RBC-uOttawa Entrepreneurship Co-op Experience

Ruthvik Shakelli, Software Developer, Spectrafy Inc.

Entrepreneurship has been a part of my family in India for decades and my father has always been an inspiration by giving me the incentive to push through all the risks without fear. Every entrepreneur needs to keep believing in what they do in order to progress and reap the benefits at later stages. “A True entrepreneur is someone who molds himself to different challenges in tough situations by considering risk as a major factor.” When I first heard about the RBC Co-op program, it sounded very interesting as there was no other university offering such a Co-op. Personally, this program is a tailored fit for every entrepreneur who is looking to develop a broader perspective on how a business runs in a small firm right from the scratch. I am proud to be the first ever Masters(Grad) recipient of the RBC uOttawa Co-op scholarship.

Before I go further, I would like to take the opportunity to thank a few people. Firstly, I thank the Royal Bank of Canada profusely for coming up with this idea of encouraging budding entrepreneurs and for providing a platform to enhance their skills and learning experience. A very big thank you to Marc-Andre Daoust (Co-op office) and my mentor Prof. Hanan Anis for introducing me to this program and making it happen. Last but not least, thank you to Spectrafy Inc. for showing me a path and providing me with an experience to grow and mature in future projects.

Immersing ourselves in a small, high-tech business ecosystem is definitely a daunting task for any newbie as every individual is considered an important asset. Spectrafy Inc. (spun out of uOttawa) manufactures and sells advanced solar irradiance sensors, called SolarSIMs, that make it easy and affordable to measure the sun’s spectrum and various atmospheric constituents, such as the aerosols, total column ozone, and precipitable water vapour content. The best part about Spectrafy’s team is that every individual is motivated to work on the SolarSIM technology which amongst other things, can be used to reduce the uncertainty of solar power plant performance models. The Spectrafy team is playing a pivotal role in shaping up the solar market which has a lot of future. When I first stepped into Spectrafy’s headquarters for my interview, I was able to get an immediate feel for the company. Because of their exciting products, namely the Solar SIM-D2 and the SolarSIM-G, I was enthused and excited to join this venture from the get go. Viktar Tatsiankou, Spectrafy’s CTO, has also been instrumental in terms of the underlying research of these products and in making further developments to commercialize other new products in Spectrafy’s pipeline. My primary role is to develop and work on advanced data mining tools for the data generated from these sensors. Apart from that I am also involved in other activities, such as setting up the solar tracker at the outdoor site, product sales and manufacturing etc. Until now, my journey here has been pretty smooth with lots of learning, however as a newbie, I would like to share few key observations of working in a small, high-tech business for others to consider,


1. Learning curve :

During my first couple of weeks at Spectrafy it was really difficult to build some momentum in my work as everything was new to me. Having experienced the typical corporate lifestyle for my past couple of Co-ops, we basically come up with a process oriented mindset and training before emerging to be good enough to handle tasks. On the other end, it’s quite the opposite in a small business as you have equal responsibility and accountability to complete tasks by your own. “You just cannot wait for things to happen, you are held responsible to go and make things happen.” Believe it or not, it is a really good learning curve as you get to figure out everything on your own without much dependency.

2. Productivity :

Another observation I have made is that staying productive is important in terms of adapting to a small business culture. I have learnt this trait from my CEO Richard Beal who is very professional by nature and manages his and my time very well along with a proper work schedule. This has spurred me to develop my own work schedule everyday by staying active and setting up small goals to achieve each day.

3. Resiliency :

During my initial days at Spectrafy there was a steep learning curve in terms of setting up software and debugging the code. You work on it for several days just to fix those small issues which give you a lot more confidence. We might fail once, twice or more than that but don’t give up! Keep on trying and working the problem, you don’t need to stress much over it but taking consecutive breaks after several failures will help you cope, come up with fresh ideas and bounce back stronger.

So far, my RBC uOttawa Entrepreneurship Co-op at Spectrafy has not only helped me in developing technical skills but also important soft skills while speaking to our potential customers. Overall, it has been an amazing experience after working in a real work environment while honing entrepreneurial skills. I feel this is just a beginning and there is a lot more learning to come. I just cannot wait to see what the future holds for me.