Kai Yuan Neo | Rocket Academy

Kai is the founder and CEO of Rocket Academy, an online coding bootcamp that prepares software engineers with the skills they need to land jobs at tech companies. Read on to learn about Kai's story, Rocket Academy's purpose, and lessons learned along the way so far.

1. What's your story?

My name is Kai, and I’m the founder and CEO at Rocket Academy. I studied Computer Science at Stanford and worked as a software engineer in Silicon Valley, Singapore and Jakarta.

Rocket Academy is an online coding bootcamp based in Singapore that trains software engineers and helps them get jobs at tech companies. I started Rocket Academy because I experienced the shortage of software engineers while working in tech, and I felt existing options for becoming a software engineer were either too short and shallow, or too long and theoretical. Rocket Academy offers efficient and effective coding courses at a fraction of the price of other schools due to our live-online model. Our community is thriving, with frequent in-person social events, tech talks and career fairs. Employers love us, and 100% of our job-seeking Bootcamp course graduates have gotten jobs as software engineers within 6 months of graduating.

Rocket Academy’s vision is to be the go-to live-online coding education platform globally. We aim for teachers and students to teach and learn coding of all levels on our platform, where Rocket provides curriculum and screening of teachers and students. Rocket’s students are currently mostly in Singapore, and we plan to expand to Hong Kong and Australia in the coming year.

In my personal life, I am happily married and enjoy a nice cup of tea with friends! Fun fact: My wife Yi Jun introduced me to Harvest Accounting, and is the co-founder of another Harvest client Little Blossom that sells organic baby food!

2. What’s the most satisfying part about what you do?
By far the most satisfying part of what we do at Rocket Academy is helping our students transition to careers they love.

This is what excites me to work every day, and what has allowed Rocket to attract great talent to work with us. Our alumni actively give back to the student community, serving as teachers, speakers, mentors and friends in our various courses, events and chat groups. They are also happy to represent Rocket in the media and our marketing - a testament to what Rocket means to them, and motivation for us to make them proud.

I am grateful to all Rocket Academy’s students, past and present for trusting Rocket with a big life decision like a career switch. We take this responsibility seriously, and we recognise that our business depends on their success and happiness.

I am equally grateful to all Rocket Academy’s teachers and staff, who show up in the classroom and office every day to give their best for our students. None of what we do would be possible without their hard work and dedication.

3. What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you move forward?

The biggest challenge I’ve faced has been restructuring our team when Rocket was not headed in the right direction. I made hiring and management mistakes, and that resulted in a team that was not always aligned and not always performing at our best. When I realised the company was not moving in the direction or speed we needed, I took a more hands-on role in management, parting ways with team members for whom Rocket was not a good fit, moving high-performing team members to leadership roles, and hiring new team members with clearer requirements. Rocket has since been moving in a positive direction, and I am proud and excited for our team.

Managing a team is a continuous process and we must always look out for areas that can be improved. I have realised my most important role is making sure we have the best team, and I plan to resolve any future issues earlier without needing significant restructuring. I feel lucky to be working with my current team members, and I look forward to addressing our future challenges together with them!

4. What's the best piece of business advice you would like to share?

Integrity is everything. Integrity is the foundation of trust, and trust is why our customers choose our products and services to fulfil their needs, why our staff choose our company to grow their careers, why our investors choose our business to grow their wealth.

Without integrity there is no trust, and without trust there is no business.

5. How has working with Harvest Accounting and using Xero impacted your business / life?
Harvest Accounting has freed me from worrying about financial record-keeping, and allowed Rocket Academy to focus more on our customers and less on business administration.

With the support of Rocket’s finance team, Harvest has produced monthly reports in Xero on Rocket’s P&L, with every line item categorised the way Rocket wants. Harvest has also managed corporate secretary duties for Rocket, including routine government paperwork and taxes. The Harvest team is available whenever I have questions, and I am grateful for their service!

6. Shameless plug for your business:

If you’re considering a career in tech and like the idea of building products, consider learning coding at Rocket Academy! We routinely run free webinars and affordable intro courses for beginners. If you’re serious about switching careers or levelling up as a software engineer, join our Bootcamp course!

If I can be helpful in any of your decision making, please don’t hesitate to connect with me on LinkedIn and chat with me! I would love to hear from you!