Let’s meet Cliel!

Cliel joined Wonolo as Head of Engineering in 2018. Previously, Cliel led the technology organization at Upsight and designed camera systems for your faithful BlackBerry. He earned a Guinness World Record for Longest Journey by a Solar Powered Vehicle. He’s currently scaling Wonolo’s engineering teams across San Francisco and Vietnam.

What are you grateful for today?

The Bay Area is saturated with a ton of amazing companies. When I began the search for my latest opportunity I identified the 4 most important criteria for me and then set out to meet as many companies as possible. I ended up speaking with dozens of companies and Wonolo won out on all 4 categories.

  • I am grateful that I get to wake up every day and work at a company that is providing opportunities for the underserved.
  • I am grateful that I have a seat on a rocket ship that has the potential to revolutionize how people work and create massive value by doing so.
  • I am grateful that I get to work with amazing people.
  • I am grateful that I get to make an impact with the work I do.

I am also grateful for my unbelievable wife and two children who are so loving and supportive of the work I’m doing. There is no better feeling than coming home to a two-year-old running towards you with a jumping hug.

When you were in high school, what did you dream of becoming?

Ever since I can remember I’ve always dreamt of being an engineer. I built my first circuit when I was 8 years old. I wrote my first line of code when I was 10. I electrocuted myself (for the first time) when I was 13. I’ve always been curious to know how things work and have a personal drive to try and make things better.

When I was in high school, these dreams became solidified. I started to build more elaborate projects. Whether it was coding computer games or building a robot with my high school team that won the Canadian FIRST Robotics competition, I was already well on my path towards becoming an engineer.

What events in your life have led you to your current role/job today?

With my constant desire to re-engineer things, I was always destined to work in technology. I was working as an engineer at BlackBerry at its peak when almost half of all smartphones sold were BlackBerry devices. I could see the decline of the company coming from a mile away but as an IC engineer, there wasn’t much I could do about it. At that point, I knew I needed to be able to interact with the business side in order to enact the changes needed to build and maintain a successful company. I decided to quit and go back to school for an MBA to understand the language needed to most effectively bridge the communication between technology and business.

Another event that had a big impact on leading me to Wonolo was the decision to leave my friends and family in Canada and move with my wife to the Bay Area. When I graduated from business school in 2012 the startup scene in Toronto/Ottawa was in its infancy. Shopify had just raised it’s Series B led by Bessemer, Wave announced it’s Series B led by Social Capital and Vidyard had recently graduated from YC. There was activity but it was minimal in comparison to what there is right now and negligible compared to what there was in the Bay Area. I was discussing my options with one of my mentors and his advice was to “go and not look back.” It’s been the best decision I’ve made in my career.

When things do not turn out the way you planned, what is the first thing you do?

When faced with unexpected challenges, I used to freeze up and get bogged down by the details of the problem. Over the years, I have been through many difficult situations. These moments have taught me that you can persevere through anything. The first thing I do when I’m in these situations now is to remind myself of this. This mindeset allows me to remain calm and jump right into finding the best solution. I now come up with a plan and start executing towards it.

When you have to make a difficult decision, what do you lean on?

I have been extremely lucky to have amazing mentors throughout my life. I have been able to surround myself with intelligent people who I respect and can go to when faced with difficult decisions, big or small. Seeking out these mentors has been one of the most important things I have done in my career. As I’ve run into difficult situations I have been able to bounce ideas off of these mentors in order to come to decisions.

What is one life advice you can give to anyone?

One thing I wish I had learned earlier in my career, but I think applies to anyone, is to truly invest in learning. It’s always very tempting to optimize for today by taking the job with the highest salary or biggest title, but that discounts your personal growth. Instead by mapping out where you want to be in the future and then optimizing for how you can learn the fastest, it will maximize your value for the long term. You’d be surprised how quickly you can rise up the career ladder when you’re improving yourself personally.

Please finish this sentence: If you really knew me, you would know that ____.

I like to build things myself instead of buying off the shelf. I like to know how things work. I like to customize it to do exactly what I want. I have completed many DIY projects including an electric bike, WiFi motion sensors, a customizable nightlight in my daughters’ room, and adding sensors to my car.