WCS Member of the Month highlights the amazing stories of female leaders in the industry. This month, we spotlight Sindhu Kotha, Finance and Strategy at Proterra.
Is it true that you found your present job through the WCS Job Board?
Yes! I found my current role at Proterra on the WCS job board!
The job board is incredibly helpful in finding a position that aligns with your passion for sustainability and green goals. I also, attend the events and meet like minded women in my field! I’ve met countless inspiring women who I’ve learned from and have motivated me in various ways. And I am part of the 2019 WCS Mentorship program, I have the goal of giving back to the program as much as it has offered me, I invest time in the WCS community!
Why did you join WCS?
I joined WCS because I believe in women helping women.
Having previously worked in a male-dominated industry, I’ve noticed how male-to-male interactions often result in organic mentorships and candid feedback loops, both integral components to developing and retaining junior level talent. However, such open rapport and upfront approaches were not as visible amongst the women, and I wanted to change that. It didn’t take me long to scope out the Women’s Forum (or “WF”) within my previous company and join the junior steering committee. Through the WF, I worked on building a senior / junior mentorship program and discussion events around key topics in the workplace such as family management, performance reviews and best practices.
We (the women) need more of this in the business world. Public support for female advancement and leadership is key to seeing more women in decision-making roles. I view Women in Cleantech and Sustainability as invaluable in leveling the field for women in the green industry by cultivating confidence to lean in and do good.
What excites you most about the future of your industry?
I’m excited about cleaner air, clearer roads, and faster commutes. Working at a cleantech company that makes battery-electric transit buses, allows me to be part of a team that is working towards real change – change that is integral in preserving our planet. Climate change is not arriving, it is already here. Public transit is on track to go 100% electric before any other vehicle sector and will have a meaningful environmental impact. By eliminating air and noise pollution and offering a lower cost of ownership than legacy fossil fuel-powered alternatives, battery-electric buses are attractive mobility options that not only improve our environment, but also provide high economic value. I’m excited about the future of heavy duty electric vehicles because they allow us to significantly slow down the deleterious effects of a warming planet and improve the quality of life for all.
What failure or setback have you learned from?
Earlier in my career, I was a yes-woman. I would always seem to have extra capacity to take on another project or help a teammate out with their workload. My desire to single handedly move work progress along was neither reasonable nor humanly possible at times. I had viewed the act of asking for help as the real weakness, and in turn, had refrained from putting myself in that place of vulnerability at all costs. I wanted to be viewed as dependable, but rather, my overpromising sometimes led to missed deadlines and a weakened credibility. I’ve learned that more things tend to get done faster and better when you raise your hand for help.
WCS Member of the Month highlights the amazing stories of female leaders in the industry. This month, we spotlight Morgan LaManna, Senior Manager, Investor Engagement at Ceres.
Please introduce us to Ceres and the work it does. For readers who are unfamiliar with investment management to protect our resources can you give us a little background?
Ceres is a sustainability non profit that leverages the influence of major investors and companies to effect policy change around important global issues like climate change. Investors such as pension funds and asset managers are also working together to voluntarily direct finance towards a more just and sustainable world.
We see more activity in the investment space, directed to sustainable funds and companies. What are some of the most significant recent advances that are changing the investment world?
At the One World Summit hosted by the French president last year, over three hundrer investors managing over $30 trillion agreed to work together to push the 100 most carbon emitting companies to decarbonize their operations and products in line with the Paris Agreement's ambition of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees. I joined Ceres to coordinate the North American part of this initiative called the Climate Action 100+. In the last six month, three major US power companies have set Greenhouse Gas reduction targets for 2030 and 2050. One such company, Xcel energy set a target for zero emissions, another global shipping company, Maersk also set a zero emissions target for 2050. Ambition needs to be raised even more to prevent catastrophic climate change, but commitments such as these, negotiated by investors are groundbreaking.
Your work requires engaging with many players, including internal and external teams. What skills do you rely on in achieving successful project outcomes?
I'm so lucky to be in this role as I get to bring together the amazing work that so many individual investors and my colleagues are doing. The most important thing for me in working with dozens of internal experts and hundreds of external stakeholders is to just keep checking in and having conversations with people. I think of myself as a cross-pollinator between the brilliant analysis and projects that others are working on.
What has your career path been so far? Based on your experience, what advice do you have for other women seeking to enter work in the green industry?
I had a long and winding road into sustainability. I managed a restaurant for 5 years while in college and then worked in film festivals and retail banking before getting my Master's in Environmental Policy and Development. My dissertation project led me to research the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) where I took my first role after graduating. My advice is just to talk to as many people as possible and don't see limitations from not having expertise in specific subject matter. Working at IIGCC I helped tend and grow a network of investors from 50 - 120 in 5 years. My experience in hospitality and curating innovative presentations made this possible even though I lacked an education in finance.
