A Workday With Sonny Garg
Photograph by Clayton Hauck

A Workday With Sonny Garg

The terms “start-up” and “work-life balance” can fit in the same sentence if you’re the work-smart head of the energy solutions team at Uptake.

For Sonny Garg, AB ’89, MBA ’00, life at predictive analytics start-up Uptake is a far cry from the buttoned-up corporate world. Garg held senior positions at Chicago utility Exelon for over 13 years, most recently as chief information and innovation officer. Earlier this year he was recruited to head the energy solutions team at the fast-growing company headed by Chicago entrepreneur Brad Keywell. Uptake already has 300 employees at its headquarters in Chicago’s River North neighborhood and partners with manufacturing giant Caterpillar. Less than a month into the job, Garg reflects on the different way he does business every day.

6 a.m. If I’m good, I’ll work out. Today I did intervals on the elliptical for 45 minutes.

6:45 a.m. It’s time to get ready. I take a quick shower. Dress is casual, so I don’t have to worry about whether I picked up my dry cleaning over the weekend. I’ve reorganized my closet now that my suits are in storage.

7:15 a.m. A Workday With PancakesI make pancakes for my two girls, Talia, 15, and Olivia, 14. And I make sure that they each have a piece of fruit. I drink lots of water and quickly eat a grapefruit and yogurt.

8 a.m. It’s day six for me at Uptake, so I haven’t figured out my commute yet on the ‘L’. I drove today and dropped by Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee. I’m most productive in the morning. I have a things-to-do list in a Word doc that I review as soon as I arrive at the office.

9 a.m. On Mondays, we always have a senior leadership meeting. It’s a good way for us to get grounded on all different parts of the company. But the exciting thing is that probably half of what Brad [Keywell, Uptake’s cofounder and CEO and a Groupon cofounder] says will be outdated by the end of the day. We’re new and moving at lightning speed.

10:30 a.m. We’re currently building out industry sectors, and I’m heading the energy team. I brought a former Exelon colleague in to validate some of my team’s assumptions and to address the problems that we would be solving for wind-turbine manufacturers and operators. 

12 p.m. The only reason I go out for lunch is if it’s work related. Today I ate fish tacos next door with an old friend; he’s an advisor and helps big companies trying to connect with the start-up world. These kinds of meetings help to widen my network.

1 p.m. Back at my desk, I catch up on lengthier emails that I can’t answer on the go. I do this again when I boot back up at home in the evenings.

2 p.m. A Workday With Sonny Garg Meeting at UptakeWe have an all-hands meeting once every two weeks. These are important because as a company grows, it can often become siloed. Today, we talk about our approach to user experience and how we’re designing our software for the end user.

3 p.m. The office layout is open, which encourages social capital. At my previous job, there were traditional offices. Here, it’s easier to be collaborative. People don’t feel like they need permission to share their ideas.

4 p.m. A few of us are going to San Francisco next week for a pitch meeting. We go through the pipeline of what needs to happen, including our strategy deck and pitch.

6 p.m. My wife and I have take-out sushi at home with our daughters. On the weekends, I like to do the cooking.

8 p.m. The Cubs game is on. I watch it and do emails.

9:30 p.m. I don’t like business books. I read a lot of fiction. Right now, I’m rereading Anna Karenina. I think literature makes you a better leader because it’s about humans.

—As told to Alina Dizik