Episode 36: Live from CELI EMPOWER
This weeks episode was recorded in front of a live audience at Clean Energy Leadership Institute’s (CELI) EMPOWER conference in DC. EMPOWER is the first conference dedicated to young professionals driving change in clean energy sector, which says a lot about CELI’s mission as an organization. For those who don’t know, CELI it is an organization dedicated to developing and connecting the next generation of diverse clean energy leaders.
The guests on this episode are Liz Dalton (New Executive Director) and Thomas Biddinger (New Board Member and VP at Bay4Energy) The conversation features insights from Liz and Thomas on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the clean energy sector, and technology trends in energy and climate change.
Jon Powers: Welcome to Experts Only podcast. Sponsored by Clean Capital. You can learn more at CleanCapital.com. I’m your host Jon Powers. Each week we explore the intersection of energy, innovation, and finance with leaders across the industry. Thank you so much for joining us.
This is Jon Powers and welcome back to Experts Only podcast. We are actually live at the emPOWER conference in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by the Clean Energy Leadership Institute. This is the first conference dedicated to young professionals, driving change across the clean energy sector. I think this says a lot about CELIs mission as an organization, and for those that don’t know CELI, we’ll talk more about it today. But it’s an organization dedicated to developing and connecting the next generation of diverse clean energy leaders. I’ve actually known CELI for a long time. When it was first started here in Washington as sort of a guerrilla effort, they were recruiting folks like myself to come in and engage these fellows in conference rooms around town and it’s great to see this organization really emerge from those grassroots into I think the powerhouse it will become.
My personal leadership background, I tell this story because it’s sort of important in the leadership development space, but for those that know me know I was in the military. I came out of college, I did ROTC at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, and was an elementary education major. The best thing about doing ROTC in college is the second half of your senior year everyone else is looking for a job and I knew exactly where I was going. All my friends were going to start jobs at accounting firms and wherever else. I was sent to a military unit after about four months of schooling and showed up as a 22 year old elementary education major to lead a group of… It was a combat unit so a group of 40 men, it was all men at the time, who most had 15, 17, sometimes 20 years of experience doing what they were doing and I had been studying rocket science for three months because we were doing artillery, but literally that’s all I knew.
I showed up at my unit and luckily there was a crusty platoon sergeant who had been there and seen a lot of young officers like me come through. Before I could speak and even introduce myself, he grabbed my lapels and he dragged me around to the side of the motor pool and he said, “Look, this is an important lesson you need to learn now.” He said, “There’s two types of leaders in the military. There’s those that lead by rank and there’s those that lead by example.” He said, “Soldiers are going to follow those that outrank them because they have to, it’s the way the military works, but they want to follow someone that sets the standard and sets an example.” That stuck with me, but also what stuck with me was I spent the next four years in an intense leadership development institute. The military is all about that and you end up maybe going to combat or going to work in the Pentagon. It’s a constant theme and you’re constantly looking around and learning.
When you leave that though and get to corporate America, you find out… Or even the policy side of Washington, it’s not a standard thing. People don’t have… They may have MBAs, they may have MPAs, they may be really issue experts on topics like development or FERC, but they don’t have the leadership development skills they need to run an organization, and there’s very few places to get that. I used to run an organization called The Truman National Security Project. Mission of Truman was very similar to the mission of CELI. It was developing leaders in the national security space. The progress we made paid huge dividends when the Obama Administration came in because we had fellows populate government that had national security backgrounds, but also had gone through this leadership development and it paid huge dividends in their careers to folks that went on to be the president’s speech writers, lead Department of Defense, Department of Energy and other spaces.
The mission of CELI is obviously near and dear to my heart. Obviously you are all here in the audience today because it’s near and dear to your heart as well. I’m going to talk a little bit about the organization, really introduce the new executive director who has an amazing director, and talk to one of the board members as well about the future of the organization and where it’s going. First I want to introduce Liz Dalton. Liz has got a very strong background in politics and federal public service. Prior to joining CELI Liz was a former executive appointee in the Obama Administration specializing in Energy, Climate, and National Security at the Department of Energy. Liz, before talking about CELI and sort of what led you here, personally what led you into the space of climate and energy and public service for that matter?
Liz Dalton: Thanks Jon and I’m delighted to be here today. Thanks for joining us at emPower. Let me start with the public service aspect actually. An undergrad political science degree. I was on a track to go to law school. My dad was a lawyer, his dad was a lawyer, it seemed like the natural thing to do. In my public administration course I had this fantastic professor. We walked into the class and this professor said, “All of you shit head kids are in here because you want to be lawyers like your daddy’s.” That offended me for two reasons. One, why couldn’t it have been my mom, and two, it hits you in the face a little bit.
