It’s been a while since I reflected on my career journey on what many of us in the industry have affectionately begun calling “The Solarcoaster.” Rather than look at events in the industry as a whole over the 2011-2012 period, I wanted to take a more personal view; a view as a big fish in a very small pond that has become a small fish in a big pond with all the humility and lessons-learned that went along with it.
I’m no different from many who have migrated to California before me following their own “Gold Rush” dreams. With some convincing from industry colleagues and the willingness to risk it all, I made the move in the summer of 2010 from a rural part of Massachusetts where I was “the solar girl” to the bustle of the Bay Area, where I was another face trying to differentiate myself in the solar industry.
After Intersolar of 2011, I was recruited by Sungevity, a growing, mission-driven residential leasing startup with a fascinating online-focused business model that intrigued me. Many folks who have followed this blog will recall my writing about Sungevity and a number of other firms with business models promising to disrupt residential solar. I had met a few Sungevity employees at a SolarTech summit earlier that year, where I unabashedly squared off with panelists asking tough questions about their data and assumptions. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to help shape the future of this exciting company.
Over the past year and spare change, my position in the Design and Engineering department has grown and changed and my understanding of what being a successful leader takes has begun to take shape. I am privileged to work alongside people of all walks of life and expertise, and grateful for the opportunity to take on bigger projects and more responsibility as I fail, succeed, learn, and continue to deliver results.
I have always been proud of my “Yankee work ethic” – show up and commit, apply yourself, make it do or do without, and overdeliver. Here in California, where there is so much opportunity, I see the results of my labors in ways I could have never imagined even 5 years ago.
As the Design and Engineering department, we are defining ourselves as a group and as individuals in a process I would have never imagined happening at a company. Together and in the spirit of Sungevity’s own mission, we defined our values in five words: profitable, flexible, balance, integrity, and success. We embarked together on a group-empowerment journey honoring everyone’s contributions. Is this the future of business; as a place where the contributions of all truly work toward a common vision? I believe so and I can tell you from being there, the results are incredible. Leadership is not about telling people who to do; it is about helping people do what they do best and giving them the opportunity to let their talent shine and grow.
I find myself in such a reflective state for a number of reasons; one, marking a little over a year since I signed on with Sungevity but two, I recently finished reading Danny Kennedy’s “Rooftop Revolution” which has reminded me just how far the solar industry has come itself in its own carnival of risk and reward. The more I have gotten to know Danny and his past as an activist and many of my colleagues as agents of social change, the more I have realized that the solar industry is really creating a whole new way of doing business, drawing community-minded and cause-driven people together to create change in one of the most powerful machines we have available today: The Marketplace.
Had the anti-”System” collegiate idealist I was 10 years ago heard myself agreeing to this today, we would have gotten in a serious row. But a lot has changed. I still hear the words of one of my first mentors echo in my head about working from within the System of the Marketplace to enact change. While I dismissed it then, I still paid attention because I respected him so much. Now I am glad I did. This man, John Fabel, is an unsung visionary, inventor, entrepreneur, bike commuter, and inspiration to me.
We’ll see where this next year takes me…