This week’s Solar Women Summer Series features Chelsea Turner and Latasha Terry, employees at Solar Frontier
Latasha (right): Legal Counsel J.D./M.B.A. with Solar Frontier
Chelsea (left): Business Development Manager with Solar Frontier
Tell us your stories. How did you get involved in the solar industry? What are your current positions?
CT: Solar is a perfect fit for me. I was initially attracted to the energy sector as a whole for the environmental impact and found solar to be a great niche for my skillset and values. Between the industry culture, financial sophistication, and integrity I feel pride for what I do, which is wonderful. I believe the solar industry is a great way to accomplish significant environmental change while making a profit.
LT: I got involved in the solar industry while in law school. Specifically, I applied for a legal internship at a renewable energy company because I wanted to have a positive impact on my global community. When I first got involved in the industry I was excited to be a member of a team that developed reliable sources of energy without substantially polluting the earth or threatening the survival of human society!
What are some industry projects that you’re really excited about? This can be one you’re personally overseeing, or one you’ve simply heard about.
CT: I am very excited about a 20MW project in Imperial Valley that I manage. We recently started construction and I am thrilled to see all of our team’s hard work culminate to a final product. It is extremely rewarding. Additionally, I am excited about selling a couple assets in the coming months. At Solar Frontier, we focus on execution. It is an exciting time.
LT: I am really excited about musician Akon’s solar initiative in Africa. I am particularly excited about Akon’s efforts to provide solar-powered electricity in Africa because this one initiative is able to touch the lives of 600 million Africans. What Akon is doing is not simply helping the African community instead he is empowering it in a substantial way!
What is Solar Frontier doing right now to get more women in the industry?
CT: There are a lot of opportunities for women in the industry through various network organizations and Solar Frontier sponsors our involvement to make sure we are getting the support we need to thrive.
LT: Solar Frontier is proactive in trying to attract the top female talent because it actively makes efforts to attract and cultivate female leaders, sponsors female-oriented conferences and events, employs on an equal opportunity basis, and makes efforts to understand drivers for female employee retention.
Any mentors or companies who have helped you grow professionally? Were there any key learning or a-ha! moments you wish to share?
CT: I have been fortunate to have several examples of success in my life to emulate. The biggest “a-ha! moment” for me was just realizing that proper preparation and thoughtful strategy can bring you far in an industry that is still maturing and evolving.
LT: I have been fortunate enough to have mentors in both the legal and commercial divisions of the solar industry from the very beginning of my career. My mentors have provided a supportive relationship by giving me impartial advice and encouragement, assisting me with creative problem solving techniques, and helping improve my self-confidence!
What are your hobbies outside of work?
CT: I love to travel. I love to see how people make communities, cultures, cuisines, everything in their own unique way. I also love to backpack and relax in nature.
LT: I am an avid foodie and San Francisco is the perfect place for culinary adventures! I cook, explore restaurants in San Francisco and maintain a food picture blog on Instagram (@Feastntravel)! Also, I recently took a trip through South Asia and I enjoyed the opportunity to experience the local culture through its food. I am particularly interested in the way that climate, geography, and history influence cooking techniques, food preservation and lifestyle.
Favorite solar resources that you use to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in the industry?
CT: Google alerts.
LT: Some of my favorite solar resources include Chadbourne & Parke’s Project Finance NewsWire, Solar Frontier’s Daily Media Report, SEIA’s monthly calls, and good ol’ Google alerts!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
CT: I would like to share one piece of advice that really resonated with me. Someone once told me to “leverage skills, accommodate weaknesses”. I feel this is wonderful advice because everyone has pros & cons and only in a team, where you compliment and support one another, can you be your most effective self. I found relief and confidence in this advice in that I can take responsibility for the value I can provide and delegate the aspects I have yet to master.
Latasha, what does a day as an Attorney at Law at Solar Frontier look like for you? What is your favorite part of the job?
LT: A typical day for me involves in-depth reviews of various types of contracts, participation in meetings, answering my colleagues’ legal questions, strategizing about how best to mitigate risk among other things.
My favorite part of my job is my involvement in corporate finance or sale transactions. I love the fast-paced environment, the necessity to think on your toes, and the challenge of working through complex project finance issues!
What piece of advice do you have for someone looking to work on the legal end of the solar industry?
LT: My advice would be to try to find a good mentor, particularly someone who has been practicing on the legal end of the solar industry for a considerable amount of time and is confident in their abilities! Also, I would advise anyone interested in the solar industry to try to obtain experience early in their career, don’t be afraid to volunteer! There are always ways to add value.
Chelsea, what does your role as Business Development Manager entail? What is your favorite part of the job?
CT: We have a small team here at Solar Frontier so we all wear a lot of hats, which has yielded great benefits in personal growth. Recently, my main focus has been project development, asset sale, and business development, all of which entail a good amount of organization, analysis, timelines, finance, negotiation, communication, and teamwork. Above all, my favorite part of the job is learning.There is so much to know, understand, analyze, master, that I feel engaged all day long, which results in confidence in my work product and accomplishments.
In your experience, how does Business Development in the solar industry compare to similar roles in other sectors?
CT: Business Development is a form of sales in the solar industry. It is the very beginning stage of a project or partnership. It is strategy, networking, understanding market trends, gathering market knowledge, persistence, and the ability to identify, communicate and leverage your company’s value while being selective on the viable opportunities to pursue. Business Development in solar differs from sales in other sectors because it is not commodity based. In the utility sector, these are large projects that take several years to complete so the wins are scarce but exponentially more exciting.
Thanks, Latasha and Chelsea!
- Learn more about Solar Frontier!
- Join RenewableEnergyWorld.com and HeatSpring at Solar Power International for a Ping Pong Tournament and Meetup on September 15th!
- Learn more about women in solar via RenewableEnergyWorld.com(the exclusive media sponsor of this summer series!)
- Check out the National Women in Solar Initiative webcast series hosted by GRID Alternatives and SunEdison
- Free Course: Solar PV Design, Code, Economics, Sales and Site Visits with Chris Williams, Christopher LaForge, Ryan Mayfield
- HeatSpring Course: Solar PV Installer Bootcamp Training + NABCEP Entry Level Exam Prep with Fred Paris
- Learn the financial modeling background and perspective often lacking in deal negotiations by taking our Solar Executive MBA Training Course with Keith Cronin and Chris Lord
- Free Course: How to Use Solar Leases to Grow Your Solar Business with Chris Williams