Sadek has built an e-commerce platform company for the mid-market within the Microsoft ecosystem. Read on to learn more.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Sadek Ali: I was born in Canada. I grew up there. Most of my adult life has been spent here.
Sramana Mitra: Where in Canada?
Sadek Ali: Just outside of Toronto in a town called London, Ontario.
Sramana Mitra: What about education?
Sadek Ali: I finished my doctoral work a few years ago. I’m from an academic family. I first started programming when I was eight years old. I was using a Ti-55 calculator. I had transcribed a football game onto this little scientific calculator.
Sramana Mitra: You majored in computer science?
Sadek Ali: I started out in electrical engineering. I then did systems design engineering for my masters. In my doctoral, I was in industrial engineering at the University of Toronto. I had deviated a lot from the electrical roots.
Sramana Mitra: That was in Canada as well?
Sadek Ali: Yes. I went to the University of Waterloo for my undergrad and masters. Then I did my doctorate at the University of Toronto.
Sramana Mitra: What happens after that?
Sadek Ali: It was a long journey. I started my undergrad in 19990. During my undergrad, I was in co-op. I worked with some large companies. I didn’t get great grades. I wasn’t a fantastic student. I didn’t really value programming because it was a part of my day-to-day existence.
When I got into the workforce as a co-op, I was given this latitude to explore programming and automation. In my first four months at IBM, I was able to save them about $350,000. I had a testing gig on a C compiler. I automated all of the tests. In that group, I had the highest number of bugs found for that quarter. I did it because it made my job easier.
I went to Ericsson. I was programming during the evenings just to play around with their new libraries. I developed this thing that allowed you to port between two databases. At that time, the internet lines were all phone lines. You dial up on a modem and you hear that buzzy noise. The technology that I had produced was a way of taking these huge databases and getting them to be transportable and converted over phone lines. They adopted it and used it to port 120,000 developers across 10 countries from Oracle to Informix because it was the only tool they could find.
Little did I know that it was worth a ton of money. When I got out of my undergrad, I had to make a choice. As I mentioned, I wasn’t good at interviews. I just thought, “I’m going to do something on my own.”
Sramana Mitra: What year was that?
Sadek Ali: That was in 1995. The choice was made for me in another sense. Another important part of my life is my family. My parents had gotten into a major car crash. Both of them were laid up in 1996. My dad didn’t tell me that they were as injured. I came home one day and I just realized that there were some serious problems and that my parents needed me.
I needed the flexibility of a business. I literally went door-to-door from startup to startup saying, “I’m really good at automation and big data.” I got my first break. I learned a really important lesson. You need one break. You’re going to go through tons of rejections.
Sramana Mitra: You need one yes.
Sadek Ali: That yes doesn’t have to be that big. It doesn’t have to be life-changing.