Company Culture

Connector Spotlight: Peter Chow-Wah

Web Engineer, Smart-Home Connoisseur, Hapkido Black Belt. Nice to meet you, Peter Chow-Wah.

Connected

January 10, 2019

From Google Home Minis to Raspberry Pis, Peter’s house is majorly powered up. But with great power comes great responsibility...

Tell us about the project you’re working on.
We’re working with a leading audio electronics brand to build a high-scale messaging service POC—one that helps their devices communicate with applications, services, and each other via the cloud at an unprecedented rate. For most of the project, my main task has been to build the testing rig to help identify system failure points and their root causes.

Seems like an ambitious project.
It is! In fact, the POC proved so successful (we hit 5 million persistent, concurrent messaging connections) that we presented our achievement at KubeCon just last month. You can read all about it here.

What organizations did you work at prior to joining Connected?
I graduated from the University of Waterloo in Computer Engineering, so most of my experiences have been as a Software Developer intern, most notably for BlackBerry, SAP, Christie Digital Systems, and Tangam Systems. My last co-op placement was with Connected in 2015, and I haven’t looked back since.

Peter alongside fellow Connected co-ops in 2016

The early days! What advice would you give to someone just starting in 2019?
Get involved in Connected's social events. Whether it's weekly socials, house events, or gaming groups, it's a great way to get to know your colleagues and experience the culture that Connected has managed to cultivate over the years. Another thing: don't worry if the secret project code names are confusing at first—it'll come in time.

What are your favourite things about working at Connected?
The people and the projects: the people are amazing, while the projects are all super interesting. I can’t talk much about the projects, as you know, but they’re exciting.

Hah, true enough. So what did you work on before joining Connected?
When I worked at BlackBerry, I was working on the (soon-to-be-extinct) BB10. At Christie Digital, I helped with building out parts of the touchscreen interface for one of their theatre-grade cinema projectors. The projectors can be up to the size of a fridge but the interface was similar to the one you'd see on an office printer. At Tangam Systems, I contributed to building the Table Games Yield Management (TYM) Software Suite.

That’s a good list. Any other interesting projects?
As part of my fourth-year Capstone design project at UWaterloo, our group set out to create a training program for curlers to help them improve their throwing and sweeping abilities. The program used computer vision and a set of sensors to track the rock as it travelled and curled on the sheet in order to predict where it would land; then it would tell the curlers whether they should sweep to correct the rock's path or not.

That’s so Canadian. What about downtime? How do you like to disconnect?
I like to play story-focused video games on the PS4—especially The Last of Us, Uncharted, and God of War—and Nintendo Switch, especially Breath of the Wild. Cooperative board games are also great: Mansions of Madness, Pandemic, and Gloomhaven in particular. I’m also part of Connected’s co-ed soccer team, “About to Get Messi.” I’d like to get into hockey too, but I need a) the time, and b) the confidence.

Any fun personal projects?
I’ve been slowly making my home smarter with tech products and Raspberry Pi devices. So far, I own smart speakers from the two major players, Amazon and Google (I have an Echo Dot, Google Home, and Google Home Mini). Next up is motorizing my blinds with a Raspberry Pi.

So your home is basically a robot. How do I make mine like that?
There are a lot of off-the-shelf solutions that can probably do what you want. But if you're like me and enjoy doing it yourself, there are tons of resources online to help you create your own smart home devices using a Raspberry Pi. (But if I were you, I’d start with a smart thermostat, and maybe a smart speaker to control it.)

What product do you wish you’d created and why?
Keeping with the smart-home trend, I wish I had created the Google Home Hub or a Smart Home Hub Station, where you can control everything in your house. It simultaneously addresses the need for passive information (weather/news) and home control devices that nobody had directly addressed beyond an app on your mobile phone.

What might most people not know about you? 
I have held a Junior Black Belt in Hapkido since I was 15. I also have a weirdly good sense of direction. Last year, during the Connected voice team's visit to Cannes for the Alexa hackathon, it became a running gag that I was able to help the team navigate from point A to point B without any of the usual technological aids. There were a lot of signs set up for the conference, but I’ll take the credit anyway :)

Peter and fellow Connectors at the Cannes Lions “Change for Good” Hackathon

This is the eighth entry in our Connector Spotlight series. Stay tuned for more profiles about the great people here at Connected.

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