What’s the main qualification for a job in solar? You must enjoy change. That was the consensus at the recent Women in Cleantech and Sustainability meetup “Getting a Job in Solar … and Keeping It!” A full house of WCS members at the SolarCity office had a lively discussion with the excellent panelists from a range of solar areas: Christie Cruzand Raya Zion of SolarCity, Acenia Farrand of Qbotix, and Melissa Zucker of Solaria. The panel was organized and moderated by WCS Founder and Chairwoman, Lisa Ann Pinkerton.
A look at the solar industry
As we listened to the panelists and got a chance to ask lots of questions, a few nuggets emerged:
- Hot jobs in solar: Installation will always be a thriving area when it comes to solar. But these days there’s much more to the industry. If you can work in the areas of sales, operations, finance, administration, or software development, you’ll have a good chance of finding your way into the industry.
- Hidden solar jobs: Some positions never get posted, such as many policy-related ones. And certain types of positions, like community relations, are found more in larger companies. How to find out about these jobs? As always, networking is key.
- Women in solar: With its roots in the construction industry, solar can seem male-dominated. That’s changing, though, and the panelists agreed that it needn’t be an issue. The more of us get into solar, the more balance we’ll see.
- Opportunities for education: If you want to increase your solar skills, the San Francisco Bay Area provides a number of opportunities. Panelists and attendees alike agreed that top institutions for solar learning in the area are Skyline College and PG&E, so check them out! If you prefer online courses, edX and Coursera may be good options. You can also volunteer with GRID Alternatives to get hands-on installation training.
- Biggest challenge for the solar industry: A harsh reality of the solar industry is that for now at least, it’s highly dependent on the regulatory environment. You need look no further than the current debate on net metering to see how critical stable policies are to the viability of solar. In some cases, though, policy changes may be offset by other factors. For example, the likely ramping down of the Investment Tax Credit will affect but should not devastate the industry, as new financing options plus expected drops in soft costs help keep solar going.
Essential qualities for success
Whether you’re looking to break into the industry, keep your job, or find a new job, a few qualities are essential for success in solar:
- Adaptability and flexibility: Find ways to show that you can change with the times. Employers need to know that you’ll fit in with an industry that’s always changing.
- Continued learning: If you can keep learning and growing, you’ll be better prepared to get a new job if you get laid off, or to move into a different position in your current company. Whether you’re employed or not, it’s a good idea to do informational interviews as one way to keep learning about other areas.
- Passion for solar: It’s not unheard of for solar employers to value passion even over experience. After all, they want people who will be dedicated and committed. If you’re looking to get into solar, chances are it’s something you really care about — so don’t be afraid to show that!
Your future with solar
Wondering where the industry will be in 5, 10, or 15 years? As one panelist pointed out, if you need that level of predictability, then solar may not be the industry for you. But if you can handle it, you can rest assured that in solar, you’ll never be bored.