While each of the four speakers at February’s “Sustainable Career Tracks” meet-up brought a different set of professional experiences and life stories to the program, four main themes for a successful green career emerged: passion, hands-on engagement, communication skills, and networking.
Kevin Brennan, Training Specialist at the Association for Energy Affordability (AEA) kicked off the evening. AEA’s services include energy audits, retro-commissioning, and energy efficiency upgrades, as well as full line of training and education, including Building Performance Institute (BPI) certification training, Passive House certification training, and weatherization courses.
An energetic energy efficiency BPI trainer, certified passive house trades-person, and active duty FDNY Firefighter, Kevin describes himself as an “energy efficiency nerd” who enjoys “getting all the different components working together.” His passion is the Passive House building standard, which he credits with being “the pinnacle of energy efficiency.” Kevin is an expert in air barriers and insulation, and his goal is to see energy efficient buildings be “as tight as possible.” Kevin’s desire to “create comfort and leave people with a better environment than when I walked in” is his key motivator. His career advice has two key ingredients: get training and “get your hands dirty.” He recommended checking AEA’s website for a vast array of upcoming training opportunities.
Next up was Lucie Dupas, a Solar Engineer at EnterSolar, a leading commercial solar photovoltaic systems company that exclusively serves corporate customers. Here, Lucie focuses on solar installation from an electrical standpoint.
Lucie, whose dream was to be a green engineer from the time she was 15 years old, was educated in France in energy and environmental engineering. She has since amassed experience in solar PV product development, manufacturing, system design and project management, as well as energy efficiency and carbon management. Her career started with an unpaid internship, which turned into a full-time job after graduation.
While Lucie’s work is technical, she says there’s plenty of opportunity for non-technical careers in the energy field, particularly in sales and marketing, where the key skill is the ability to “connect with people.” She suggests segmenting your search among commercial, industrial and residential companies, to find the best fit. “Sale situations are different because the prospect is very different. Residential sales are volume sales; in commercial you sell million-dollar jobs.” She also suggests taking such training as NABCEP Institute Technical Sales certification, installer certification, NYSERDA Energy Efficiency sales training, and the Envirolution program.
Lucie has four main pieces of career advice: Don’t send a resume if you don’t know anyone at the company. Be sure to do lots of networking. Keep up your communication skills. Finally, when interviewing for a job, demonstrate that you are a good fit with the team; you want the prospective employer to think, “I’d kind of like to have a beer with this person.”
The third speaker was Amalia Cuadra, Senior Project Engineer at En-Power Group, an integrated energy services company that “merges engineering with energy efficiency.” Here, she has expanded her knowledge of building systems and has the opportunity to do what she likes best: optimization.
Amalia studied chemical engineering in both undergrad and graduate school, with a focus on semiconductors. But it was her move from Nicaragua to Miami that crystalized her passion. “In Nicaragua, our house was built on a courtyard, so fresh air could circulate. In Miami,” she told the group, “there’s so much air conditioning that when you step outside your eye glasses fog up. We’re just not doing things right.”
When asked what En-Power looks for in potential hires, Amalia explained, “We look for someone who has a passion for the industry” as well as technical knowledge. She also pointed to the importance of people skills, admitting that she is a “natural introvert” who has had to develop these skills in her management role. Amalia’s career advice is to take advantage of the moment. “The New York City energy market is strong because of policy,” and “companies are popping up everywhere.”
Last, but certainly not least, was Andy Padian, who brings thirty plus years of diversified experience in the sustainable building and energy efficiency industries. He is a nationally noted spokesperson for environmental and energy efficiency issues, and has had extensive experience creating and running energy and environmental programs in both the private and public sectors. Originally a TV and Radio Production major in college, he later got a degree in environmental and energy policy. His first job was as an energy hotline coordinator in the Mayor’s Office under Ed Koch.
Like Lucie, Andy dates his initial passion for the field to age 15. He still remembers his sister waiting in line for gas with the engine off. “We’d have to push the car to the tank. It was really serious. It really impressed you.”
Andy currently runs his own consulting firm and is also a career coach. He actually developed his first piece of career advice years back when he “crawled through” buildings for the City in the Department of Housing Preservation and Development: “Keep going out in the field. You need to see what’s not working.” And he says it’s essential to “keep up on the industry.” On the Board of Directors of both GreenHomeNYC and and the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, Andy strongly recommended attending the upcoming Building Energy Conference in Boston.
One thing Andy couldn’t stress enough was the importance of networking. When you are at an event, be sure to “talk to the smartest people in the room.” He’s proud to point out that in 38 months of GreenhomeNYC Green Careers programs, one attendee per month has landed a job. And the participants in this evening’s event definitely took his advice. After the presentations, they all headed to 1200 Miles for an evening of networking. The restaurant provided a lively atmosphere for sharing stories, aspirations, advice, and business cards, and plans for follow-up conversations were definitely hatched.
The GHNYC Green Careers group provides informational resources and networking opportunities for individuals looking to break into the sustainability and energy-efficiency field. Our meetings occur on the first Tuesday of each month. Visit greenhomenyc.org for updates and email [email protected] with questions.
Interested in volunteering with GHNYC? We have Volunteer Orientation & Meet-ups on the last Tuesday of every month. For more information or to attend the next meeting, email our volunteer coordinator Tad Kroll: [email protected].