She started talking about what was happening in D.C. at the time, so this was during the Bush Administration and she starts showing all of these slides of the cabinet, of members of Congress, and I lovingly refer to that as a 65 year old white man club and that’s something that you’ll hear me say a couple of time, and folks who know me I throw that talking point out. Really struck a chord that she said if you want to make a difference in the world ditch the law school plan, you should go to D.C. I ditched the law school plan to the chagrin of my dad I’m pretty sure, and thought I’d go for two years. I had this incredible opportunity to work on the hill for a member from Arkansas and I really thought I’d go into health policy. It was a time before Obamacare and there was a lot of need to happen in the… A lot of change in the policy space that was needed.
He was an energy and water appropriator, and like many people outside of this room, don’t think about when they flip a light switch where their electricity comes from and it’s something I’d never really thought about. We kept getting phone calls about a wind production tax credit, which peaked my interest and then from there had this incredible opportunity to serve in the Obama Administration and it kind of went from there. I don’t know, it was happenstance in my case, but really developed a passion for it.
Jon Powers: In your time in the Obama Administration did you see the need for leadership development? What was the thing that triggered your interest in the CELI side of this?
Liz Dalton: When you go into the administration, in my case I was 25 years old I think and had never really been in a leadership position of sort. When you’re in a political appointee slot you’re not just managing teams and people, but you’re really trying to inspire change and take what President Obama and folks like Jon and others in the administration had laid out as the plan. I had no experience in that and it was a lot of trial by fire. I would have totally benefited from something like CELI. When I made the transition from the GS15 structure, from being a staff member to something they called the Senior Executive Service at the department, they rightfully require you to go through a leadership development training, and if I’m being honest I was not all that excited about it. I thought it was going to be fluffy, little bit of wasted time, wasn’t real excited to be taking three days out of the office but it was a life changing experience for me.
We were talking about how do you motivate others? What motivates people to take action on things? It was just a way of thinking about my role and my responsibilities that had not been tapped before. So inspired in fact, that I ended up getting a masters in leadership development from Georgetown’s Business School nights and weekends and the last two years at the Administration because I was really fascinated by the science.
Jon Powers: Because you had so much time when you were working. Did you go to night school?
Liz Dalton: My husband has not forgiven me for that still many years later, he’s a patient man. But really-
Jon Powers: I did the same thing, by the way. I went to Johns Hopkins when I was working at the Pentagon. Had to finish my dissertation when I started the White House job. If you stay an extra semester, I’m like, “I’m not staying an extra semester. I’m so done with this. Just take this paper and I’m done.”
Liz Dalton: Right, got to go. Well but I had this interesting opportunity to write a master’s thesis that was leadership focused, and obviously near and dear to my heart is climate change and clean energy innovation in that space, so I actually wrote my thesis on the need for cross sector leadership. How do we get young folks when they’re either coming out of school or still in their school time period to think across the public sector, private sector, non-profit sectors, and start developing those relationships? My 10 year run in clean energy plus my master’s in leadership development and my thesis, like CELI is that place in clean energy.
Jon Powers: Well they’re lucky to have you. Next I want to introduce Thomas Biddinger. Thomas has got a very strong background in clean energy investing and asset management. Full disclosure he’s a board member at my company CleanCapital that’s how I got to know Thomas. Thomas your background’s been focused on finance and entrepreneurship. We’re here in Washington where a lot of people focus on policy, they end up wanting to get into spaces like entrepreneurship and finance until later in their career. You’ve gone to get an MBA, you’ve worked in a venture fund, you’ve worked on boards of startups like CleanCapital. Talk a little bit about what your career path was personally and then what drew you back into the clean energy space?
Thomas: Yeah, thanks Jon. I guess going back to business school, I graduated with my MBA with a focus in finance and entrepreneurship, and then immediately went up to Wall Street and worked for an investment bank in New York City for four years. I thought that was the career trajectory that I wanted to be on. I saw a lot of dollar signs, a lot of fun, and a hard working fast paced environment, and so I was attracted to that side of the world. I guess being there I started to realize that I wanted something that I was more passionate about at my core, and so when I started looking at the clean energy industry and some of the environmental issues that were happening in our world. I just felt like my time and my effort, at the end of the day, I was going to feel a lot better about contributing towards something like that rather than what I was doing in investment banking.