Investment companies are notoriously gender-imbalanced. What actions would you like to see happen in your sector to increase the number of women in all functional roles and organizational levels?
The Responsible Investment space is better than the overall asset management. As these thematic investments bring in more money women are moving higher. I'd like to see women promoting more women and when I go to conferences I'd like to see women speak up to confidently share their stories.
Looking forward: solutions to climate change and conservation of our natural resources rely on multiple factors, including policy, infrastructure, technology, and financial services. What area do you see as being most critical for achieving necessary change?
You said it perfectly! Regulation, consumer demand and innovation all drive change. Change makers trying to leap frog business as usual need to try and strategize across all these dynamics.
For women who are job hunting: what roles are most often hired for in your organization?
Ceres hires people at entry level all the way to department directors. To join the team at a high level people only need to understand Ceres' theory of change: to work across policy, business and finance to make positive change for people and the planet. Over the past 30 years Ceres has driven cultural changes in the industry to make what may have seemed radical at one time into the mainstream.
What is something you hope to get out of your WCS membership?
I have already met some friends through WCS and attended some great sessions that were both educational and replenishing to my soul. I would like to see more events in SF and be able to bring some of my new Ceres colleagues along to inspire them as well!
WCS Member of the Month highlights the fantastic stories of female leaders in the industry. This month, we spotlight Maria Saltz, Sr. Manager, Marketing and Customer Insights at Adobe
WCS: What excites you most about the work you are doing?
Maria: I have spent my career working in various functions at tech giants of Silicon Valley such as Sun Microsystems (now part of Oracle), Yahoo, Seagate, and Adobe. I have recently joined Cleantech Open West where I am hoping to combine my experience in marketing, product management and data-driven strategy with my passion for Cleantech and Sustainability to help foster innovation in this space. Being a mom, I am keenly aware of the need to solve the issue of climate change and pollution in the next decade for my children to inherit a livable planet. I am very excited to be part of the enormous wave of new technologies, policies, and solutions that are aiming to address some of the most pressing issues of our time.
WCS: How did you get to where you are in your career?
Maria: My career has been primarily focused on data-driven business strategy. However, I have always felt that the skills that I have are easily transferable to a variety of business areas. Curious about emerging technologies and on a quest to always be learning, I have tended to gravitate to new and fast-growing areas. I went from Supply/Demand Planning to Web Analytics and Optimization when web presence became essential to companies. I took a detour into Product Management, working in the new field of online groups and social networks. That, in turn, led me to Social Media Analytics and later to cross-channel Marketing Analytics. As Sustainability and Cleantech became a new area of interest for me, I have been exploring ways to take my skills in that direction. I am currently a member of Sustainability action team at Adobe and a pro bono Marketing Chair for Cleantech Open West.
WCS: What led you to join WCS?
Maria: I first heard about WCS from a colleague and, after browsing through the website and the list of events for a bit, I was immediately interested in joining! I attended my first WCS Talks last year and was even more impressed with the passion and level of expertise this group of women has in all things Cleantech. In my first year of membership and attending several events, I have made many great connections with other members. Learning about other women's very different journeys into cleantech and sustainability careers is very inspiring. I also love hearing about the variety of ways people are involved in the push for renewable energy and more sustainable economy.
WCS: What advice do you have for other women in WCS?
Maria: I want to emphasize the power of networking - if you are attending an event, make it a point to talk to a few people you have never met before and also re-connect with people you may have met at previous events. Sometimes a brief random conversation with someone can result in a great opportunity or an open door down the line.
Artveoli Wins First Startup Pitch Competition for Women-Led Cleantech and Sustainability Companies in the United States
Artveoli Inc.'s breathable art takes home the prize at 5th Annual Women in Cleantech & Sustainability’s WCS Talks for its ability to filter indoor air
Sunnyvale, CA - November 13, 2018 - California-based non-profit Women in Cleantech and Sustainability (WCS) announced Silicon Valley-based Artveoli as the winner of the first cleantech and sustainability-focused startup pitch competition for women founders in the United States. Artveoli outlined its offering at the fifth annual WCS Talks to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen in indoor environments by harnessing the photosynthetic properties of algae. Housed behind pieces of art, the core technology contains biochips and is based on photosynthesis, which is how plants naturally convert carbon dioxide (CO2) to oxygen. The algae within the biochips are powered via energy from an LED panel, mimicking the sun.
“Typical air filtration systems mostly draw air in from outside, which is often times polluted,” said Artveoli co-founder and CEO Alina Adams. “Artveoli changes the actual composition of the air by reducing harmful carbon dioxide inside buildings, and by increasing the oxygen available, thus creating a healthier indoor environment. It was a thrill to present and win the top seat at the WCS pitch competition, as we are working hard to bring our product to full commercialization.”
