“Inclusion@Climate: Sowing the Seeds of Belonging” is a feature created by The Climate Corporation’s Inclusion & Diversity team to highlight the diverse backgrounds of our employees as well as their achievements, passions, and personalities. We hope you’ll enjoy learning more about their contributions to Climate and to our community, and think you’ll agree that the very best elements of our culture are our Climateers themselves.
The second entry in this series is a conversation with Matt Garvert, Director of Data in our Science organization.
The Climate Corporation (Climate): Tell me about an element of your identity, an event or occurrence in your life that has affected the way you think about inclusion.
Matt Garvert (MG): One of the things that clearly has impacted me more than most things is being gay. Everyone’s experience with coming out is unique; with mine, I always knew there was something different about me that I had trouble articulating until I was much older. It was a struggle, from the point where I recognized who I was, to then come out publicly, when it’s an identity that’s not obvious.
It took an appreciation of opportunities I lost, the struggle with living in my identity publicly, and the value of diversity, to recognize how important it is to create and also to appreciate an inclusive environment.
Pictured here, Matt (center, bottom row) at our 2019 internal Innovations in Crop Science meeting, with like-minded, data-quality-focused colleagues.
Climate: A 2012 study from the Center for American Progress has shown that the productivity of people who remain closeted at work really suffers because they can’t be their full selves.
MG: Part of it is that through expressing your opinions, expressing who you are: you’re exposing yourself. Being gay, you’re taught to hide that. So it’s sort of the opposite of what you should be doing! And being gay is really just a small portion of the overall diversity discussion. I would imagine that those with other identities would experience this in a similar way.
I don’t think I recognized how much it inhibited my own self. Diversity is not something that I became aware of separately from this experience of coming out at 22, which is old by today’s standards; it was an evolution of me going through the process of coming out, followed by years and years of retraining myself to not fall into old patterns, to withdraw from making myself vulnerable and exposing myself, because it was so easy not to engage, because you don’t want to be judged.
Climate: What brought you to Climate originally? What path have you taken to your current role, and what does that look like today?
MG: I recognized really quickly, coming off my after-graduation economical and environmental consulting job - and I think this is part of my coming out process at 22 - was that a job that didn’t allow me to be my full self or hinged on my passions could only sustain me so far.
I’m a total weather geek when it comes to it, always have been. After digging deep with Atmospheric Science in academia and traveling the world to help build renewable energy businesses in the private sector, I came to Climate almost 8 years ago, when it was in its infancy. In my eight years at Climate, my roles have evolved from weather science to a focus on quality data, how you keep and organize and classify the information you’re managing. That role has expanded into a larger framework for how we manage an incredible scale of information on our platform.
COVID-19 impacts on Seattle have meant more Dad time for Matt and Frances, pictured here on a late March stormy afternoon, experiencing the realities of atmospheric science, during one of their many walks
Climate: You’re the father of a little girl now, and are expecting a family expansion soon. Congratulations! How has parenthood impacted your views on inclusion and creating a more equitable world?
MG: Thanks! Right now, at 18 months, my daughter Frances is at the juncture where she’s about to explode with language. You have to learn how to talk to her and communicate with her at the level where she is. It really reinforces this idea of multiple modes of communication, with kids or adults. In order to really understand a person, you need to reach them in whatever mode works best for them, resonates with them.
Climate: Parents are facing a tough situation at this moment: full-time caretaking roles, full-time jobs, plus hopefully self-care - how are you doing with all that?
MG: What’s been great about the environment at Climate is that people respect it and understand it. Like any set of parents, my partner and I have had to divide our days. At Climate, others step up if I’m falling through, and part of having an inclusive group that gets along is understanding where folks are in circumstances like this, filling in the gaps for each other. People have really quickly understood the situation we’re collectively in and are working to set adaptable goals to achieve what we need to.
Matt and his daughter Frances have spent the last four months focusing on solving the challenges of data quality.
You know, in the goals we set for our Data team, they call out “an inclusive and results-oriented team.” We set goals around what inclusion looks like. And part of what’s challenging is how do you tangibly measure inclusion? I don’t know!
Climate: As a data scientist, we should be putting the question of metrics and analytics to you!
MG: Well, we try to make it quantitative because we’re scientists, so it’s often things like weekly or monthly lunches together with the team. Or surveys asking things like “was your opinion heard” [during a meeting or throughout a project] and tracking that. We try to talk about it - one of the tenets of our team is that we value transparency. Transparency to us means that you should be able to be your full self, but also express yourself and your needs in a way that feels natural.