That was the initial thought process and how that evolved over time with eventually moving down and working for a venture fund that was focused on the environmental and life sciences space and then eventually my transition over into clean energy for the last three or four years now. It’s really been an interesting journey and something that I’m really happy about.
Jon Powers: This wasn’t in my prepared questions so I hope I don’t throw you off on this but in the finance space when you were working on Wall Street, and when you think about GE has a really amazing leadership development tract, they focus on it. Did you see any of these major institutions in New York have similar types of programs that were about leading the development of those folks who probably come in as a lower level analyst and spend way too much time in Excel worksheets?
Thomas: They actually did have some unbelievable training programs, and that’s part of what attracted me to go work for an investment bank like I did straight out of school. I said, “Look, you can go in and work in this fast paced environment. They have great training programs, they spend the time to really groom their young people,” but to your point, a lot of that was not focused on leadership development, and similarly once I decided that I wanted to get into the clean energy industry, there really was not that kind of training or programming available. When I joined the board of CELI a year and a half ago, part of the reason I thought it was such a great organization and worth getting involved with was because it was a personal pain point for me when I was getting into the industry. I was in New York City, which you would think would be one of the easiest places in the world to find whatever educational programming or whatever you want really, and really I didn’t feel like there was anything available for me to get an intensive introduction into the clean energy industry on a relatively broad basis.
Jon Powers: Yeah, absolutely. What’s exciting about the space overall, I mean the trends in the marketplace, I mean just look back over the last 10 years, 10 years ago there barely was a clean energy industry. Right now it’s one of the fastest growing job markets in the space in solar and wind, there’s a tremendous amount of capital moving in, it’s matured from… I heard someone tell the story once about going to the old clean energy, I think Solar Power International… I’m not sure that was the conference. He’s like, “All the guys had ponytails, saw white guys with ponytails.” Then it started turning into people with suits, and now you go out there and it’s still not super diverse but it’s been getting more diverse, a growing industry, there’s a lot happening there. We’ll talk about diversity more in a little bit.
The need to really develop the future leadership in that space. The time is now and that’s why I think the mission here at CELI is so important. Let’s talk about that a little bit Liz. For the people not in the room today but more the audience, what is CELI, what does CELI do, what’s sort of the mission and why now is it so important for this space?
Liz Dalton: CELI is dedicated to developing the next generation of clean energy leaders and this is for us in the context of climate change. When you are looking at deep decarbonization strategies we focus heavily on obviously clean energy, but we’re even starting to expand into things like transportation, things like building to grid integration. We find that this generation of folks in the audience that I point to and you guys can’t see, are motivated not necessarily in the same way that some of the older folks were. They’re really committed and passionate about this topic. CELI brings together a community of these emerging leaders and we run a fellowship training program.
We started in Washington, D.C. in 2013. We’ve expanded to San Francisco about almost two years ago at this point, and we are now 400 strong in our alumni class. These folks are working across sectors, across topics, folks in energy storage, folks in solar, folks in finance. It really runs the full gamut but they come together and they’re committed to solving a problem and basically we enable that.
Jon Powers: Talk a little bit more about this fellowship program. Who are the folks that are applying? If you become a fellow what does that actually mean? Then is there a post-fellow life as an alumni?
Liz Dalton: Sure, so the fellowship itself historically is run 14 weeks. We start with the fundamentals. What are the fundamentals of grid technology? What are the fundamentals of clean energy finance? How does the system work? If you’re going to develop technologies in innovative financing mechanisms, you have to have an understanding of how that all comes together. From there we move into topics like corporate sustainability and climate change. What’s happening in the EV world, and we really do this through expert practitioners in the field coming in and engaging with roughly 35 per cohort to talk through these issues and do peer to peer learning as well. That’s one of the things that I don’t think folks think about when they think about a fellowship. It’s usually a top down type education.
We’re very careful on how we select our cohorts. We intentionally build them to be 30% policy, 30% finance, 30% technology driven with STEM backgrounds and the like so that they can teach each other. If you have an interest in the expertise in the policy side but you have absolutely no idea how markets work you got to figure that out, you got to learn from each other. We find that when you come to the fellowship it’s the community that really drives it together.
There is a post-CELI, an afterlife and it’s something that we’re actually growing. Because our whole model is we get these young folks in a cohort, they develop the relationships, they have a shared set of values, they get a baseline education, but we’re banking on in three years, five years, 10 years they’re the ones sitting in the hot seats making these decisions and we have to keep investing in you. You guys are a long-term investment for us.
