Five Insights from Kitu Executives for Thriving in the Energy Industry
August 30, 2023
Embarking on a new professional journey can be exhilarating and daunting. The complexities of the energy industry demand a blend of knowledge, adaptability, and strategic thinking. As you step into the dynamic realm of the professional world, wouldn't it be fantastic to have a guiding light - a compass pointing you toward success?
We asked leaders throughout different departments at Kitu, from engineering to finance to the CEO, for the advice they would share with new professionals looking to the enter the electric ecosystem space to help them thrive in this industry. Take a look at what they had to say:
Rick Kornfeld: Kitu's President and CEO
It starts with what you want to do! If I'm giving a young person advice, I always start there. You can head towards where you think there's some opportunity, but if it doesn't resonate with you, you're not going to be fulfilled.
From an engineering perspective, there's so many ways you can go about it. You can start from the perspective we have, which is around communication, data, and analytics. This is an enormous field. If you go back many, many years, people were taught a lot about power engineering. That has been neglected recently, but I think it's coming back and very intellectually interesting.
For people coming from other non-engineering perspectives, I'll say it starts with your passions. When I talk to people who want to join Kitu, I always ask them questions about their passion for cleantech. If someone, let's say, is doing marketing, they can market a variety of things, but it matters if they're passionate about this space. If you talk to the people in our company, you'll find they're passionate and care about their work.
Chris Leclercq: VP of Engineering
Do you have any advice for women in STEM?
My best advice to women in the field is to speak up! Sometimes, women can be quieter, especially if you're the only woman in the room. I would suggest trying to focus on making your voice heard, which helps others who are unsure of where you stand. When you speak up, it's easier to show what you're capable of and the skills you can bring to the table. It's not always easy for any engineer but make it a goal to focus on these soft speaking skills.
Generally, my advice for those starting college is to focus on obtaining as much intern-type experience as possible before completing your degree. Classes are important, and having a degree shows you can commit to that long 4-year degree and put in the effort and focus. But completing internships or similar projects shows your future employer what your interests and skills are. People do their best work on projects they are interested in, so helping an employer understand that about you as an individual will help you get your foot in the door.
This can also even be side projects you do for yourself. I was talking with a candidate who had built a rain sensor for their garden and built a program around the data, showing their motivation and interest in a unique light. Often, people don't make it clear enough what type of position they're looking for, making it hard to place them. Having such experiences outside of your degree can help pinpoint where you'd like to be; It's like home staging because it really helps an employer see where you best fit!
Ross Malme: Senior Advisor
This is a special time to be involved in the energy industry with the transition, decentralization, and digitization.
For anyone with an aptitude for math and the sciences of anything in STEM, I'd encourage them to look at what the energy industry represents over the next 25 years. Historically, the utility industry has been boring. It hasn't moved very fast. However, it will soon increase exponentially, and there will be winners and losers. This is one of the last true monopolies that are going to no longer exist in the next ten years. Look at companies you think can be leaders and winners going forward.
This is also a complex industry with lots of acronyms and which can quickly get over your head, so make sure to find at least one or more folks that you can rely on as mentors. For example, I have been working with the PLMA formal mentoring program, as well as their women in DER program. I have introduced many of my mentees to industry professionals concerning their short- and long-term goals. These professionals gave them different industry perspectives and allowed them to start building their own community to rely on. I recommend building your network and quickly as you can, finding people willing to work with you, and do not be afraid to ask questions - there are no bad questions.
Jason Brewington: Director of Product Management
My first piece of advice is to find a passion. Find some aspect of the electric or energy industry that really interests you, and home in on that. There are many different facets of the industry, and you'll learn a little bit about a lot of stuff so having something you're super passionate about is important. Once you've found that, then you can apply your focus there and dive deep while learning the broader topics as they come. Second, don't be afraid to ask questions. This industry is growing and evolving so quickly that there is not one person that knows it all.
Rhonda Woerner: VP of Finance and Administration
When I first started at Kitu, some of the language and acronyms were intimidating. My advice is: do not let a lack of experience in any industry keep you from following your passions. If you are passionate about something (in our case, clean energy/green tech) and are willing to work hard, then everything else can be learned. Do not hesitate - go after what you want! Everyone starts at the beginning at some point in their career. EV comes to mind specifically because it is a new area and changes are happening rapidly. In a dynamic field, it is more about your ideas and ability to solve problems by creating something new. Even if you have been in an industry for a long time, there are always new problems and having a fresh eye can be a benefit.
In the coming years, the energy industry is poised for monumental changes. As you embark on your journey in this sector, remember the advice shared by these Kitu leaders. Stay true to your passions, seek collaboration, embrace continuous learning, and make your voice heard. The electric ecosystem space offers vast potential for those who are dedicated, adaptable, and open to growth.
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