Skip to main content

How immersion in problem solving turned Donia Chaouch into a safety-analysis entrepreneur

The engineering grad launched Robosafety to help people drive and fly safer
May 14, 2024
By David Silverberg

A woman in a professional setting, sitting at a desk with a laptop, smiling confidently. “From automotive to aviation to oil and gas to medical devices, all of these industries have to have safety as a key priority,” says Donia Chaouch, MASc 15.

The next time your car’s digital system alerts you to a potential collision, think of Donia Chaouch, MASc 15. The software engineer spent so many years analyzing and testing safety systems in cars, as well as for robotics companies, she decided to launch her own business.

As co-founder and chief technology officer of Robosafety, the Ottawa-based Chaouch serves as chief architect of the newborn company, designing and implementing scalable and efficient system infrastructures that help develop a range safety-analysis tools. Currently in beta mode, Robosafety seeks to work with a range of sectors in need of comprehensive safety audits.

“From automotive to aviation to oil and gas to medical devices, all of these industries have to have safety as a key priority,” says Chaouch.

In the case of a car’s collision-detector system, common on most modern vehicles, the Robosafety team can first identify any potential hazards, including the system malfunctions or performance limitations leading to false alarms.

“We then conduct a thorough failure analysis and consider factors such as the hardware, software, environmental conditions, and so on,” says Chaouch. “The risk assessment follows, and we look over all of the risks associated with each of the failure-leading hazards that we identified.”

A lightbulb moment

The idea for Robosafety was born in 2021, when Chaouch was in Silicon Valley, California, working as a safety consultant for several robotics companies. She learned from parts suppliers that they were all facing the same pain points on how the whole safety process unfolded. “That kind of stayed on my mind,” she recalls, “and I asked myself ‘How can we change that?’”

Returning to Ottawa, where she had lived since graduating from Concordia, Chaouch discussed her percolating vision with close friend Mary Yazdani, founder and CEO of consulting firm GenesisLink.

“When I shared the idea with her, she was very interested in collaborating,” Chaouch recalls. Last year, they started Robosafety — with Yazdani joining as co-founder and CEO — and began hiring engineers and working on the software.

“If you think of safety recalls for things like cars, often the issue is something that was overlooked or missed during design and analysis. Our tools can help with that challenge.”

Bringing Robosafety to life isn’t a far reach for Chaouch, whose experience in the field prepared her for this new adventure.

‘Ready for the professional world’

Raised in Sousse, Tunisia, Chaouch had always been an avid reader, whether the books were in French, Arabic or English. And, after an enlightening conversation with her father about her future, she soon discovered how attractive computer science was as a subject.

She earned a computer science/software engineering degree in Tunisia before deciding to head to Concordia for her master’s.

“So many of my friends moved to Montreal,” she recalls. “I also wanted to live in a welcoming and diverse country. Unfortunately, some of the other countries I was considering weren’t like that all.”

At Concordia, where she specialized in electrical and computer engineering, Chaouch looks back fondly at how it prepared her for future roles in engineering. “Concordia helped me be ready for the professional world, and when I landed my first job out of school, I really didn’t feel worried at all,” she says. She now says she couldn’t have asked for better mentor than Professor Sofiène Tahar and being involved in his world-renowned research group.

One of her most memorable jobs was as a software engineer for BlackBerry QNX, the operating system common in many cars. She would study test cases and experiments to ensure the operating system didn’t have any glitches.

“I was married with a five-month-old daughter at the time so working at BlackBerry was really great for me and my family,” Chaouch says.

As busy as her life has become as an entrepreneur, she admits she’s found her calling. “To have the courage to be a young woman on a non-traditional path, that’s fulfilling to me,” Chaouch says.

“It can be hard to be assertive in a male-dominated career, but the fact that I didn’t give up — even if something went wrong — that’s something I think about a lot.”

Back to top

© Concordia University