Employee Spotlight Series: Kate Palumbo
August 8, 2023
I came to San Diego to attend the University of California, San Diego and I completed my BS in Physics. When I finished school, I realized that I had two goals: to stay in San Diego because I loved it, and to enter the workforce here. San Diego had a ton of communications software development opportunities at the time, so I ended up finding a job in the communications industry.
I started working on embedded software for cellular and satellite phones and I loved it! It was almost pure luck that I fell into the industry and job that I just loved. I worked there for a couple of years and then decided to go back to school and further my education. I went back to UCSD and completed my Master's degree in Electrical Engineering with a specialization in Communication Theory and Systems, and that was an awesome experience! I've been in some form of software development around communications ever since cellular modems and then more recently of course at Kitu with the communications between smart energy devices.
Most importantly, I am a mom with two daughters. It can be a lot to juggle but the flexibility Kitu provides makes it possible.
2. What is your history with Kitu?
I started at Kitu in 2012 when it was Grid2Home, and at the time I had just been laid off from HP. I bounced around between big and small companies in my career and really enjoyed the small company atmosphere. I had worked with both Rick (Kitu's CEO) and Chris (Kitu's VP of Engineering) previously so when there was an opportunity at Grid2Home, I was really excited about it. I had really enjoyed working with them in the past, and moving into clean energy while engaging in a different type of communications that still leveraged my background in embedded systems was exciting!
I eventually transitioned into the Technical Lead role. I found that I really liked organizing projects and helping to drive the team to meet our goals. After that role, I was promoted to Director. I had been a people manager at other companies in the past, but it had been quite a while. It's been interesting shifting some of my focus to building our team and cultivating the right skills. This involves asking how we can support our employees in growing their careers and identifying the opportunities we need to provide them with to help meet their goals.
3. What has been the most fascinating or interesting project you have been a part of recently?
They're all fun! But we're currently working on a piece of software called our Virtual Facility and a lot of what I've worked on has focused on managing communications. This software has a more algorithmic nature because it has the logic for managing a set of storage devices. A utility would be able to say that they want to meet a particular target and then it's up to the virtual facility to manage its storage devices to meet the target required by the utility.
4. How would you describe the company culture at Kitu?
Absolutely fantastic! It's one of my favorite parts of working here. To me, culture is the most important thing when I am looking for a job, and I couldn't ask for a better one than Kitu. We are so collaborative, supportive, flexible, and empathetic. We treat each other as human beings first and then software developers second, and I'm not sure that's always the case.
One of the fun things about coming to do my job every day is knowing the people that I'm going to get to interact with. They're smart and interesting, and I think that Rick and all the management here have done a fantastic job of building this culture into the company.
5. Do you have any advice for new professionals looking to enter the industry of the "electric ecosystem?"
I think that passion is the starting point. I think you must be passionate about software development and understand some of the aspects of working in this field, such as being utility adjacent. We live and breathe cybersecurity, and if that's not your thing, it may not be a good fit.
If you feel that passion and you're interested in building quality products using a variety of software technologies and addressing issues such as cybersecurity, quality, and scaling, this industry may be the right space for you. There's quite a bit of domain knowledge but I think you can learn it as you go.
6. What are your goals for the future of Kitu?
When I started at Grid2Home, we were very small and it's hard to have a mature software development process when you're tiny. As we've grown, I have loved to see the emphasis that the management team has put on building a mature organization. I want to be a part of building a team with the right skill set and with the right processes, that will enable us to meet our goals.
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