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Yun Yao at L-SPARKS's 10th cohort celebration, smiling and holding up a sign that says "FOUNDER", made by Amber at Propmaster.

Montreal-based Soralink has an accelerator in Kanata and loves being a part of the tech park. As part of International Women’s Month, we sat down and spoke with Yun Yao, the company’s CEO and Co-Founder, who is also an accomplished musician.

Q: What do you do at Soralink?

Yao: I’m the CEO and Co-Founder at Soralink. We help manufacturers to prevent and find downtime due to critical machine failure. We’ve built an IoT solution in predictive maintenance for the industrial sector.

Q: What’s the most rewarding thing about your role?

Yao: Well, internally, being the CEO and co-founder, I get the freedom to decide where the company should go. I think that’s what I appreciate the most compared to being an employee, is this freedom to explore. It’s freedom to go meet people, and the freedom to steer the company in the direction you think is most beneficial, both for your customers and for your team.

Q: How can we be more inclusive in the tech sector?

Yao: When I was selecting a career, a university program to go into, I wanted to go into architecture. I was told, “Don’t go there. It’s mostly men. It’s going to be difficult. It’ll be hard. Nobody will listen to you. It’s all macho.” So that’s why I went to electrical engineering. Now, I’m back to this super male-dominant area. (laughs)

The two sides of what I do is being the CEO of the company toward my team, as well as working with my customers. Let me talk about the side for the customers. In my career, I’ve been in different areas, from academia to as a software engineer. Now, as a provider in industrial maintenance. 

“In everything I do, there are very few women. That’s just how it is.”

For my customers, I think what helps is for them to accept better what I do. I would say, try to find a way to be credible. This is outside of just your appearance and your role. 

For example, it could help to be more visible in the area that the customer may see you being active. From a customer’s perspective, they have very little time to dedicate it to vetting the person who is selling them services. Let’s say, for example, we have an article in a business magazine. That actually helps because seeing us, the company, and seeing me elsewhere, it’s like ‘Oh, this is a legit person.’

I never think about being a woman as a factor. It doesn’t affect me. I can work with men without problems. I do see a difference sometimes in the way I am treated. For example, if I go to a factory, they will let my male colleague work on the machines by himself. But for me, they always stay on my side to make sure that I’m secure. ‘Are you able to climb the stairs?’ (laughs

What struck me, the nature of it, is I think manufacturing is super important for society. I want to bring technology into this space to help a society waste less, be more efficient, and just benefit from the latest technology advancements. I never thought about it being a male-dominant area. It just didn’t ever cross my mind, and it’s one of the things that doesn’t bother me that much.

Q: What’s your favourite thing about Kanata?

Yao: It’s the proximity to the high-tech industry. The crowd, the community over there understands technology, appreciates high tech, and also the talent pool. People with amazing backgrounds, education, and talent are just concentrated in this area, which may seem unfair to other areas.

Q: How do you find inspiration?

Yao: When things are difficult – because difficult times happen to everybody – what helps me is going back to several encounters I had with my customers when they say, ‘Oh, thank you for taking care of my machines because I cannot do this. Please keep going. Please don’t let me down.’

“It’s really that personal connection. You know you’re helping them, you’re helping their team, and you’re helping their machines to work better. Just the sense of what we do creates value, real value for real humans.”

People in this area, I would say in the manufacturing sector, are really straightforward, hard-working, straightforward people. It connects my values, my personal values as well. I think working hard is good. 

Q: How do you spend your free time? 

Yao: I have been playing music since I was very young. I played different instruments. I always played piano before, and being in many choirs, singing choirs throughout university. I picked up cello only about seven years ago because I wanted to play in an orchestra. 

The piano is a lonely instrument. You do it by yourself or you accompany someone. But in an orchestra, by default, you play with people. 

“It’s really being part of something that’s bigger than yourself that made me want to join an orchestra.”

The reason I chose cello is that the parts in the cello in the orchestra tend to be easier, for example, than the violin. (laughs). I could get in without being super good and still be part of amazing music.

Q: How do you find the time for the Orchestra on top of running a successful tech company?

Yao: I think if I don’t play music, I’ll just be wasting my time with my phone scrolling. This is quality time. I spend less time wasted. 

You focus on something to improve yourself. And it could be frustrating because it’s not always easy to learn an instrument. But there is joy in seeing that you get better. I love that. How do I find time? I find time by doing fewer activities that don’t bring real value to myself.

Q: What advice do you have for students/recent grads looking to work in the tech sector?

Yao: I think something I told myself early on is don’t undermine yourself. You may achieve things that you thought were impossible before. But at the same time, stay grounded. Always go back to what motivates you at the start and why you do this. 

“Trust yourself to be able to achieve something that may seem impossible.”

Interviewed by Melanie Coulson.
Photo by Sarah Bradley,

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