1. What’s your position with Brightergy? How long have you been working here?
Design Associate. Started August 1, 2012.
2. Where are you from/where did you grow up? What’s your background (educational/work)?
I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. When I was a year old, we moved to Southern California, where we lived until I was eleven. We then moved to rural Western Pennsylvania, just north of Pittsburgh, where my mom was born. The culture shock was as can be imagined. I graduated from high school in 1995 and almost immediately moved back to California; then moved back to Pennsylvania; then on to Asheville, NC for a couple of years; then Phoenix, AZ for a couple more. In the fall of 2008, I moved to Kansas City.
My work background is just about as diverse: I worked on farms throughout high school; had a couple of retail store stints after that; bartended for a few years; worked as a cable technician installing equipment on utility poles; worked in and managed warehouses for two different businesses. I got an Associates Degree in technical drafting while in Phoenix.
Technical drafting was something that I was interested in in since high school, so when it came to my attention again, I decided to see where it could take me. While in school, I was hired as a drafter at a civil engineering firm and started to learn how to design large-scale residential and commercial developments. It wasn’t quite what I wanted, and that particular industry was drying up, so I switched engineering disciplines and got hired on at the Phoenix branch of Kansas-based Henderson Engineers. There I learned HVAC, plumbing and refrigeration design for various retail, grocery and office buildings. I transferred to the Lenexa office a year after getting hired, and continued to work there until early 2011.
I took about a year off to try my hand at contract drafting and design, both individually and in short-term contract work for engineering firms, working briefly for the firm that Google hired to do the fiber internet design for KC. While interesting, it wasn’t where I saw myself. When I came across the listing for a solar electric designer at Brightergy, I jumped at the opportunity.
3. Why solar? What first got you interested in renewable energy?
During the past couple of years of my design engineering career, it became evident that I could no longer do something just for the sake of doing it; I wanted the work that I do to not only be something that I could be proud of, but something that ultimately went toward the greater good. It just so happens that Brightergy was on my radar from the previous year, when I saw a listing for a solar installer. That initial job listing – which I did not apply for – was sort of an “aha” moment for me, and kicked off a personal search for a renewable energy design/engineering position. There are not a lot of opportunities for a position like that in our area, so when I saw the listing a year later for a designer, I didn’t hesitate to send in my resume.
After a couple (or four) determined follow-up emails, I got an interview and ultimately, an offer. I now have a job that is commensurate with the way I think and live, working with people that actually have a passion for what they are doing. From my personal experiences, that is unique.
4. What is something people might not know about your job and/or what you do?
As a member of the design department, I think everyone knows that our core job is to make things work. And there are multiple ways to make something work. But, I like to believe that we go the extra mile to make sure that the systems we design maximize production while minimizing the physical impact an installation can have on a building. Fundamentally, we are all in the customer service business, and even though as a designer I may never meet the customer, I am aware of their needs and do have their best interests in mind.
5. How do you define sustainability?
Balance – Maintain – Improve. These are the words that come to my mind when I think of sustainability. When I speak about sustainability, I often bring up balance. I believe this is a term that is not used enough in the public discourse regarding sustainability. I think we tend to argue sustainability in extremes, which can be quite polarizing and paralyzing. If I was to put it into one statement, it would be, “a diverse, balanced approach to meet our energy needs of today so we can maintain and ultimately improve our future.”
6. When you’re not working for Brightergy, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?
My wife and I love to support the localities, whether it be music, art or restaurants. We also love to hit up the farmers’ market and cook tasty meals; hang out with friends; go on the spontaneous road trips; travel to see family. My wife is my best friend, so we are also perfectly happy to sit around and just enjoy each other’s company.
7. What’s something your coworkers might not know about you?
I write, play and record music as a hobby. Everything is self-taught and my process is pretty slow, but it is very therapeutic for me. I have a couple of friends that I collaborate with, and it is a good way to let off a little steam and have a good time.
8. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Difficult to think of someone, but on a personal level it would probably be my Grandfather, who passed away about 17 years ago. He moved his young family from a small town in Pennsylvania where he was born, to the Los Angeles, CA area where they knew no one, got hired at a printing company – literally sweeping the floors – and retired from that company as vice president. It seems like a rare thing these days to be able to do that and his story has always inspired me.