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From programmer to CEO: U of M Alum David Kuik explains a slightly less than linear career progression

January 22, 2018 — 

At first glance, computer science and hog farming might seem completely unrelated. But ask UM Computer Science alum David Kuik about it, and the link between the two becomes apparent very quickly. Kuik [BSc (Honours)/94] grew up part of a big family who ran a hog farm in rural Manitoba.

“It was not a high-tech operation and there were some tough jobs that motivated me to think about going to university! My mom was always the one to push me towards school, and I think it was my father’s [perhaps] devious idea to give us the lousy jobs so that we would aim for different career options.”

Whether intentional or not, Kuik’s parents got their wish. Although Kuik initially considered becoming an architect, a Grade 11 course in programming was what persuaded him that a degree in Computer Science would suit him best. Graduating from the UofM in 1994, Kuik confesses that his career progression to date has been slightly less than linear. Over the years, it has included such positions as software designer and developer, consultant and Director of Software Architecture at LPL Financial, the largest independent broker dealer in the U.S. with over fifteen thousand financial advisors.

“The twisty path that I have traveled from programmer to CEO of Norima still surprises me. I think it’s safe to say that the Asper School doesn’t teach entrepreneurs to start businesses the way that Norima started!”

Kuik co-founded technology consultancy Norima Consulting Inc. in 2006, growing the company from a one-person operation to its present complement of nearly one hundred consultants across Canada and the United States. With clients primarily in financial services, insurance, and healthcare spanning North America as well as in Australia, the UK, and the EU, Kuik still retains his initial high school passion for solving problems with technology. Happily married to his wife and best friend Tracey and raising three daughters, it all makes for a busy life.

Busy, but not without a higher purpose: Kuik learned from a young age that giving back to those less fortunate was imperative. His younger sister Roselyn suffered from a rare disorder called Rett’s Syndrome, which left her with serious mental and physical handicaps. The challenges of caring for Roselyn’s needs left Kuik and all of his siblings with a strong sense of responsibility towards others, most especially the more vulnerable in society. Not only does the memory of his sister inform the values that motivate Kuik and his company to live by, his role as father to a daughter with special needs makes his objectives even clearer.

“Our youngest daughter, Paige, is severely autistic and the need to protect and support the vulnerable continues to be a strong personal motivation in a lot of what I do. I think some elements of that have shaped the value system and corporate culture at Norima and I know that our leadership team shares similar views.”

A prime example of Kuik’s mindfulness is Norima’s HANAä system, which acronym stands for Home Access Network Assistant. A team of Norima techs spent over two years working with individuals with severe motor impairments in order to develop technology that would enable them to control their specialized household devices with voice commands.

That’s not to say that Kuik and his team are happy to rest on their laurels. Kuik knows that Norima is constantly being evaluated by its clients, and is only as good as their most recent project. Things seems to be heading in the right direction though, if the company’s five-year revenue growth of 131 per cent is any indication.

Business aside, Kuik likes to watch or play golf as a means of relaxation. He finds that the game appeals to him on a few different levels:

“There is always something to work on and improve on and the challenge of it never goes away.  Even when the pros shoot rounds in the low 60’s they still feel like there were a couple of shots they could have had. I love that constant challenge. The second thing that I like is the camaraderie which is built amongst friends who play a lot of golf together. I have made some very good friends on the golf course.”

While it’s a fairly safe bet that Kuik never pictured his present life as he was cleaning his father’s hog barns, it’s also safe to assume that his current reality is better than anything for which Kuik could have hoped. Kuik acknowledges that it all stems from the degree he earned here.

“My time at UofM is still very clear in my mind. The first class I took was an introduction to programming (74.123, I believe) taught by Dr. John Anderson. I think we might have been his first class.  I also still have nightmares about first-year calculus – I opted for the more advanced, full-year course and it almost finished me.  It was a stressful time but also a fantastic time to learn about yourself and to make strong friendships. Some of the people from that first class with Dr. Anderson are still my friends today. I can’t believe it’s over 25 years ago that I walked into Machray Hall for the first time. I’m very proud to be a UofM alumnus!”

Kuik is one of seven outstanding Alumni being honoured at the upcoming 2018 Faculty of Science Careers in Science – Pathways to Achievement Honoured Alumni Awards event.

What: 2018 Pathways to Achievement Honoured Alumni Awards
Topic: Careers in Science, Alumni and Student Mixer
When: Thursday, February 1, 2018, 3:00 p.m. (Doors open), 3:30 p.m. (Panel starts)
Where: Marshall McLuhan Hall, 2nd Floor, University Centre, University of Manitoba, Fort Garry campus
Reception to follow, all are welcome to attend.

Individual department events also planned. More details to follow.

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