Silicon Valley-based Artveoli will enjoy a large prize pool, including a guaranteed spot to pitch at SV Forum's 2019 Women in Tech Festival, entry as a guest to Cleantech Forum San Francisco (and preferential consideration for a presentation slot) and advisory services from 12 companies across funding, coaching communications and marketing.
As a part of the larger TED-style conference, a total of six female entrepreneurs from the cleantech and sustainability industry earned a finalist spot to pitch their innovative business idea to a panel of Silicon Valley venture capitalists and an audience of 200+ industry professionals. At the end of the conference, the panel of three judges from Centrica Business Solutions, G2VP, and Urban Innovation Fund awarded additional honors to the other companies:
“While people of both genders are focused on mitigating the most devastating effects of climate change, we still see women entrepreneurs woefully underrepresented in this space. Our aim with the competition is to highlight the great work these women are doing and encourage others to found startups themselves,” said Lisa Ann Pinkerton, founder, and chairwoman of Women in Cleantech & Sustainability. "Congratulations to each of these companies as they continue to reshape the world in a more sustainable light regardless of what investment challenges may lay ahead.”
“There is a lack of C-Suite women in the cleantech and sustainability space,” said Cassie Bowe, Associate Vice President at Energy Impact Partners. “The women leading these startups are tackling some of the big challenges the green economy faces in the coming years.”
“Our panel of investor judges felt that The Artveoli team has created a technology that has the potential to disrupt the HVAC industry while creating a new category within smart buildings. We are delighted to have them as part of our sustainably driven community, and we look forward to watching them grow,” added Pinkerton
About Women in Cleantech and Sustainability
Founded in 2011, Women in Cleantech and Sustainability (WCS) fosters an influential network of professionals to further the roles of women in growing the green economy and making a positive impact on the environment. The nonprofit leads a community of over 2,500 professional women and men working to drive sustainable change. Members range from the students and entry-level professionals to founders, C-suite executives, and investors. The organization hosts monthly events focused on trends in the green industry, professional and personal development, and networking. The 501(c)6 organization is supported primarily by volunteers, member donations and sponsorship support. For more information please visit WomenCleantechSustainability.org.
From Bees, and Sustainability to Startups Competing for Prizes, WCS Talks Packs in the Inspiration for a Cleaner Future
New this year is the first startup pitch competition in the cleantech and sustainability space focused on female-led companies. CEOs from SINAI Technologies, Simusolar, Deep Isolation, TotalCtrl, NuLeaf Tech, and Artveoli will pitch their businesses and field questions from esteemed judges from Centrica Innovations, G2VP, Energy Impact Partners, the Urban Innovation Fund. The winner of the competition will enjoy a large prize pool to continue growing their business, including a guaranteed spot to pitch at SVForum's 2019 Women in Tech Festival and preferential consideration to serve on a Cleantech Forum San Francisco panel, among other prizes.
“A growing body of research indicates companies with women in leadership roles produce slightly higher returns on assets and capital, as well as higher average growth rates,” Lidiya Dervisheva, an investor at G2VP, a spin-off from Kleiner Perkins’ Green Growth Fund. “Yet, the VC database PitchBook reveals women-led startups only garnered 2.2 percent of the $85 billion in funding distributed to the startup community in 2017. In the 21st Century, we get a chance to change this gender disparity together, and that’s why I’m looking forward to serving as a judge in the competition.”
Women from companies like Amazon, Google, OSIsoft, Engie, EDF Innovations, Bloom Energy, First Solar, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Lawrence Berkeley National Labs will speak on a wide variety of subjects from industry trends and share advice for both professional and personal development.
“New banks and investing models are popping up that are both good for the planet and good for our wallets. As individuals, we can make decisions about our money that will have a positive impact on our community and our planet.”
Mastering the art and science of negotiation is the topic of Ellenore Angelidis’s talk. She’s the founder and Board President of the Open Hearts Big Dreams Fund. She plans to outline for attendees the powerful mental models such as win-win and value-based negotiations, as well as tips from experts to help people realize they negotiate all the time and they can use what they already know to build out their negotiation skills, for everything from household chores at home, to getting a team to take on work, to negotiating flexibility, job scope, promotion or salary.
“Many people think negotiation is something only some people are good at and believe it results in a winner and loser and you need to embrace conflict to end up a winner,” Angelidis told WCS.
Head Box Wrangler K.O. from Bahr Bee Ranch will share her perspective on how bees and EVs are alike, outlining for attendees a species that neither speaks nor hears but has intelligence, curiosity, and social organization, even democracy.
“Determined not to work for any entity less than carbon neutral, I have been working for my Bees,” KO told WCS. “This takes me to fighting agricultural and environmental poisoning of the land and its inhabitants through civic discourse.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Arathi Gopinath, Global Asset Performance Manager for NEXTracker, will outline how solar energy had matured into the world’s cheapest form of energy and getting smarter with artificial intelligence (AI).
