEO of Seerx Technologies involves a lot of trouble shooting; when you’re building a client’s network infrastructure or recovering data from a fried laptop, it helps to have a mind geared toward problem solving.

So it’s fitting the 51 year old’s own search to find his calling was problematic.

“As a kid, you don’t really know what you want to do,” Kandia says. “When it came time to leave St. John’s High School, I went to the job fair and a university had a display up about Forestry and I thought, ‘Hey, I like the outdoors.’”

Kandia registered and headed east, only to find the course work heavy on measuring tree growth and light on communing with nature. After dropping out, he headed to Toronto for testing to enter fighter pilot training – a challenge that appealed to the adventurous young man.

Unlike the other entrants, he’d never flown a plane.

“All the other guys, they had been cadets, they had their private pilot’s license. When I got into the simulator, I bombed. They offered me a job in the army,” Kandia laughs.

Chastened, Kandia returned to Winnipeg to join a different force: the Winnipeg Police Service. As a cadet, Kandia peered inside the force’s operations, admiring the fast-paced, intense lives led by the officers around him. But the longer he served, the more the glamour wore off. A high-profile corruption case involving prominent officers soured his view of the force’s lifestyle. His plans to start a family faced off against his fears of meeting a known criminal while out shopping with his children.

“There was the glamour and the rush, but you’ve got to live with the rest of the stuff day to day,” Kandia says. “A lot of people on the station duty gave me the impression I could do better for myself outside.”

Kandia returned to university only to drop out soon after. A scheme to run away to Minneapolis with a friend and join the marines was nixed when his friend’s father interfered. He snagged a job driving a taxi while he considered his options.

“That was probably one of the best jobs I ever had,” Kandia says. “You got to meet a lot of people from different walks of life and see them on a one-to-one basis. When you’re cooped up with someone else in a three foot by four foot area, you learn how to talk to people, ask them about life, you can tell through the rearview mirror if they’re having a good or bad day.”

A casual conversation with a fellow cabbie suggested Kandia’s next move; his co-worker was registering for Red River College’s Computer Engineering Technology (now Business Information Technology) program.

“At the time I was reading any magazine I could get my hands on about computers. Personal computers had just started becoming common. I remember saying, ‘No way! There’s a course for that?’ We applied for the same program, got in and the rest is history.”

“Red River was over the top. They taught me more than I ever needed to know to do this job, touching on so many different subjects. They try to cater to as many students as they can. And they really inspired a great work ethic: I went from university classes of 300 to classrooms with 25 students, where the instructor would really chew you out if you didn’t do your homework. That was fantastic.”

A lot has changed in computer technology since Kandia graduated in 1987, landing jobs with Atomic Energy of Canada and the Canadian Grain Commission before opening his own business. But he insists formal IT training is never a waste of time, despite the fast pace of the industry.

“You’re showing a prospective employer that you’re trainable. In the real world at a job placement, say, we’ll teach you the current things. But all students need a ground base.”

For a man with a varied background, a problematic career path and his own business built from scratch, any number of achievements could stand out as his proudest accomplishment. But Kandia says he’s most proud of his children.

“We have a couple of kids and they’ve turned out relatively normal – they’re good kids… Once you sit back and look at what you have accomplished, you realize it isn’t what you’ve accomplished for yourself in terms of net worth that matters – it’s how many people you’ve been able to help along the way.”

Profile by Matt TenBruggencate (second year, Creative Communications)