Illuminate Education Featured

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Illuminate Education: Tech with a Heart

Spreading Altruism Within the Company and Around the World

Illuminate Education, located in Irvine, California, is an education and technology company that develops software applications to track student performance at all grade levels across the United States. The dynamic team of former teachers, educators and administrators also bring their zest for success in business to new grounds. The company’s founder and CEO, Lane Rankin, encourages his employees to do good outside their tech jobs through domestic and international campaigns to fight poverty and equip disadvantaged communities with the tools to succeed. The Illuminators, as they are known, have provided after-school tutoring to children in crowded Santa Ana, California, built houses in Tijuana, Mexico, and bolstered educational development in Burma. Their latest projects include building a self-sustaining Internet café in Tijuana and supporting the construction of a new school in the Congo. Bringing this warmth of heart to the inner workings of Illuminate, Rankin also prides himself on treating his employees like family. The non-hierarchical company was one of the companies awarded “Best Places to Work” for 2018 by Glassdoor, a website for employees and former employees to review companies and their management. Tokyo Journal’s Executive Editor Anthony Al-Jamie spoke with Lane Rankin about his company’s efforts to make the world a better place.

TJ: What is Illuminate Education?
When we started Illuminate, we said that Illuminate is an education company doing technology, not the other way around. I started off life as a teacher, then I was a school administrator, county administrator, district administrator, taught full-time at a university — but all that time I was also building and creating software. The goal was — how do we promote student educators and success? Here I am 30 years later doing the same stuff. How do I create technology to promote student educators and success? How are we really [going] about the business of education? We’ve got this big achievement gap between the kids of color and not of color. How do I close that achievement gap? And how can our software propel the closing of the achievement gap?

TJ: Have you spent a lot of time interacting with different cultures?
I’ve got a heart to help people, so we’ve got what we call our Illuminate Gives Back campaign. Everybody in the company gets paid 40 hours for an entire week to go give back to the world. I’ve been working in Burma and Thailand for a long time, helping the IDPs [internally displaced persons]. We’ve built five or six homes now in Mexico. We’ve also supported a taxi business to help them buy taxis so that they can start sustainable businesses. We’ve done that in the Congo as well. We also have run a couple of coding camps. For the last two years, we’ve done two different coding camps for these kids in the Whitehouse Community Centers — kids that wouldn’t necessarily have access to learn how to code. If they successfully make it through that, they get to come to Illuminate and do an internship program, a real project, for Illuminate in the summer.

TJ: Have you always had this heart?
I’ve always had a heart for the kids that needed it the most. These kids over here, they’re the single parent kids, or the kids of color, or the kids who came from a background like mine — I came from a very dysfunctional, abusive home, raised poor in California. Because of my background, I’ve had a heart for those kids that need the help, the kids that need a shoulder. For me, in a company it’s no different — now that we’re all taken care of, how do we take care of the world? It’s been interesting just giving people that opportunity to help others, seeing how that changes people. There literally have been people who have gone with us to build these homes in Mexico that had never been out of the country. You go from being raised in Orange County or Southern California to driving for half an hour and being in these slums where these people are living in cardboard shacks, and seeing the kids with these beautiful smiles. My eyes were opened a long time ago – but as a company, to give other people that opportunity? It’s like changing somebody’s mindset, which goes to changing the way they think about the world, which definitely, in my mind, makes the world a better place.

TJ: Is the work you’re doing overseas having a positive impact on Illuminate Education?
I think so. We’re doing this to make a difference, and I think it just shows. It’s not about making money — I mean, we have to do that to be able to do all this stuff, but it’s a bigger goal. It’s this bigger mission.

TJ: Do you have a goal to take your influence beyond Illuminate Education?
 Yeah, I do. My dream would be to take what we’ve done here and proven is successful to other businesses, so other people could say, “Oh wow, we can do that.” I’m trying to get the word out there, like, “Hey, there are different ways to run companies, and there are different ways to think about a company,” and, we’ve been very, very successful. You can be super successful and do all this other cool stuff. tj

The complete article can be found in Issue #279 of the Tokyo Journal.

Written By:

Anthony Al-Jamie

Anthony Al-Jamie lived and worked in Japan for over 20 years. His in-depth understanding of Japanese language and culture has allowed him to carry out interviews with many of the most renowned individuals in Japan. He first began writing for the Tokyo Journal in the 1990s as Education Editor, later he was promoted to Senior Editor, and eventually International Editor and Executive Editor. He currently serves the Tokyo Journal as Editor-in-Chief.


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