Lyft is generously offering 20 percent off two rides between November 3-4, 2018 with promo code WCS2018. The event’s lanyards are sponsored by Silicon Valley Bank, lunchtime networking is sponsored by the Presidio School, and this year’s t-shirts are supported by ABB.
Doug Baer, President of Los Gatos Research at ABB says, “We chose to sponsor this meeting because we enthusiastically support women in cleantech and sustainability in Silicon Valley.”
Join WCS as these remarkable people share their personal stories on creating a cleaner future through new technology and ideas pushing the boundaries to what will someday be a new normal. Sponsors across the Bay Area are driven to be a part of this future. Our tenacious efforts for change is happening now, so we invite you to be an integral contributor to witness this path towards a cleaner future.
See you there!
Ready to inspire others with us?
Use #WCSTalks in what inspires you about Women in Cleantech and Sustainability and we will share this year’s discount code with you! Be sure to take a screenshot of your post and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
First Pitch Competition Focused on Female Led Cleantech and Sustainability Startups in the U.S. Hosted by Women in Cleantech & Sustainability
Six women entrepreneurs to pitch to venture capitalists and investors at the 5th Annual WCS Talks 2018 on November 3rd, 2018, hosted at Google Sunnyvale campus
CEOs from SINAI Technologies, Simusolar, Deep Isolation, TotalCtrl, NuLeaf Tech and Artveoli will pitch their businesses and field questions from esteemed judges from Centrica Innovations, G2VP, Energy Impact Partners, the Urban Innovation Fund. The winner of the competition will enjoy a large prize pool to continue growing their business, including a guaranteed spot to pitch at SVForum's 2019 Women in Tech Festival and preferential consideration to serve on a Cleantech Forum San Francisco panel, among other prizes.
“A growing body of research indicates companies with women in leadership roles produce slightly higher returns on assets and capital, as well as higher average growth rates,” Lidiya Dervisheva, investor at G2VP, a spin off from Kleiner Perkins’ Green Growth Fund. “Yet, the VC database PitchBook reveals women-led startups only garnered 2.2 percent of the $85 billion in funding distributed to the startup community in 2017. In the 21st Century, we get a chance to change this gender disparity together and that’s why I’m looking forward to serving as a judge in the competition.”
WCS Talks showcases women’s unique views on leadership, business, policy and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) topics. It aims to highlight the substantial and positive impact that women are making in these fields as they relate to environmental topics, while providing a platform to address challenges women still face in their professions. The annual event is hosted by Google for the fourth consecutive year.
The WCS Talks pitch competition will take place between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. PST on November 3, 2018, as a part of the larger TED-style conference. Winners will be selected by votes tallied from the judges and the WCS Talks audience.
“The women leading these startups are tackling some of the big challenges the green economy faces in the coming years, and ones we see commonly ignored by other companies,” says Lisa Ann Pinkerton, founder and chairwoman at Women in Cleantech and Sustainability. “While people of both genders are focused on mitigating the most devastating effects of climate change, we still see women entrepreneurs woefully underrepresented in this space. Our aim with the competition is to highlight the great work these women are doing and encourage others to found startups themselves.”
Also featured at WCS Talks will be "Sierra" the Tiny Home of the travel bloggers, educators and activists Lindsay and Eric Wood. The couple’s Travel in a Tiny Home mission includes giving people the opportunity to experience tiny home living by traveling with them and staying in Sierra. The Wood’s tiny home includes 13 foot ceilings, solar power and energy storage, a steam shower tub combination, composting toilet, and enough room to sleep six. Those who sign up to be members at WCS Talks at the event will be entered to win a night stay in Sierra
Learn more about the pitch competition here. To purchase tickets to WCS Talks 2018 click here.
WCS Member of the Month highlights the amazing stories of female leaders in the industry. This month, we spotlight Ranyee Chiang, Technology Officer for Bay Area Air Quality Management District
WCS: Please introduce us to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the work it does. For readers who are unfamiliar with the work of Air Quality boards, can you give a little background?
Ranyee: The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is the country’s first regional air district, recognizing that air quality is an issue that crosses city and county borders. The Bay Area Air District includes Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties, as well as the southern parts of Solano and Sonoma counties.
The backbone of the Air District’s work is the measurement of sources of pollution, weather patterns, and how those interact to impact air quality and our health. From those measurements, we know that air pollution, including pollutants that impact air quality and climate change, come from both industrial and transportation sources. The Air District has regulatory authority over industrial facilities, from gas stations to the Bay Area’s refineries. So the work to reduce emissions comes from rules, permit requirements, and inspections. For transportation, the Air District doesn’t have regulatory authority. So the Air District works through communication programs to increase carpooling and use of public transit (Spare the Air), and incentives for people to switch to cleaner trucks, buses, and cars.
WCS: You are involved in launching the new Technology Implementation Office. What is its mission, and what skills do you rely on in achieving successful outcomes?
