Mary Cauwels is an innovative marketing professional specializing in product and solution marketing with 25+ years of experience. She made the transition from high tech software and services to clean energy and climate technology nearly ten years ago and has not looked back…except to investigate emerging technologies like generative AI and machine learning. She currently heads Product Marketing at PowerFlex (www.powerflex.com). She has her M.B.A and B.S from San Jose State University in international marketing.
The transition to clean technology careers is an exciting and challenging one. However, breaking into this field can be difficult without the right knowledge, expertise, connections. With the increased awareness and support from governments, investors and customers to reduce the effects of climate change and provide greener, more affordable and reliable energy, companies in clean energy, decarbonization and energy efficiency are growing in numbers and they need experienced leaders in all corporate disciplines.
Recently, many leaders across industries have faced job loss, downsizing and significant economic impacts to their companies, their teams and in some cases, their own job, leading them to ask “Am I ready to make a change?” First, congratulations. You are taking an important step toward a new chapter in your career that can be equally if not more rewarding than your current position. Second, take a breath and think about what matters most to you and what criteria would attract you to make that change. If you are like so many professionals leading companies today, you may simply be burnt out or frustrated by the state of your industry and company. Or you may desire a leadership role that goes beyond building a successful company toward building a better world for everyone. Whatever has triggered you to think about making a change, consider exploring your next role as a leader in clean technology.
As a matter of background, clean tech is an umbrella term covering a wide range of sub industries including clean energy like solar, wind, and hydro power generation to energy storage and batteries, electric vehicles (EV) and EV charging infrastructure, energy efficiency, energy trading, decarbonization, carbon capture and sequestration, and carbon markets, to green fuels like hydrogen and bio fuels. You may have also heard terms like green or climate tech. Bottom line, the industry is diverse and growing rapidly as new technologies emerge, products become more mainstream, affordable and reliable, and investments continue to flow.
Making the transition to clean energy can be a daunting task. There is an abundance of knowledge out there and it might feel overwhelming. Here are some tips and strategies you should consider as you make this move go more smoothly.
- Do your own research. Take the time to learn more about the industry as a whole. It’s important to understand the different sub segments and their drivers, as well as how they all fit together in the bigger picture. Read industry reports, dive into news sites and blogs, attend online webinars and conferences, and ask if there is a segment that feels like a good fit for you. Explore the range of companies in this space and learn about their offerings, their business models, their leaders, customers and investors. Knowing the ecosystem is an important part of developing your expertise.
- Connect with people already working in the field. Knowing someone who has successfully navigated this transition can be hugely helpful. Find out their experience and the strategies they used to make the move. Try connecting with people on LinkedIn or attending industry events and network within the many non-profit associations striving to advance climate change. Personally, I have found climate tech professionals to be very generous with their time and expertise, proving to be extremely helpful in managing my own transition from high tech software to clean energy.
- Consider expanding your skillset. Depending on what areas of clean tech you want to work in, chances are there will be some new skills or certifications you’ll need to acquire before making a successful transition. This is not always a requirement depending on your function, but it can differentiate you from other candidates. Explore options like short courses and webinars offered by companies, local or national organizations and universities that offer certification programs for professionals wanting to transition into clean tech roles. Many of these programs have financial incentives to offset the costs.
- Embrace your transferable skillset. You may already have many of the skills required to succeed as a clean tech leader—just think about the different aspects of your current job and how they might translate into a clean tech role. Start-ups need finance leaders who can position the company for investment rounds, and mid-size companies need leaders to drive more revenue, commercialize their products for more volume, improve operations for more efficiency, and increase customer satisfaction. Be confident in your experience in IT, accounting, sales, marketing, operations, supply chain and procurement, logistics, development, product and project management or other areas to make yourself a more attractive candidate.
- Start looking for your next role. There are many resources dedicated to job posting in clean tech. I’ve found www.climatebase.org to be very helpful as well as broader professional networks like LinkedIn where you can apply filters to your job search. Lean into your existing relationships with recruiters and find out if their firms have practices focused on climate tech or green jobs. Proactively reach out to your peers in companies of interest to let them know you are ready to make the jump to clean tech.
Making the transition into clean energy doesn’t have to be intimidating; instead, use these tips and strategies to help you successfully navigate the journey ahead. With a bit of preparation and due diligence, you can become an expert in clean energy and help to lead the way towards a bright future. Best wishes and good luck.