PEN Profile: On Freund
On Freund is currently VP of Engineering at WeWork. A highly skilled and creative designer and programmer, On also has a ton of management experience and has successfully scaled engineering teams, first at Safend, and then at Wave Systems, Handy and now WeWork. On is a great resource for our portfolio companies, and we're proud to have him as a member of the Primary Expert Network!
Hometown: Tel Aviv, Israel
What brought me to New York: My wife Natalie, who’s an immunologist, had a fantastic opportunity here that she couldn’t pass up.
Why I love the NYC Tech scene right now: There’s a great combination of business and tech in NYC. Many of the companies here are full-stack businesses, meaning tech plays a big part in every department. They’re not just building a product and handing it over to sales and marketing to do their thing. A lot of companies in SF, on the other hand, are “what you see is what you get” - they’re all about the product they’re creating. Here, the bigger focus is on companies who are building the entire business with technology, and that makes the city a really interesting place to be.
Favorite business meal/drinks location: Telegraphe Cafe
Hidden talent: I used to play lead guitar in a rock band back when I was in high school. We recorded an album, played a few gigs and even had a couple of groupies.
Last thing I Googled: One of my engineers told me that if you Google the engineering term “reflux to redux,” WeWork’s blog comes up first. Sure enough, it is! Of course, I also Google for clues on Jon Snow’s fate every now and then.
Biggest challenge I've overcome at WeWork: Despite what people think, taking over an existing team is actually much harder than building a new team. That was the situation I faced when I joined WeWork two years ago. It took me some time to learn how to adapt to a different culture. The key is letting go of some of your preconceived notions and understanding that there are lot of cultural elements where there is no “right” or “wrong”.
How I keep my team engaged: It’s important to understanding the needs of each individual, rather than treating them as a homogeneous group. Weekly 1:1s are probably the best tool a manager has at his disposal.
Business apps I can’t live without: Slack and the WeWork app.
What I’m best at: I tend to be somewhat lazy, so I’m not the best when it comes to brute forcing a solution. On the flip side, that means I have a lot of experience coming up with non-obvious, yet easy-to-implement solutions. For example, we were planning our booth for for a career fair and ran into problems with the back wall. Instead of trying to battle with the problem, I asked our amazing design team to live-paint a mural behind us during the event. It ended up being a real attention grabber, and added an air of mystery to our setup.
Thing that drives me most crazy: Bathrooms that aren’t completely operated with sensors and pedals. First world problems...
Proudest accomplishment: My kids.
My first job: In third grade, I taught programming classes to other students. I charged $1 per class and was doing just fine until one of the parents got mad and put an end to it.
My key mentor: My wife. She’s not from the tech scene, so she always has a different perspective on things and helps me see things in a different light.
Other than mine, NYC tech company I most admire: Handy. I enjoyed every minute there, and I’m really impressed by what the team has accomplished.