Ranyee: Launching a new program within an organization is exciting. It’s a chance to set the broad strategy, but also roll up your sleeves and focus on the operational details. In the beginning, launching the Technology Implementation Office meant wearing many different hats. But as I’ve been building out this new team, it’s been a pleasure to pass those hats on to new team members and to expand our overall impact.
The mission of our new office is to connect climate technologies and customers so we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. For example, one new program is an incentive program for low income consumers to access clean vehicles like hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric vehicles, and to build out more charging infrastructure to support new EV drivers. Our motivation is to ensure equitable access to new technologies, so that everyone can save money on fuel, maintenance, and have a better driving experience, while also reducing fossil fuel use and improving air quality.
WCS: What has your career path been so far? Based on your experience, what advice do you have for other women seeking to enter work in environmental policy and regulation?
Ranyee: I’ve had a few branching points in my career, though each branching point built on my previous experiences. I started my career as a scientist, and it has been helpful to have that foundation since the environment and energy areas require a strong evidence base for policies and programs. I spent some time in the science education field. Over the last 10 years, I’ve focused improving access to better energy technologies at the domestic, international, and now regional levels, and that has spanned the household to industrial scale. It has been rewarding to support emerging technologies that can provide better services to people as well as help protect our environment and climate, especially in developing countries and disadvantaged communities.
If you asked me 5 or 10 years ago, “where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years”? I could not have predicted that I would be where I am now. In fact, I think we should abolish that type of question. Rather than targeting a single career path or role, my advice is to be open minded about what career paths are possible. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t be strategic or thoughtful. In fact, I think it’s really important to look for opportunities to learn, to challenge yourself, and to connect with other people. And while you do that, if you’re open minded, there will likely be unexpected opportunities for you, that are a better fit for your skills and interest than what you could have imagined.
WCS: For women who are job hunting: what roles are most often hired for in your organization?
Ranyee: The Air District staff includes engineers, scientists, inspectors, planners, community organizers, and grant managers, all who are passionate about the mission to improve air quality and climate. So the opportunities at the Air District include a mix of technical and public-facing roles. And often, the organization looks for people who combine those two sides together. The Air District has a number of expanding programs, including to expand our work to address climate change and tackle the remaining “hot spots” of air pollution, especially those in disadvantaged communities. It is also worth mentioning that the Air District may hire from a single job posting to fill multiple vacancies and for multiple teams. So I encourage people to factor that in to your application strategy if you’re interested in working with the Air District.
WCS: What is something you hope to get out of your WCS membership?
Ranyee: After spending some time on the East Coast, I returned to San Francisco in 2016 and found that my previous Bay Area network was no longer as relevant for my current career path in sustainability and energy. I also transitioned from working internationally to having a California focus. I was excited to find out about WCS, which was a chance for me to expand my network to match the progression of my career and meet new friends.
WCS Member of the Month highlights the amazing stories of female leaders in the industry. This month, we spotlight Sara Prochasson, Smart Grid Analyst for Enedis.
WCS: Please introduce us to Enedis and the work it does. As an electricity distribution service for France, what are some of your programs, in particular those unique to Enedis?
Sara: Enedis is the French regulated distribution system operator (DSO), which is part of EDF (Electricité de France) Group; in France the electric system is unbundled. It is the largest DSO in Europe, with 35 million meters, nearly 1.3 million km of distribution grid, 21.3 GW of Renewable Energy Systems connected to distribution grid, and 39,000 employees.
Enedis is a trailblazer in smart grid technology with 27 pilot projects in France and in Europe. We are constantly seeking to improve our services at a national and local level by developing and optimizing the distribution grid to tackle energy transition challenges and facilitating the development of electric mobility and renewable energy production, while keeping the grid as resilient and safe as possible with a high quality of service.
One of our current major challenges is the massive deployment of smart meters, a key Smart Grid component, with a roll-out of 35 million meters (30,000 per day), which will extend until the end of 2021 and contribute to helping consumers saving energy and reducing consumption peaks.
WCS: Enedis is based in France. What is the extent of its programs and workforce in the United States? Please talk about the role Smart Grid solutions have in the overall work of Enedis.
Sara: I am part of the Enedis Smart Grid Team and the only representative of Enedis currently in the US, and I am based in Palo Alto within EDF Innovation Lab. From California, I lead a smart grid community of 300 Enedis employees in France. As a Smart Grid Analyst, I track and analyze new regulations, market trends and innovative technologies to understand how these evolutions are going to disrupt the energy system and especially the distribution grid, from a technology, society, regulatory and economic perspective. To conduct my studies, I constantly meet with external stakeholders, including US-based utilities and regulators. With the support of EDF Innovation Lab, we also launch proof of concepts and collaborations with US-based startups.
