Born and raised in Pakistan, Sana Salam is the founder of Sodales Solutions, an award-winning SAP Cloud Platform (SCP) solution extension partner headquartered in Toronto. As a new immigrant to Canada, she worked hard to build her career in tech while self-funding her startup. She is a 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Innovation Finalist
My first job ever was… working as a mailroom clerk, where I spent my day folding envelopes and filing papers. At the time, the organization was going through the implementation of a system and I got an opportunity to volunteer in their testing team. This got me interested in learning about the systems implementation process and the required certifications and training programs. I saved up $17k USD to complete my first SAP certification course, which landed me a job at Capgemini Consulting.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because… during my career in consulting, I had three promotions in less than four years. Despite the steep career growth, I felt that I had not maximized my potential. I finally found my sweet spot as a “Turn Around” project manager for complex failing projects. This is when I thought about having my own company where we could apply lessons learned and bring an agile approach to IT delivery.
My boldest move to date was… quitting a high paid job and deciding to bootstrap a Software as A Service (SAAS) business — without any influential contacts, without a technical cofounder or any initial investment. All of my competitors had seed funding, multiple co-founders and a huge network. I felt very scared.
My biggest setback was… during the early stage of the business, I faced a huge financial loss due to a potential business partnership that did not work out. As a result, I also lost most of my technical team and top paying customers. This was also the time where I had a late miscarriage and faced serious health issues. I thought we would have to shut down the company.
I overcame it by… deciding to not give up. I saw this as an opportunity to begin again — this was a turning point where I began to focus on the SAAS business model and started to turn the company from a consulting service company to a product company. I also worked on improving my health by improving my diet and working out. I lost 40+ pounds and gained my energy back. With a disciplined approach and a positive mindset, I found a way out.
If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that most of the YouTube videos on my channel are shot in my kitchen. I used to record videos on my selfie camera to teach various trends in the Cloud space. One of the videos landed me my first product customer, which was a major railway company in the USA.
When starting my business, I wish I knew… My biggest weakness would turn out to be my biggest strength — all of my competitors had senior technical salesmen on their founding teams. The industry was at its turning point at that time, where the budgets began to move to the line of business users as opposed to IT, with marketplaces becoming the front door for selling. This new industry trend required a non-technical and educational approach to selling, which aligned perfectly with my background.
My best advice to people looking to disrupt the status quo is… that disruption means building a great product that solves a real human need effectively and in a less costly fashion. To do this, you must be open to learning, experimenting, and failing. Taking a disciplined approach to innovation helps. You can begin in one vertical and continue to build upon your strengths until you have a repeatable business model within a singular vertical; don’t go too wide too fast.
I stay inspired by… dreaming about the things that we could be. When I wake up in the morning, I feel grateful to live another day where I can try to stretch myself and see how far we can go as a team. I also get motivated by failure, pain, and criticism. It makes me want to try harder.
The future excites me because… it is always full of possibilities. Despite failures, we still have a fair chance to achieve great things because our failures make us wiser.
Success to me means… progress towards a worthy goal and becoming a better version of ourselves during this process. The real reward of success is the person that we become and the qualities that we develop during the process of becoming successful.