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From intern to CEO: Making buildings smarter

From intern to CEO: Making buildings smarter

[Ping Yao photo]Ping Yao’s company, Optigo Networks, makes buildings smarter. Through security enhancement, smart metering and networking, the Vancouver-based company helps upgrade older buildings for 21st century businesses.

Ping, Sc’99, and his colleagues, who founded the company in 2012, recently got a boost for the startup company. Their pitch to investors at Vancouver’s Cascadia Summit in November garnered them $25,000 plus office space and support from a tech accelerator in San Francisco’s Silicon Valley.

Ping graduated from the Mathematics and Engineering (“Apple Math”) stream of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. Between third and fourth years, he took part in a 16-month internship program through Queen’s, then called The Experience Option (now called Queen’s Undergraduate Internship Program. See page x for more on QUIP.)

Ping interned at Kingston-based CMC Microsystems, a facilitator in the micro-electronics industry. There, he acted as the “in-house” customer, writing tutorials for graduate students to help them use advanced design tools. “I learned everything that the tools could do,” Ping says.

His internship also helped pave the way for the next step in his career path, as a circuit designer. Right after graduation, he went to an interview for an entry level position with semiconductor company PMC-Sierra. “Within five minutes,” says Ping, “the interviewer had to pull out the questions for experienced candidates.”

Shortly thereafter, he began his job designing networking chips for PMC. He worked as an Integrated circuit physical designer for four years, then moved in to a new role as an integration engineer. In this role, he worked with PMC’s corporate clients to help them design chips. Later on, he expanded his work to include technical and marketing support for the company’s global clients. His interests in everything from chip design to customer service came into play when he started thinking of venturing off on his own.

“The idea was seeded when a customer asked me if optical networking could be used to reduce power consumption in buildings. I quickly learnt that buildings consume more than one-third of the energy in the world. I got to thinking about making buildings more efficient, more comfortable, more secure.”

Today, Optigo Networks has clients across Canada and the U.S., from banks to shopping centres to warehouses and Ping hopes to expand both the scope and the client base of the company in the future.

[cover of Queen's Review 2015-1]