In California I discovered a new energy paradigm. The utilities and traditional actors are increasingly challenged by emerging actors (such as the Community Choice Aggregation - CCA - and multiple disruptive startups) and ambitious state policies focused on energy efficiency, renewable energy development, and greenhouse gases reduction. The electric grid is under pressure and utilities have to be innovative to always integrate more Distributed Energy Resources (DER), while ensuring grid resiliency, providing energy services, and keeping rates low.
While working remotely in California, I have learned the value of collaborating with local stakeholders and sharing best practices between Enedis and US utilities. Depending on local regulations and market, some utilities are more advanced on specific topics (e.g. DER penetration in California, Virtual Power Plants and transactive energy in New York, Grid resiliency in France), and we all have to learn from each other in order to promote the energy transition globally.
WCS: What has your career path been so far? Based on your experience, what advice do you have for other members of WCS? What is something you hope to get out of your WCS membership?
Sara: I grew up in the French Alps, where climate change has been visible over the past 20 years. I have always been aware of the importance of clean and sustainable energy. Before becoming an energy engineer, I was part of the National Rowing Team of France. I was 13 times a medalist at the National French Championships and twice a medalist at the World Rowing Championships, which gave me the taste to continuously seek new challenges. When I left the National Team to focus on my job, I made it my career mission to address the climate challenge, while supporting the energy transition toward a more sustainable society.
My enthusiasm for energy and cleantech has taken me from an Energy Engineer and Smart Grid Consultant in Paris, to a Smart Grid Analyst in San Francisco. This experience has given me the opportunity to work for key stakeholders across the energy industry, from local authorities to major utilities, as well as the largest European VC company in renewable energy and cleantech.
WCS is a wonderful community with really smart women (and men!) that shape the energy and cleantech industry in California. I learned about WCS at WCS TALKS 2017 and was impressed by the speakers, the impact, and the quality of the event; I became a member right after. I enrolled in the mentorship program as a mentee a few months later, that gave me the opportunity to meet with Kati Kallins, who is a wonderful mentor and helped me to prioritize my career objectives. WCS also organizes events to tackle the hottest topics of the energy and cleantech industry, and I’m excited for organizing and moderating the June Event: Leveraging Blockchain for Sustainable Energy, sponsored by the City of Palo Alto Utilities and EDF (Electricity of France).
WCS provides a great opportunity to meet with new people and to be part of a strong community. I invite anyone to attend WCS TALKS 2018 and the other events organized during the year. Last but not least, I highly recommend the mentorship program, as a mentor or a mentee.
WCS: Assuming there is a gender disparity in your workplace, what actions would you like to see your company and other companies take to increase the number of women in positions like yours?
Sara: As a former international athlete and a young engineer, I have been engaged in different communities where female leadership is not always the norm. Due to these former experiences I'm acutely aware of gender dynamics and the benefits of working with both men and women. I believe that it is important to acknowledge the differences between men and women and stay constantly aware that these differences could result in inequalities. I don’t think that we should promote women because they are women, but it’s our everyday mission to make sure that we have the same chance and opportunities, and that we are judged for what we do and not for what we are.
WCS: For women who are job hunting: what roles are most often hired for in your organization?
Sara: First, I’m really glad that EDF recently offered to be a corporate member and a sponsor of WCS! EDF is constantly looking for new talents in California, such as business developers, data scientists, market analysts, as well as management and strategy positions. Full time positions and internships opportunities can be found online. Enedis is not currently hiring in the US (but in France yes!).
WCS Member of the Month highlights the amazing stories of female leaders in the industry. This month, we spotlight Courtney Condon, Senior Project Manager at Lucid.
WCS: Please introduce us to Lucid and the work it does.
Courtney: Lucid’s BuildingOS is the leading data analytics platform for commercial buildings. We help our customers centralize data from utilities, sensors, building automation systems, IoT devices, and other sources to create a 360 degree view of resource use. BuildingOS helps organizations improve building performance by analyzing and reporting on your energy use using rich, easy-to-understand graphical dashboards. Opportunities for efficiency, conservation, improved comfort, and productivity are quickly revealed through the system. In all, we make it easier—and faster—to transform building operations data into performance improvements that save money, enhance sustainability, and drive employee productivity.
WCS: Building energy management has grown more sophisticated in recent years, with opportunities for robust data analysis, machine learning, and responsive systems. What are some of the most significant recent advances in the building energy management business?
Courtney: Building energy management has shifted to focus on the human experience as a means of reducing energy consumption and increasing ROI for commercial spaces. We’re now seeing commercial real estate developers embrace initiatives for occupant engagement, productivity, and health such as collaborative workspaces, properties with more open space, recreational areas, and biophilic design elements. Additionally, commercial buildings are increasingly becoming equipped with smart building technology, such as occupancy sensors, which can help us better understand and respond to the use of space by automatically controlling lighting, ventilation systems, or temperature.