Jon Powers: And they will keep investing back. I mean we saw this at Truman. People start giving back, getting involved. Talk about what the selection process is like and then geographically here in the US where is CELI today and where is CELI going or thinking about going?
Liz Dalton: Sure, thinking about going, okay. We have fellowship programs running in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. We have again between 60 and 70 fellows per cohort, split between the two cities. This last round we had over 200 applications so a growing interest and it’s quite competitive. My dear friend Nate Kinsey, our San Francisco Director, I’m sure will not mind me saying this but it took three times for Nate to get into this program and thank you for continuing to apply because he’s an incredible leader in this space, works in the San Francisco public school systems running their energy programs.
We’re looking for folks who are committed to this being their career path. If you come in and you’re saying I’m here for the resume, I’m here because I think renewables are cool, or I’m here because I want to have a startup but I’m in it for the money, you tell that in a screening process. We’re looking for people who are here because they care, because they’re passionate, and they want this to be their long-term career path.
Jon Powers: Right, excellent. Obviously I imagine… I know you’ve been there three months but they’ve seen the level increase of the applications over time and hopefully soon there’ll be more geographical places for people to get involved. But for obvious reasons San Francisco and D.C. Was founded here in D.C., San Francisco’s a very obvious next space because of the clean energy space. But you’re seeing places all over the country now, Austin, New York, Denver, Buffalo, New York I’m going to give a shout out to. Maybe the next clean energy hub.
Liz Dalton: I hear it’s the new Brooklyn.
Jon Powers: It is the new Brooklyn. I’m going to trademark that. But the need for that leadership development is just as strong in those places and I think one of the challenges for CELI is how do you grow in a way that you can manage it? For folks that don’t know, it’s not like CELI’s got a staff of 50 people. It’s a staff of one with how many volunteers?
Liz Dalton: I think we’re up to 26 at this point between the two cities.
Jon Powers: Yeah, so if you’re online right now go and donate to CELI so they can begin to hire more staff and grow.
Liz Dalton: Yes please. To your point, we hope to have reach far beyond San Francisco and Washington, D.C. and this is something that Thomas and I, kind of newbies to the organization, have been giving a lot of thought to. We’re thinking about going to places like Chicago, places like New York, Boston, Austin, Texas actually keeps coming up in conversations, and Denver. We’re really looking for those strategic partners that will help us grow to these cities, but have a vested interest in developing this next generation. It’s good for their bottom line, for recruiting, and really building the clean energy community across public private sectors in the cities where they operate.
Jon Powers: Thomas, as a board member coming into this you probably have seen a lot of the fellows do you have that policy background. What sort of drew you to the mission and to want to get involved? As a board member it’s a pretty active responsibility.
Thomas: Yeah, I think initially what I talked about a little bit earlier, it was just feeling that pain point myself when I first tried to get into this industry of not having these kind of resources available to me. At least in the location that I was in at that time. That’s why in working with Liz we think it’s so important to try and responsibly scale the CELI program across these additional geographies.
Jon Powers: How would you compare that experience your seeing in helping companies like CleanCapital scale to what you’re bringing into the CELI boardroom?
Thomas: I actually use that exact analogy with Liz. I got involved with CELI as a board member a year and a half ago. I actually didn’t go through the fellowship program, although I might be the first CELI board member to actually apply for a fellow position. That’s just a different approach to getting in, but I use that exact analogy with Liz when I first joined. The first six months or so two board meetings was just getting my arms around what was going on, where the organization was, and where we were going. Then obviously once we brought Liz on board it was like hey Liz, we’re kind of at… If you want to use a venture capital analogy we’re at a series A stage with CELI and we’re going to have all of these fundraising campaigns that we’re going out for and I think it’s a really exciting time seeing a small young organization with a ton of potential. That’s how I look at CleanCapital, that’s how I look at some of my businesses, so I think there’s a lot of similarities between what I’m doing in the private space and then also here in the non-profit space.
Jon Powers: Yeah, so we’re here recording at emPOWER and this is the first conference that CELI has put on. As I said in the introduction, emPOWER is dedicated to young professionals driving change in the clean energy sector. That’s right off their website. But more importantly, can you talk a little bit about what is this conference, what is it this year, what do you hope that it becomes?
Liz Dalton: At least in my experience, and the experience of those in this room I’m sure, often times when you’re going to a clean energy conference or a conference of any kind and you’re having direct engagement with a speaker on stage, it’s because you’re back bending your boss. So many of these conferences are hard to afford for young professionals or it’s not really targeted to inspiring them for their future development. We’re very careful to craft a program that had a mix of senior executives and emerging stars in this space, and if you’ll notice on all the panels it reflects that. We have young and seasoned, I will not say old, seasoned professionals.
