This week I had the honor of participating in the first-ever SunCast Summit on Earth Day. The “Impact Your Career” session was a panel discussion between Shawn O’Brien (NABCEP), Brian Mehalic (Solar Energy International), Nico Johnson (SunCast), and me.

I learned something important from everyone on the panel. Most interesting to me was an update from NABCEP about when certification exams can start being taken at home (May 1st).

Something I shared got good feedback from the audience – it was a list of non-obvious skills that are becoming increasingly valuable in the solar industry. Each of these is being driven by a larger macro-trend resulting in the opportunity to use new tactics to win and keep more business. Here is that list:

Trend: People are interacting digitally more

Duh, right? Well this has made two skills really valuable and important.

  1. Social Media Marketing – now that many traditional forms of marketing (like Home & Garden Shows) aren’t available the ability to generate leads and sales through social media platforms is more important.
  2. Hosting Online Events – A big part of the selling process involves educating your potential customers. Some solar companies have begun hosting online events to do what used to be done in person.

Trend: Electronics are getting cheaper and more powerful

We’re all on our phones most of the day now, right. That’s why these tools are becoming the norm:

  1. Drones – in a world where we’re trying to minimize interaction and travel for humans the case for drones becomes more of a slam dunk than it already was.
  2. Mobile-first software – this is another trend that was already happening but has been accelerated by the continued adoption of smartphones as the primary tool for doing business.

Trend: Bigger Projects

While demand for residential and small commercial systems fluctuates a lot, the bigger projects and O&M contracts look increasingly attractive during an economic downturn. To participate in this market you need to level up in:

  1. Finance – Project finance and excel modeling are becoming a must for any company that participates in larger projects. Understanding the numbers is really the only way to compete and make money.
  2. Project Management – As project teams grow there are more layers of management required. This is a really obvious career path for a great installer.