WCS: Your work requires engaging with many players, including internal and external teams. What skills do you rely on in achieving successful project outcomes?
Courtney: The key to successful project management is using a human-centered approach to planning, organizing, and communicating all aspects of the project.
Planning: Clearly outline goals, expectations, and roles and responsibilities at the onset of the project. Create and stick to defined systems and processes to manage chaos.
Organization: Get organized and stay organized. Build a repeatable, easy-to-follow process that scales across different market verticals and stakeholder groups.
Communication: Plan ahead and conduct regular temperature checks. Foster open and honest communication, particularly about project risks and obstacles.
WCS: What has your career path been so far? Based on your experience, what advice do you have for other women seeking to enter work in cleantech?
After college, I immediately pursued my MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School to gain the skills I needed for working in a sustainability-focused role, while also working to gain experience.
I started out in sales for a small solar start-up called One Block Off the Grid (1BOG), working to qualify leads for account executives. I identified that 1BOG was close to losing its certification as a San Francisco Green Business, and ultimately a huge tax incentive. As a result, my managing director allowed me to create a part-time sustainability internship to re-certify the company and engage employees in green office practices. This is how I transitioned into a sustainability-focused role.
I left 1BOG to join Mazzetti as a sustainability program coordinator, overseeing operations and content for an energy efficiency program for healthcare facilities. I worked with facility, energy, and sustainability managers from hospitals and medical offices across the United States to implement energy benchmarking and conservation practices using the free resources from the program.
In my current role at Lucid, I work with corporations, municipalities, and schools to achieve their resource efficiency goals using BuildingOS. I guide customers through the implementation process, helping them understand their building portfolio and how best to integrate the data streams available into our platform while also teaching them how to leverage their data using BuildingOS' applications and features. I also oversee the daily operations of the professional services teams.
My advice to other women seeking to enter the cleantech workforce is that networking is key to success. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there - go to as many events and conferences as you can so that you can connect and learn from others in the field. Every job I’ve had since I left 1BOG, I got from networking.
Every year in Silicon Valley, WCS Talks brings together bright minds, inspiring stories, and valuable wisdom. This year, more than 250 men and women gathered at Google’s new Sunnyvale campus for a lineup of 22 speakers at the fourth annual WCS Talks.
WCS Talks showcases women’s unique views on leadership, business, and policy. It brings awareness to the substantial and positive impact that these women are making, while providing a platform to address challenges women still face in their professions. The annual TED-style event drew speakers and attendees from a diverse range of sectors and roles in the green economy, as well as locations. People travelled from as far away as New York, Washington, DC, and Quebec, Canada.
Attendees at WCS Talks 2017 at Google's new Sunnyvale campus. The building incorporates biophilic design elements.
While the speakers ranged widely in their personal backgrounds and professional experiences, a set of themes emerged from the day. Speaker advice for building a fulfilling career can be likened to the steps in preparing for a great journey. Find your bearings: identify the internal and external guidance and support that will allow for your success. Chart your course: create a map of your career path to understand where you want to reach, and how to get there. Watch the horizon: allow the latest trends, advances, and breakthroughs in your industry to inform your decisions and keep you motivated.
FIND YOUR BEARINGS
Courtney Bass, Human Resources Business Partner at Google, drew the focus to one’s internal resources in a talk about personal identities. She suggested that our identities are the lenses through which we see the world, and argued that our identities can be “leveraged to have an outsized impact.”
Kenetia Lee, a Hollywood makeup artist known as The Beauty Activist, built on this theme. She borrowed from her book, Fearless Beauty 360, to focus on how women can find self-acceptance, embrace good qualities in others, and empower themselves to be dynamic leaders.
From these speakers we learned cultivating a strong sense of self and trusted relationships that can help guide and support us on the journeys of life and career.
As a preface to sharing his advice, Michael Kobori, Vice President of Sustainability at Levi Strauss Co., said, “I’ve never been a woman in a male-dominated workplace, but I do know what it’s like to be Japanese-American in a white-dominated work environment.” His three-pronged advice for a fulfilling career was to find your tribe (outside of work), find your allies in and outside of work, and discover your unique voice.
After putting in years of effort to “fit in,” which did not ring true for him personally and didn’t completely work, Kobori discovered that what he sought was a sense of belonging. He found it in a local cultural group. Although it was outside of work, it grounded him in a sense of personal identity that was not cultivated on the job.
For the second prong— find your allies— Kobori learned to build relationships with people at work that he could count on to be in his corner. Third, he found that with the internal strength he had cultivated (in “find your tribe”) and the supportive relationships he had built (“find your allies,”) he had the courage to speak up for his beliefs and ideas.
The story he told at WCS Talks 2017 was one he had never voiced before. We feel honored he choose the event to share his powerful advice.
