Fire in the Belly

Bot, Sonia

Entrepreneurial-minded leader and strategic thinker, Sonia Bot takes people and innovation-based businesses to the top of their game

November 21, 2012

From the very beginning Sonia Bot established herself as a passionate trailblazer.

“She was smart and very entrepreneurial, also very competitive,” Professor Berj Bardakjian says of his former student, Bot. One of Bardakjian’s first graduate students in the mid-1980s, Bot was at the cutting edge of research technology when she created a computer model of the stomach for her MASc thesis. The model could be used by surgeons to practice or model their surgeries on patients prior to the operations.

And if that sounds a little amazing for the time…well, it was. “This was a total paradigm shift,” Bot says of her experiences.

Bardakjian was one of the first professors at U of T to invest in a personal computer, the IBM PC AT. The system allowed Bot to develop the computing algorithms the simulator was built on.

At that time, simulators were on super-, mainframe-, and mini- computers. As she simplified the computational approaches involved with the simulator, Bot was challenged to break with convention. The result was a design that made the simulations much more cost effective and user-friendly.

At the completion of her MASc, Bot used her expertise in computer engineering to establish herself as an expert in a field that she helped transform: telecommunications.

In the mid 1990s, a time when the internet was still but a glimmer in the eye of popular culture, Bot was part of a small team of strategists that worked on the invention of a “multi-service switch” for Nortel. This small team quickly transformed into a multi-national R&D organization of approximately 1,200 employees that built the platform for wireless, voice, and data networking, and quickly commanded the number one market share worldwide.

The development came at a critical time for Nortel in helping the company weather the fallout from the bursting of the “dot.com” bubble in 2000.

Bot’s innovations in “disruptive” technologies hasn’t been an exception to the rule. Over the years Bot has been involved in building numerous global ventures from the ground up, and has had a hand in the some of the world’s most important technological evolutions.

In the mid-2000s Bot and her team developed something called a “wireless mesh network,” a network of WiFi connection wide enough to stretch across a hospital or university campus that allows users to seamlessly connect to WiFi indoors and out.

The technology has enabled countless other innovations. For example, relying on a WiFi band, a wireless mesh network doesn’t interfere with the sensitive machinery in hospitals in the way that cellular technology does. The connectivity has thus allowed for the development of point-of-care technologies such as electronic charts.

But the way technologies are applied can also be evolutionary. For instance, to remain competitive in an increasingly competitive technological marketplace, Bot and her teams have been instrumental in the development of networking solutions tailored to fit the needs of small and medium businesses.

Small businesses can now easily compete in a global marketplace through e-commerce and web-based sales. “[These solutions] are changing the way business is done,” Bot says.

Bot also transforms businesses. An expert in pinpointing and solving crises that cost businesses both time and money, Bot is able to turn around CEO’s most pressing issues quickly while improving efficiencies between 25 and 70%, with an average 40% reduction in waste. “That’s huge for companies,” she explains.

In fact, Bot was ranked in the top 1% of high impact global leaders for her transformative effects on companies. Bot’s process involves uncovering the flaws in the structure and processes of a business. “It’s about building agility into the processes,” she says.

And clearly that process works. “In a recent three year period I was able to save companies over $100 million in annualized financial savings,” says Bot.

“I call myself a business and technology innovation leader,” says Bot. The title conveys a certain uniqueness in her expertise, as she straddles entrepreneurial leadership and a complex understanding of information and communications technology and its components.

“There are very few of us who have that degree of depth in business and technology,” she relates. “It’s a rare find.”

Bot currently spends part of her time lending her talents and expertise to the Technology Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship Council at Carleton University, “designated the most entrepreneurial University in Canada,” where Bot mentors entrepreneurs, executives and professors towards maximizing their potential.

“I look for that fire in the belly,” Bot tells the people she works with. “I need to see your desire.” As a business and technology leader invested in improving Canada’s global competitiveness in innovation, Bot aims to stimulate knowledge-driven growth and positive economic development.

It’s a goal that aligns Bot closely with her former Alma Mater.