Jon Powers: They know what Cheers is.
Liz Dalton: Yeah, they know what Cheers is.
Jon Powers: For the audience that’s an inside remark.
Liz Dalton: It’s not often that you have an opportunity to stand up in front of 200 of your peers and talk about what you’re doing and express the passion that you share in this space. We wanted to create that opportunity, but we found that there’s a hunger for getting folks of this generation together beyond the walls of CELI. The fellowship program can only have so many and we have way more demand than we can even go with so here we are. It’s so fun to walk out and see 200 folks sitting in a room rallying around a clean energy future.
Jon Powers: What a great venue. I want to talk a little bit about what’s happening in the industry today and how to prepare the fellows for that. Thomas you see this everyday, there’s such a growth in the space. I wrote a paper once on the evolution of solar finance and really looked back to 2008 to where it is today, and solar has become not yet a commodity but it’s a pretty standard space. The number one job sector in the country last year was solar and solar and wind technicians were the top two growing jobs in the country. You’ve got major capital moving in the space, you have new technologies emerging like storage, which is we’re sort of seeing storage today as solar maybe in 2009, 2010 but emerging. You’re seeing micro grids, you’re seeing software companies coming in, helping utilities figure out how to manage the overly complex grid that’s being developed through distributed generation.
You have 50 policy fiefdoms around the country that are really hard to navigate. If you’re an energy procurer you’ve got companies like Apple and Walmart and eBay going 100% renewable energy, which is mind boggling to think 10 years ago that wasn’t even possible. People didn’t even know how to spell PPA 10 years ago. Now you’ve got entire… This is totally true, you’ve got entire companies dedicating their energy strategy on using these procurement mechanisms. Building energy procurement offices within tech companies. Apple’s got an energy procurement office, that was unheard of 10 years ago. The market’s growing. How do you prepare these young leaders for those constant changes and how do you develop a curriculum to prepare them for that constant evolution?
Liz Dalton: This is something that we’ve been chatting quite a bit about. I think historically our programs have focused on what’s happening right now, but for folks in this room 10 years ago you were in high school, you were in early undergrad.
Jon Powers: That hurts.
Liz Dalton: It really does, but I don’t know that they have an appreciation for how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time.
Jon Powers: Right.
Liz Dalton: We are looking, and I’ll make a call for experts in the field to come join us as we I think refresh our curriculum is how I would say that, but we’re going to start with some basics. What is the system as it was? Where is it today? Because that informs where you’re going next. Understanding oil and gas, understanding what happens as we transition to a distributed energy system, but to your point these weren’t things that were even being talked about, but this new generation comes in and they’re so excited about this changing quick technology. Some of that is pace setting a little bit, but to say here’s a broader context that this has been operating in and now we’re going to drive it even further.
Jon Powers: You can’t play in clean energy today without thinking about things like the internet of things and the interaction that that’s going to have with what we’re doing, with water, with agriculture, all these industries are beginning to really blend together, which is exciting. I want to get to the audience here in a few minutes for questions, but before doing that I want to talk a little bit about the diversity in the industry. You mentioned this earlier, it’s a relatively older white male industry. It used to be very ponytail heavy industry I guess. I wasn’t around then but less ponytails, more suits, but I was at Solar Power International Anaheim a couple weeks ago.
It’s growing, you’re seeing more women, a lot of veterans, which is exciting and often not counted as a group but is a really growing group of clean energy. But still, diversity’s not there yet. I mean even looking at… I’m just going to pull some numbers out here. 2017 the US Energy Employment published a DOE report with energy related sectors are relatively less diverse compared to the overall national workforce. The Solar Foundation has done amazing work in this space, by the way, so you should definitely check out their reports. They actually are in the midst of doing a survey right now. They survey the industry, they capture that data, but they’ve learned just this last fall women and people of color are less likely to earn executive level wages compared to white men in the industry. There continues to be inequity in this space. How do we address that and how do we empower more diverse leaders to move ahead in the industry?
Liz Dalton: A couple points I’d like to make and the pay equity issue at the top of my head you think about the CEO of Sunrun coming out and making a statement there will be equal pay for all employees, so in some ways that starts at the top. You have to have senior leaders who are invested in driving this change. At the same time, preparing folks for their own development and learning to advocate for themselves is a big piece of what we talk about with CELI and our fellows as part of our leadership development training. You’re right, at least when I started in the industry, again my 65 year old white man quote, I was one of few women working in nuclear that wasn’t… I think they were still calling them secretaries actually when I started.