Ilén Zazueta-Hall, Director of Client Engagement at Exponential Machines, focused squarely on finding allies and finding her voice in a talk entitled The only woman in the room: being heard in technical settings. While her advice was painful to hear, because it rang true for so many in the room, it was also comforting to know that the rest of us were not alone in our experiences.
Zazueta-Hall’s advice was to identify male allies in the workplace, and brief them before important meetings on the points we want or need to get across. Then if (or when) we are interrupted or sidelined in the meeting, our ally is ready to speak up with something like, “Hold on, Ilén wasn’t finished yet,” or “Hey, Ilén has a good point there.”
CHART YOUR COURSE
Joan Sullivan, a renewable energy photographer, encouraged us to create a map of our career path to understand where we want to go, and how to get there.
“When I started out,” shared Sullivan, “I thought a career path was supposed to look like this.” She pointed to a smooth, upward-sloping line. “Instead, mine has looked more like this—” a tangled length of yarn.
Sullivan pursued a twenty-year career in public health in Africa before realizing her passion of changing attitudes and behaviors surrounding climate change through the stories she can tell with her photographs. She packed up her family and set out on the career of her “next fifty years” in Quebec, Canada.
“Your career path does not need to be linear,” advised Percy Link and Elise Benoit of the grid edge start up AutoGrid. Nor is it necessary to have a traditional technical background in order to enter a technical line of work, they said.
Link, who is a Senior Software Engineer at AutoGrid, came to her current work from a background in anthropology. A fortuitous informational lunch landed her an internship with the company, and she learned technical skills on the job.
In making the map of your career path, notice the impactful moments that changed your direction or specialty, advised Nike Opadiran.
As legal counsel at Skadden, she manages the legal intricacies of energy infrastructure projects. Opadiran spoke of an important project she agreed to take on early in her career, even though she had felt unqualified. Because of the experience, she has come to specialize in energy transmission deals, a critical piece of any energy ecosystem, and now her passion.
The talks by Sullivan, Benoit/Link, and Opadiran show how new possibilities and opportunities can open up when you give yourself permission to pursue them. When you see that someone else has succeeded in doing what you would like to do, it can help remove hesitation you might have in trying it for yourself. And highlighting successful women in the green economy as inspirations to others is what WCS Talks is all about.
WATCH THE HORIZON
The day was not all personal stories; more than half the content relayed developments in technology and policy in the speakers’ respective fields. Car manufacturers such as GM and Volvo will discontinue the production of gas-only cars within 10 years, Natalie Musick of Oracle Utilities reminded us.
“Electrification changes relationships with utilities,” she noted. “Services such as electric vehicle charging need to be distributed, a departure from traditional utility infrastructure.”
Kelly Ratchinsky from UrbanLogiq delved into how smart cities can brace for autonomous vehicles. She demonstrated that the market will move to “partial automation” for consumer vehicles over the next 20 years, with fully automated vehicles increasing in prominence farther in the future. To prepare for this changing space, she recommended we watch for changes in land use and transportation planning, and open-data programs, 5G network densification and where “public decision-making becomes more evidence-based and data-driven” she said.
Turning to financial services, Mona Maitra, Vice President of Energy & Resource Innovation at Silicon Valley Bank, shared trends in cleantech investing. She critiqued the perception of VC funding as inappropriate for cleantech. After some failures of VC-backed cleantech startups around 2011, investments have picked up again, aided by the lessons learned by these early pioneers.
“The investment horizon was too long, the development cycles (often regulatory-dependent) were too slow, and the quantity of capital required to scale these companies was too large. And so these investors retreated from anything that looked like a cleantech deal,” Maitra explained.
While cleantech innovations do lend themselves well solely to venture capital financing, VC plays a crucial part, combined with other funding sources such as corporations, endowments, universities, governments, and banks.
Maitra ended with a call to action. “It’s the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel economy. Now is a good time to start a business, join a startup— the time is now!”
WHAT WE HEARD FROM ATTENDEES
Audience members said they appreciated the diversity of speakers at the event, and the positive energy of the networking. Many were even inspired to join WCS as paying members.
Attendee Alison Yee said, “Seeing the variety of speakers was absolutely amazing. I liked what Michael Kobori said about finding your tribe, and I think that’s kind of why WCS exists. There are people here who care about your growth, and care so much about the world, and I think this might be where my tribe is. So, I’m really excited to be here and look forward to joining.”
Clockwise from top left: attendees network between sessions. WCS board members and volunteers. An attendee learns about membership. WCS founder and Chairwoman Lisa Ann Pinkerton.
A big thank you to those who attended this year’s WCS Talks, to our sponsors, and a big congratulations to all of the organization’s leadership and volunteers who made this event a success.
Submit to speak at WCS Talks 2018, talk to your company about sponsoring the event, and get your ticket early. Become a member here and get 30% off all WCS tickets, including WCS Talks 2018.
By Cathy Boone and Lisa Ann Pinkerton
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