How I Became “The LED Lady” — Hawaiian Style?
By Lindsay Wood
“I have to write a blog” to “I get to write a blog” to “this blog is going to write me” – these are the thoughts that come to mind when sitting down at the control panel of my life … my MacBook Air and my brand new 27” screen.
What makes it look so good? LEDs, or light-emitting diodes.
Everyone with a smartphone has LEDs. Everyone who owns a relatively new headlamp, flashlight, or any kind of electronic device uses LEDs.
I like to think of LEDs in a human form:
LEDs are hard-working but use very little energy.
LEDs have the magic of long lives, remaining relatively wrinkle free.
LEDs are not made with toxic mercury like we got in the dentist’s office.
LEDs love cold temperature and give off very little heat.
LEDs can now give off light.
Since the 1960s, LEDs have been used in electronics. Now, everything that blinks, everything that turns red, orange, or green – everything from screens to keyboards to electrical strips to our lighting – uses LEDs.
I wasn’t thinking about this in 2009. That was when, with the collapse of our economic system, I became very aware that the mastery I had built up for the past eight years in biodiesel was simply not going to carry me on a long, successful career path. I was on the search for a new career – but not just any career. I wanted one that could continue to hold both my enthusiasm and the very strong commitment I had made after graduating from the country’s first Green MBA program in 2003. That commitment was to always have a career based in sustainable values, working on behalf of a healthier planet for all people, plants, and animals to thrive.
The winding path of my life took me back to live in my parents’ home in Ukiah, California, where I worked part-time for a mobile solar company called SolSolutions. It was there that I discovered LEDs. Chaz Peling, owner of SolSolutions, asked me one day, “What should we sell in the store in addition to the mobile solar generators?” Together, we decided that LEDs would be ideal. Into the research of LEDs I went – and I found this industry and the development of LED lighting fascinating.
While the lighting industry was looking for qualified engineers to advance this technology, I was a businesswoman with a knack for people, and selling what I was passionate about. I quickly learned that some of the best places to sell LEDs were in states where energy prices were really high. The top 12 included New England states, California, Alaska, and Hawaii. Within weeks of learning this, I boarded a plane to Hawaii.
May 2010 … in the middle of the financial crisis, walking off the plane, I looked up to the sky and said internally, “OK, here I am – what now?” And this is how The LED Lady was born.
I ventured into Hawaii long enough to learn that the islands are quite dependent on fossil fuels and pay high energy bills, and that many groups on the island of Maui had been working to help Hawaii become sustainable on many levels. During my month there, I also found a vendor that sells LED lights and whom I learned a great deal from, and a school that needed a small retrofit — my first big project. Then, as mama Hawaii likes to do, she sent me packing home to the San Francisco Bay Area to learn more about this industry in a place where I already had connections.
Looking back, I am grateful for my first LED scouting trip to Hawaii, and for coming back to California and developing The LED Lady further. In the five years that followed, I had my ups and downs. I learned about lighting from the perspectives of a contractor, installer, designer, project manager – and most of all, a salesperson. Now I’m considering going back to Hawaii to develop connections and further the LED lighting retrofit opportunities there.
What does it take to develop a career out of little to no previous experience?
- Passion to constantly be learning and growing in your field of choice.
- Dedication to the journey, in the midst of the highs and lows.
- Humility, especially when the checks aren’t that big at first.
- Good humor, time for relaxation, and great friends and/or family.
Thank you for reading this blog post. And if you ever find yourself with the desire to change careers and work in cleantech or sustainability, remember this: dive into the field you feel most passionate about, the money will follow — and keep trusting yourself no matter what.
Lindsay Wood, The LED Lady, is a lighting specialist with a passion for retrofitting incandescent or fluorescent light to beautiful and improved LED lighting. From grocery stores to parking garages to offices and auto dealers, LED lighting can reduce energy — and her clients are thankful she’s there to help them navigate and make smart choices for their business.