Jon Powers: Wait, this is recently?
Liz Dalton: Yeah, it’s not that long ago. Ah nuclear, it’s changing. [Linka Kolar 00:28:39] from New Scale speaking right now, glad to have her. There’s going to have to be a change in the space and the decision makers are going to have to reflect the communities that they represent and that’s one of our clear missions with CELI. We have a large focus on diversity inclusion and it’s how we recruit, it’s part of our selections considerations. We want to ensure that we are going through a process thoughtfully and intentionally to make sure that we’re bringing those folks to the table. One of my volunteers, Hannah from Sunrun, and I talk about this, it’s not just about being in the room, it’s actually being at the table and driving this change.
Jon Powers: Yeah, absolutely. I’m going to come back to the audience in one second so if you have a question raise your hand. They’ll bring you a microphone. Please speak into the mic but Thomas, from being in boardrooms and being in the investor side of this, why is that diversity important in corporate decision making?
Thomas: Well I think from my perspective I think with my business it’s we’re probably as equally guilty of this as anybody else in this industry. It really is something that you can just see diversity is an issue. Not only in our industry but in many other industries as well. Just going to the conferences and meeting with different companies you kind of see that the executive level team tends to be predominantly white males. With my father as the CEO of my business, he’s actually a 63 year old white male, so he fits pretty well with what you’re talking about there Liz.
I think it’s intentional decision that every company has to make from the get go. Not to say that it can’t happen down the road, but even when I look internally at our organization, we have Teresa Schafer, who’s our head of asset management. Shout out to Teresa at Bay4. She’s unbelievable.
Jon Powers: Unbelievable.
Thomas: And she’s built a great team of young women underneath her who have turned into unbelievable leaders in our organization in their own respect. But then you look at-
Jon Powers: Can you tell Teresa’s story for a second because Teresa is a person that when you meet her is very unassuming but she’s amazing at what she does and she really started at a very junior level, right?
Thomas: She did, she was probably at one point her title was probably secretary at a previous organization going back 20 years or so, and now fast forward she just methodically worked her way up through really nothing other than hard work and diligence. Now she’s our VP of Asset Management running that entire group with 20 or so people working underneath her.
Jon Powers: Yeah, she’s amazing.
Thomas: Yeah, she’s done a great job for us and I think is just a great example of what can happen when you have a woman in a leadership position like that and then how that feeds into the organization below her. Then what I was going to say earlier about then you look at the project development side of our business and that really was not a focus and we didn’t have a Teresa involved in that organization. I think people are very comfortable working with and working in environments and with other people that they’re familiar with and comfortable with. If you don’t make that decision from the get go to have that diversity included in your organization then it’s going to end up looking very similar to whatever it looks like in the very beginning.
Liz Dalton: Let me add on to that that our partners, CELIs partners, the folks who are investing in us currently also see that diversity and inclusion has to be part of the conversation and they come to CELI A, we have a… I can’t even tell you how talented these fellows are, but you have a 400 strong alumni base of folks that have this broad understanding, but they also understand that we have a diverse pool to pull from. They are heavily invested in making those intentional investments.
Jon Powers: If I was an employer that wanted to hire a CELI fellow, do you guys have an internal list flow that you people are sending resumes to or is that something? Is there a Monster.com for CELI fellows?
Liz Dalton: A Monster.com. You’re aging yourself again.
Jon Powers: I know, sorry.
Liz Dalton: Yeah, this is great. Yeah, we’ve actually just this year launched-
Jon Powers: Is there an Apple IIE out there somewhere we can use?
Liz Dalton: We just this semester launched an online platform called Hivebrite where we have the opportunity to post jobs and I would say all of the CELIons, as we call them, lovingly call them, the CELIon community share those jobs and post those jobs and are happy to advocate for others in that space. Yes, our sponsors actively post positions and we circulate them and flag the CELI fellows.
Jon Powers: Great. I’m going to open up questions in the audience. Are there any? All right, one up here. Please use the mic.
Speaker 4: Thank you for doing the podcast. I really enjoyed hearing both all of your backgrounds and a little bit more about CELI. As we’re talking about diversity and leadership development, as we get more diverse and inclusive leadership, have you guys seen a shift in how formal leadership development programs have changed their focus on how they teach leadership to adapt to more leadership styles?
