Ten years after graduating, Harry Malkasian still considers his time at The Gordon Institute transformative to his development as a leader. The Gordon Program Curriculum instilled fundamental leadership values that empowered Harry to progress in his career and find his passion in renewable energy.
In 2014, shortly after graduating with his MS Degree, Harry joined CubicPV as the Director of Equipment Engineering. CubicPV, located in Bedford, Massachusetts, is a company dedicated to disrupting the solar power industry by developing innovative higher-power designs to provide dramatic price reductions for clean energy. Over the last eight years, Harry has leveraged his leadership skills and proven his ability to manage high-performing engineering teams. At the beginning of 2022, Harry was promoted to Senior Vice President of Engineering Operations.
With his promotion to a senior leadership position, Harry finds himself focused on both business strategy and technology. The passing of the Inflation Reduction Act in August 2022 has completely changed CubicPV’s production strategy now that the United States is the most appealing place for production of solar power technology. Harry explains that his responsibilities are beyond the operating technology it’s really the whole operation that’s in scope.
As the Senior Vice President of Engineering Operations, Harry finds himself focused on a broad set of challenges with his company’s production expansion. He described scaling up the engineering infrastructure as similar to moving decimals over on a spreadsheet however, the complexity, costs associated, and risk are much higher with a larger production volume. While the technology remains the same no matter the location, he faces the challenges of choosing the right location, sourcing talent, training employees, having to understand cultural differences, overcoming language barriers, and being responsible for thousands of jobs.
Since graduating from The Gordon Institute, Harry has remained highly involved with the program by serving as a Gordon Mentor and industry sponsor for several students’ industry-based Engineering Leadership Challenge Projects.
What is the mission of your company, and what makes you passionate about that mission?
“CubicPV’s mission is to accelerate the adoption of innovative solar technologies to deliver powerful PV modules at the lowest cost possible. I am passionate about this mission because low-cost, high-performance solar energy is key to solving the existential problem that climate change presents to all of us. It is a blessing and an honor that my talents are well applied to make this mission a reality.”
Why is it essential to disrupt the solar industry?
“It’s true that solar has already achieved amazing cost reductions making it the cheapest form of electricity in many parts of the world. But for solar to reach its potential and for the planet to meet its climate goals, it must become more powerful and continue its low-cost trajectory. CubicPV is tackling both of those challenges. Cubic has technology that can lead this market transformation to more powerful solar so that every new solar installation sees a substantial boost in power and can deliver far more energy per acre of land.”
What drew you to the renewable energy industry?
As Harry advanced in his career, he found himself moving out of a position where he was involved with making technical decisions and more focused on managerial tasks. Transitioning into a new field allowed him to “boost the learning aspects once again and reset the balance.”
“Having developed a broad set of skills and experiences in engineering and leadership, I became increasingly flexible in how I could deliver value. My expertise could be well applied to help tackle climate change in a significant and tangible way.”
What advice would you give to a student currently pursuing The Gordon Program that wants to build a career and be promoted to a leadership position?
“The Gordon program helps you learn about yourself. Done right, you should gain valuable insight into aspects of yourself that you can leverage, those to develop, and those to work to improve. Moving ahead in your career, you should use your improved understanding of yourself to make sure you are not just being yourself, but your best self.
Don’t push too hard. Don’t force the system. Develop yourself with intention, establish and maintain healthy relationships universally, and put a bucket out when it rains. If you approach it as a race up the ladder, you will likely knock your shins, or perhaps much worse. If you demonstrate good leadership, even at the individual contributor level, your growth will be natural. Remember, you learned about roles on both sides of the boss’s desk. Pay close attention to exemplify the best leadership you can at every level while respecting your boss and being a strategic follower.”
What kind of challenges have you faced leading technical projects during your career?
“I have faced (and continue to face) many types of challenges along the way. The ones that are front of mind involve the range of personalities that come with highly talented technical folks. First, communication. It may not always be the cause of the worst problems we face, but done poorly, it absolutely can be the biggest source of waste in engineering execution. Communication flaws and failures can undermine everything we do. If you have a good handle on your communications, and expectations are aligned throughout the organization, things will go about as well as they can, and your core technical challenges will consume the bulk of your technical team’s attention. When communications are flawed, or absent, your team will waste time and effort working on the wrong things, and morale will suffer.
Another challenge that comes to mind is a thing I call a “curse of the capable.” Highly talented folks can fall into the trap of knowing they can do anything, signing up for way too much, and regularly failing to deliver. Pay attention to help protect your folks from themselves or else the whole project and team will suffer. Work with your team one-on-one to align your expectations on what can and will get done. Check-in enough to make sure you are making appropriately aggressive progress.”
What did you learn while in the program that has helped you during your career?
“My Gordon experience was huge. I’ve mentioned a lot about how the program helps you learn about yourself. So many aspects of the program were really valuable to me including the shared perspectives from various companies and industries, and the confidence that come from facing tough challenges and learning new ways to tackle such challenges. The negotiating classes helped me both directly and indirectly. Some personal growth that I attribute to Col. Mac’s, and Simon’s teaching centers on developing a much better appreciation for the perspectives of other stake holders in all situations. Considering how something may look from every angle can really help with many aspects of leadership.”
You’re beginning to build a larger team and expand your projects, what are some key skills that you feel are important to accomplishing this?
- “Exemplifying the behaviors you want your team to exhibit is key”
- “Maintaining healthy, respectful relationships universally”
- “Give the game what it needs (Paul Pierce, taught me this 😊)”
- “Whether it is $500k or $500M, the driving principles are the same. Be yourself, do your best, and never stop learning”