We recently caught up with Yuval Gonczarowski (MBA 2017), the
Chief Technology Officer at ClimaCell Inc, a weather technology SaaS startup
utilizing unique data sources like wireless signals and connected vehicles to
map all the weather data in the world. Prior to ClimaCell, Yuval advised
numerous tech companies on digital and technology transformation with McKinsey
and Company, and previously worked as an engineer deploying rapid prototyping
devices for Intel and Apple.
Yuval discusses his path to HBS, experience at Harvard
Business School, and career post-MBA:
What was your career
plan when you arrived at HBS?
My goal in life has always been to walk the fine line
between technology and management. Throughout my career I’ve been in roles that
embodied both mindsets – some purely technological (as an engineer) and some
purely managerial. At HBS, I wanted to see how I could combine both and attach
a more business-oriented perspective to the challenge: from added customer
value to pricing, marketing, and so on. It’s always a shame to see brilliant
organizations where the technology team and the business team don’t speak the
same language and work towards a common goal.
What influenced your
decision to go into consulting and then to join ClimaCell?
My summer months at HBS were spent with McKinsey &
Company in the Boston office. My challenge there was exactly what I was looking
for: applying technological analytics aspects to a financial-services client in
an effort to improve customer value and help with digital transformation. It
was a fantastic summer over which I learned a lot about myself, and worked with
a great team. After HBS, I joined McKinsey full-time as a consultant and spent
a lot of time in the digital and technological spaces, working on key strategic
initiatives for top-tier customers. However, the “startup bug” was
always in me: creating something from nothing, positively impacting a market,
and thinking big. I joined ClimaCell in Boston after its Series-A funding, and played
a role in growing the company through additional funding rounds from one with a
handful of technical people to a company that now has over 100 members in three
locations worldwide. We’re working to revolutionize the weather-technology space
by putting together a perspective that embraces data, models and products.
What were some of the
most helpful resources you tapped into while you were an MBA?
The Digital Initiative (DI) was a natural home for someone
like me who lives and breathes technology. The DI is the hub for tech at HBS,
building community and expertise around digital transformation. Together with
the DI’s support, and with a few great community members, I helped co-found
CODE@HBS with the mission to bring technologists together at HBS. The club
still exists today, and serves as a valuable resource both for students with
prior experience as well as for people who are interested in the space.
Two classes come to mind that left a big impact on the way I
perceive life, career, and business: I was fortunate enough to have Professor Clayton Christensen himself teach us his Building and Sustaining Successful Enterprises (BSSR) class, frameworks from which I use literally daily, and
Launching Tech Ventures (LTV) with Professor Jeffrey Rayport, which taught me
how to turn frameworks into outcomes. Additionally, during my time at HBS, I
worked on an
independent project, which encompassed the practical aspects of company valuation.
Of course, there are many other professors who I feel lucky
and fortunate to have spent time with and learn from, as well as classmates
from diverse backgrounds who made classes interesting and always challenging.
How has the HBS
alumni network impacted your career?
Oh, this is a fun story! To me, the alumni network is more
than a way to land a good job or network for personal benefits. It is a true
and real network, in its purest form. For example, during my first year at HBS,
my wife and I were arriving separately from two places to take a flight back to
Boston with a top-tier airline. My wife had some challenges to make the flight
on time, while I was waiting nervously at the gate. Someone from the ground
crew went above and beyond to selflessly help her navigate swiftly through the
airport. When we returned to Boston, I searched the alumni network for people
in the airline and sent them an email with the
story. They were delighted to connect, and made sure the person who helped us
at the gate was acknowledged for their great customer service. It was such a
What is something in
your current role that surprised you? What type of person thrives working at
the intersection of tech and organizations?
Not a surprise, but a known challenge: as a leader in the
technology space, one cannot only wear the hat of strong R&D or engineering
background. It’s essential to combine and collaborate. In some discussions that
are technology-heavy I often find myself pausing and putting on our
“product hat” to shift the mindset: what does the customer want?
What is the use-case? Weather is such a complex industry, as it means something
different to everyone. This is a great perspective that is embodied by our CPO
and his team that I am proud to work alongside. People don’t necessarily care
about the rain-rate in a current street and point-in-time, they care about what
the weather means for them (Do I need to take an umbrella? How many diners
will my restaurant get tomorrow? Should I close the airport ramp today and
prepare for de-icing?).
What part of your
role is different from what you imagined it might be?
The best part of being CTO of ClimaCell is that I work with
an exceptional group of scientists, engineers, and product managers, which
means I have something to learn from everyone. Fortunately, my background and
position allows me to start an intelligent (or, at least I hope it’s
intelligent) conversation with everyone in the organization, from the most
senior meteorologists and scientists to the experienced sales and marketing
team, and help connect the dots of the different mindsets. In that aspect, the HBS General Management degree is a fantastic tool that allows a leader to speak
What is the best
advice you could offer to incoming MBAs interested in the Digital Initiative
and/or the tech community as a whole?
In every position I had, I made sure to make time to sit
with every new employee that joined my teams and establish a set of common
values to work together. Here’s a public link
to my personal values presentation (admittedly, there are parts there I
borrowed from other inspirational people I’ve worked with and for). If I had to
pick a first among equals, I would pick this value: “I am never the
smartest person in the room. You are most likely not either.” The
technology community and the digital space are filled with brilliant and unique
minds, and as you become leaders in the amazing ecosystem, all we can do is tap
and connect them together to create something big. Listen, learn, and be