Liz Dalton: I think it’ll continue to evolve, but we’re seeing it in CELI already. Things that, again I’ll give a shout out to Hannah on our crew, we talked about developing LGBTQ allyship as part of our development training. This is not something… I think for me inherently that is what we should be doing, but you just assume, unfortunately you assume that everyone thinks the same way that you do that we should be inclusive, but this is stuff that we are starting to incorporate on the front end of our development training.
It’s an interesting question and I don’t have a great answer for you other than it’ll continue to evolve, it has to evolve, and we learn as we go and we are always looking for feedback in that space.
Jon Powers: I’ll tell you at Clean Capital one of the things we try to do and a lot of this has got to be driven by the individual, so Zoe Berkery who I think was a CELI fellow, what Zoe? Yeah, who works for me. She worked for me at the White House, she’s an amazing person who’s just doing incredible work. She came to me very early on at CleanCapital and said, “Look, there is this great organization called WE RISE, I’d like to get involved. They’re helping train women to do more in the space.” She does a lot of stuff in New York that’s oriented towards empowering women and developing their leadership skills. She just made the asks. I’m all for that. I just didn’t know that was out there.
You’ve got to take ownership of your career from that perspective and I think you’ll find a very… As a 40 year old white male, I’m not 60 yet thank God even though I’ve probably referenced stuff 60 year olds referenced, I’m hearing today. Just make the ask because from a leadership perspective we want to empower those working for us and you’ve just got to be willing to take your career by the horns and make those asks. Honestly, if you’re working at a place that didn’t want to support that kind of stuff you should probably look for another job. You want to be in a place that wants to empower you as a person and as a leader. Your generation overall is even more empowered by that then many previous ones have been. Any other questions?
Speaker 5: Yeah, so we’re talking a lot about obviously CELIs for young professionals and that’s kind of the target audience, but even when you’re looking at the funnel of people who enter the clean energy space, a lot of that we was… Julia Hamm was talking about how she got into environmental and how she did that. Looking at the funnel of going into clean energy, using CELI as a platform, what are your thoughts on how potentially with this broad alumni group and this broad network, can you reach people who don’t even think about clean energy both because they’re from environments like low income families who don’t really think about the environment, have never thought about that. Even we talked about this too, you have the big cities. My company’s headquartered in Salt Lake City and they have no opportunities for professional development out there. Just have you any thoughts about how to reach those kinds of people?
Jon Powers: Before you referenced CELI for a second. I’m on the board of a group called GRID Alternatives, which is doing a lot of work for folks that don’t know, amazing work in low income communities helping to do exactly that. Introduce them to the opportunities in clean energy and not just put solar panels on their roof, but train them to be that future workforce. It’s a wild success. It’s not the people in low income homes don’t think about the environment, it’s just that they haven’t been introduced to the fact that there’s actually a career opportunity here and that that there are people that look like them that are doing this work and they’re having trouble keeping their folks on staff because they’re getting hired away so quickly because it’s such a growing exciting space.
I would challenge to the fellows out there that you need to take an active role in your community and help bring some of that education that you’ve had and that leadership that you had back to the community. Then I’ll turn it over to Liz.
Liz Dalton: Thank you to [Celio 00:37:41], and I’m glad you mentioned GRID Alternative. They are one of the partners with us in this emPOWER conference. I think of the CELI community as a community of service. Tomorrow morning we will be volunteering with the organization from 8:00 to noon doing job application training as part of this. To the student question, to the funnel question, as CELI expands geographically we’re also looking to expand somewhat programmatically and there’s a natural pipeline that we’re creating through the fellowship program. As you enter the alumni, the post-CELI alumni phase of life, to Jon’s point, it’s an opportunity for you to give back to the communities that you came from and we partner with universities now.
I think that in future years there’s also opportunities for our fellows to engage in the community, so we do things like boot camps, Clean Energy 101 Boot Camps. We’ve partnered with Georgetown November 3rd, D.C., register and also deep decarbonization in San Francisco on November 3rd as well. Really creating that opportunity for our alumni to go back and teach.
Jon Powers: Liz let’s talk for a second about the future of CELI. Now that you’ve been on the job all of three months and you obviously have taken the reigns.
Liz Dalton: I’ve got it all figured out, yeah.
Jon Powers: Yeah, yeah, you’ve pulled off a masterful conference. Where is the direction of CELI heading? We’re going to come back a year from now at the emPOWER Conference, wherever that’s going to be. You may want to do a pitch if it’s not out there already. What’s CELI going to look like?
