Get To Know Solink: Software-Savvy CTO Norman Wong

January 25, 2019
Among the halls of Solink, Norman Wong needs no introduction. The company’s Chief Technical Officer since 2015, Norm is responsible for the company’s technology strategy and for leading a first class development team. We spoke to Norm about his background in the Kanata telecom boom, what developers can expect when working at Solink, and the emotional impact of this remarkable platform.

Tell us about your background in tech, and how you came to Solink.

I moved to Ottawa in ’88 and was part of the Kanata telecom boom. I worked in the industry for 25 years: I started a company with Bruce Linton called webHancer, and one of the companies I was with, Atreus, was acquired by a US company. That was really a turning point. Being in software in telecom, you’re so far away from the end customer. What attracted me to working with Solink was that the product was something tangible that I could relate to.

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What makes Solink relevant for you?

My father owned a restaurant. Between my dad and his partner, one person would always be there at opening and the other would also be there at closing and they always overlapped, 7 days a week. They were never able to take vacations at the same time. They had to be careful because it wasn’t just an income for them–it represented who they were.

Solink is an emotional investment for a restaurant

That’s what really attracted me to Solink: I could relate to the value that could be provided by a solution like ours and empathize with our prospective customer base. I could build something I could see regular business owners wanting. Their purchase was coming right out of their bottom line, there wasn’t necessarily a budget they were given–this was their own money. The purchase of Solink is not solely ROI-based; it’s emotional. We’re giving them insight into their life and their livelihood. Solink is giving so many small business owners the ability to see what is happening when they’re not physically there.

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Why is Solink vital for small business owners?

Solink is disruptive. Solink is bringing together some of the newer social media-based approaches, tools, technologies, and design patterns to a business environment. In a traditional system, to send video evidence of a theft to the police you have to take so many steps. You need to download a video, put it on a USB, and send it off to the police. With Solink, there’s no need to go through all those steps: you can just email the video to the police from within the app.

That’s what really attracted me to Solink … I could build something I could see regular business owners wanting.

What sets working at Solink apart from everywhere else?

A developer joining Solink now still has the ability to make a really big impact. Developers at Solink aren’t just reducing cost in a certain area or adding one little feature. We still have a long way to go in terms of things we want to build that I believe are industry-disruptive and really impactful. The thing I’m most proud of at Solink is how much opportunity we give our developers to make that impact, how much they’ve grown in what they’ve built, and the types of customers that are using and depending on the features they’ve built.

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Why is the Solink dev team so innovative?

Two reasons: we collaborate, and we have a diverse set of employees. Everyone has the ability to impact, review, and participate in the design–not just in how we build things, but in what we are building. That is the biggest reason why this is such an exciting time to work at Solink: we’re not too big where we have a set machine for making sausages. We’re still creating solutions, applications, and features. Solink is still at the size where our developers are able to be creative.

What can a developer expect from working at Solink?

In a typical day, a developer will start with the morning stand-up. We try to get people to work on a task that we can deliver and roll out relatively quickly. I wouldn’t say we have formal sprints, but we will typically release new variants of our product about every two weeks, so there’s always a lot of forward momentum.

Research into new technologies and potential solutions to future problems

Additionally, each designer probably spends 10% of their time doing investigations and research into new technologies, or new problems that we might be solving down the road. The ability for us to give our people time to investigate before we actually commit to building a product yields us a lot of returns. Being able to find novel and innovative approaches to certain problems, just by giving developers time to look at it and collaborate on ideas that we can investigate, is something that has been very beneficial for us.

Any last words for developers who may be ready to take the plunge with Solink?

There is no better opportunity in Ottawa for a developer who really wants to make a difference, to make an impact on a B2B product that I believe can be appreciated and realized by everyday people.

Want to work for Norm? Solink is an industry-disrupting app that is changing the way restaurants see their business. Be part of the disruption.