By Keith Wong
With the increasing demand in the green building industry for professionals who know how to make use of tax credits, grants, and unique financing options, green financing has become an important and viable career path. February’s Green Careers meet-up, held at Steven Winter Associates, focused on the green financing and incentives sector. The event featured three prominent professionals in this growing field.
The panel shared their experience in financing options for green building projects, grants, and tax credits. They talked about how they have navigated their career paths and provided useful suggestions for job seekers and career transitioners. While the advice came from three experts in green finance, it was invaluable for anyone looking to grow in their careers. That was especially good news for this varied audience, which included building managers, students, and entrepreneurs, as well as finance professionals.
Be Ready for Your Next Move
Jessica Lynn Aldridge is a Vice President at the NY Green Bank, a division of NYSERDA. The NY Green Bank is a state-sponsored, financial entity working in partnership with the private sector to increase investments in New York’s clean energy markets, creating a more efficient, reliable, and sustainable energy system. Jessica supports the origination, evaluation, and execution of scalable clean energy project investments across New York State. She has been at the NY Green Bank for two and a half years and was one their first employees. Previously, she worked for Citigroup and UBS Investment Bank. Jessica has a Bachelor’s in Economics from Columbia University, an MBA in Strategy and Finance from the Yale School of Business, and a Master’s in Energy and Environment from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Jessica suggests thinking of job changes as “skill building opportunities, not necessarily as your long-term career move.” She views positions in terms of two year stints and believes each experience is a no regrets exercise. Jessica suggests asking yourself the question, “No matter what happens am I going to learn something from this?” Especially when she was in graduate school she thought her next job was going to be her life long career, but she quickly learned that it doesn’t always work that way. “Just say yes to whatever comes next!”
Develop and Nurture Relationships
Christopher Diamond is the Director of Engineering at New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation. NYCEEC finances energy efficiency, cogeneration, renewables, fuel conversions, and demand response projects across all building types and neighborhoods in New York City. Chris is responsible for development and implementation of NYCEEC’s policies and best practices with regard to energy efficiency and building technologies. He has over twenty years of experience in engineering and architecture and holds a Bachelor’s in Engineering from Manhattan College, a Master’s of Architecture, and a Master’s of Engineering, both from the University of California Berkeley.
Chris’s advice was focused on career switching, and he stressed the importance of making and maintaining connections. It took Chris a long time to learn the value of networking, but he now views it as key to career management. Chris recommends putting energy into getting to know people, and on giving of yourself in your interactions. It’s always easier to approach someone when you need advice or a favor if you have already had a previous positive encounter. Chris also agreed with Jessica on the value of change, suggesting that you evaluate every opportunity. Chris recalled that “if at any point in my career someone were to ask me what I would be doing in five years, I would have gotten it totally wrong.”
Be a Lifelong Learner and Volunteer
Robert Fischman is the Director of Commercial Programs at Energize NY, a program of the not-for-profit Energy Improvement Corporation, whose mission is to help property owners in participating municipalities across New York State save energy dollars and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through local outreach, marketing, support and financing. Among Robert’s many responsibilities at Energize NY is directing the rollout and implementation of New York’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) finance program for commercially owned properties. He holds a Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering from Union College and a Master’s of Sustainability Management from Columbia University.
Robert emphasized the importance of education. He suggested that you keep learning about a sector that interests you and subjects that jazz you, whether it’s through formal education programs or other less informal resources. Robert also agreed with Chris on the value networking and of giving of yourself, pointing out that volunteering is a great way to meet people while also giving back to the community. Volunteering will elevate your profile, get your name known, and continue to open doors for you.
All three speakers believe that opportunity knocks if you seek it out, whether through formal classes, informal education, multiple job experiences, networking, or volunteering. Panel members also all agreed that the keys to career management are making the most of all your connections and a commitment to learning. What you are doing today may not turn out to be your ultimate career move, but it will always be a building block to enhance your knowledge and skill set for the future.