Liz Dalton: Thomas and I will battle it out with our other board members to see where emPOWER goes next, but I would imagine San Francisco, maybe D.C. again, or maybe one of our future communities that we’re looking to expand to. We hope to be in an additional three cities in the next three years. That’s a heavy lift for us in this next year looking for fundraising and community building in the cities that we want to move to, but that’ll be the next thing on the horizon. We’re shaking up the fellowship program a little bit. We’ve run shorter sessions twice a year. We’re going to be moving to a one year cycle to have a deeper experience for our fellows that’ll run probably on the order of 20 weeks because there’s such a hunger for a broader education outside of the traditional clean energy bounds.
We talked a little bit about things like SB100 and economy wide decarbonization. You’re going to have to be knowledgeable about things outside of what happens in the electricity system. It’s an opportunity for us to build up the programming. It’s an opportunity for us to go to other cities, and any of you listening who want to get involved please reach out. We are looking for ideas and help shape the future of CELI.
Jon Powers: What tools do they reach out through if they want to apply, if they want to be… If they’re a leader in the industry already and they want to give back how do they get involved?
Liz Dalton: Our website is cleanenergyleaders.org and we have a tab actually called get involved. It’s pretty straight forward. You click the button, it sends a note to me, I’ve very excited to receive all these inquiries. I guess I should also say for our spring fellowship if you’re an emerging leader and you want to get involved we’ll be opening our spring 2019 applications later this year, probably the end of November. The best way to keep up to date is to sign up for our newsletter on the website.
Jon Powers: I’ll tell you a great place to host a conference next year is Buffalo, New York. It’s incredible.
Liz Dalton: The new Brooklyn?
Jon Powers: Yeah, the new Brooklyn.
Liz Dalton: Yeah.
Jon Powers: A lot happening there in clean energy. Finally I always ask the same final question for folks that haven’t listened to Experts Only, what we do at Experts Only is focus on the intersection of energy, innovation, and finance. Unlike a lot of the other podcasts that are out there that are panel conversations about the market or focus in a specific industry, we try to focus on industry leaders and what they’re seeing, but also how do they even get in that role? As many folks you talk to, I mean I was an elementary education major. Liz talked about working in healthcare before. Thomas was a venture capitalist. How did you end up doing what you’re doing today? We want to give advice back to folks that are thinking about the industry. As you said earlier, a lot of this audience may have been in high school 10 years ago. But for the kid that is in high school or about to graduate college, or if you were going back to yourself as you sit down and have coffee with that earlier version of you. What advice would you give?
Liz Dalton: The high school version of me was quite scary. Don’t be afraid to take chances. I get asked the question what is the path? There isn’t a path. The sooner you recognize that and embrace that your career will meander, it’s an opportunity, it’s not a challenge and just embrace and be open to that. Then the advice that I give to all of our fellows and I will not say the cuss word. Don’t be a jerk. So much of this is about people and being kind to people and understanding that we’re all human beings who are sharing this planet and not everything has to be a fight, and just because you’re right doesn’t mean someone else is wrong. If I can leave you with any words those are the ones.
Thomas: I would say just get in there and try different things. I think if you’re looking at how you want to get into this industry and you’re sitting there looking at different job descriptions online or whatever, it’s like figure out what you can do today to just jump in and get involved in something. Whether that’s a short-term internship or taking a role that you actually aren’t that excited about. One of the ways you’re really going to get your foot in the door and learn what you like and what you don’t like and where you want to go next is by getting in somewhere and actually doing something. I think that’s my advice.
Jon Powers: I’d agree with you Liz, there’s zero path. My wife calls it the rollercoaster. You got to ride the rollercoaster to figure out where you want to end up. I feel like, especially here in Washington, but overall people don’t look enough for mentors. Find mentors, get to know them. People who emerge in the industry do want to give back. You don’t need to go asking them for a job. Ask them for advice. When you sit down with someone and be like, “I want to find a new job.” It’s really hard to have that conversation back because I don’t know what you’re looking for. If you can go back and be like, “I’m really interested in clean energy, but I don’t really know really what business development is, I don’t know what this is.” They’ll help you understand that space better. I’ve had amazing mentors throughout my career, and then once you’re in the position to be a mentor do it, have those coffees, don’t overlook the fact that you should be… Part of your leadership responsibility to give back.
First of all thank our audience and thank our speakers today. For those listening to get more episodes of Experts Only please go to CleanCapital’s website, CleanCapital.com. Look forward to continuing our conversation. Please go and learn more about CELI, hit that get involved tab and help spread the word about what’s going on here in terms of leadership development. I’d like to thank our producers at the podcast. Lauren Glickman and Emily Connor for their continuous hard work, and as always look forward to continuing the conversation. Thank you.
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