Charging Up: A chat with Jen Betz, CFO at Element Energy

Plus, climatetech career moves at Palmetto, Verne, Rewiring America, Vision Ridge, Tierra Climate, American Clean Power and more.
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Canary Media’s Charging Up column chronicles gender diversity in the climatetech sector. Part one is a short Q&A with an industry role model about their career path. Part two features updates on career transitions. Please send feedback and tips to wesoff@​canarymedia.​com. Canary thanks BayWa r.e. for its support of the column.

Jen Betz: Leading with optimism

Jen Betz is chief financial officer at Element Energy. This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity.

How did you end up on this career path?

After more than two decades in the semiconductor industry, I had the opportunity to take a break from work and think about the impact I wanted to have in the next chapter of my career. My priorities were essentially threefold: 1) Try something new like a startup venture; 2) Find a role in a growth industry; and 3) Focus on work that would make the world a better place. Element Energy met my criteria.

Element Energy is applying years of R&D from the semiconductor industry to enable the battery circular economy with advanced battery management technology systems. I had worked with Tony [Anthony Stratakos, CEO of Element Energy] previously and felt there was an opportunity to leverage my career in the semiconductor industry toward pushing forward cleantech and addressing climate change. I’ve joined the company at an exciting inflection point in its growth and am thrilled to be working in a new field with a group of incredibly smart folks on some important and challenging work.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

A former manager of mine advised me, What makes you successful in one position will be your downfall in the next.” This sentiment has guided me through my career as I’ve gained responsibility and needed to grow and pivot. I’ve learned that pivoting is key. Take what you’ve learned and teach while pivoting to the new role. 

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What is a barrier you faced, and how did you overcome it?

I am a woman in a male-dominated profession and industry. This has presented challenges, but I’m proud that I have always chosen to lead in a different way, even if my way was harder at times. I’ve had fantastic mentors who have encouraged and emboldened me. I’m also in a highly technical field with engineers and people in specialized roles. There have been times when it has felt as though we were speaking completely different languages. In order to successfully partner with them and focus on enabling their technology through finance, I’ve had to learn the lingo. It’s a challenge that I’ve honestly been grateful to have, as it means I’m constantly getting to learn from super smart people and develop this important skill set.

What do you think are some interesting, overlooked career opportunities in climatetech? 

I think it’s important to remember that you don’t have to change careers or industries to do something with climatetech. There are opportunities at every company to go greener and get cleaner. Every company has a footprint that it leaves, and every company can work to reduce that over time.

In terms of job opportunities in the climatetech and renewables industries specifically, there isn’t really a limit to what is available. All skills are needed to enable the energy transition. Element Energy is the perfect example of this — we are a company founded by semiconductor industry vets made up of software engineers, lawyers, finance executives and more. The opportunities are endless.

What is your superpower?

Optimism. Finance is, at its core, a support function, and my job is to help everyone get to where they want to be and meet the targets they’ve set. I aim to see to it that everyone and everything reaches some form of success — and I always try to remain optimistic in order to help motivate everyone around our shared goals, day in and day out.

Career moves

Georgia Meisler is now director of development for utility-scale battery storage at project developer Alpha Omega Power. Meisler was previously at Plus Power.

Madison Freeman has taken on the role of acting chief of staff at Verne, a provider of high-density, lightweight hydrogen storage solutions for zero-emissions trucks and other heavy transportation. Freeman was previously at Via Separations.

Vaiva Razgaitis, previously at Tesla, is now director of process improvement and product operations at Palmetto. Palmetto operates a digital platform where third-party solar sales reps and installers compete for business, while the company oversees all the other steps of the solar sales process.

Harper Yi has joined Rewiring America as its new partner communications strategy manager. Yi was previously with IFundWomen.

Caroline Ott, formerly a principal at RMI, has joined Vision Ridge Partners, a firm that invests in sustainable real assets, as director of climate impact.

Emma Johnson Konet is now CTO and co-founder at Tierra Climate. Konet previously served in several roles at storage developer Key Capture Energy. Tierra Climate is a marketplace where battery project owners can sell verified carbon offsets to corporate buyers.

Molly Croll has joined the American Clean Power Association as Pacific offshore wind director. Croll was previously policy manager at Avangrid Renewables.

Morgen Burkhart, formerly with Stem, is now director of procurement at renewable energy developer Primergy.

Jasmine Graham has been hired as executive director at Mid-Hudson Energy Transition, a nonprofit community choice aggregator in New York state with a focus on energy democracy and energy justice. Graham was previously with the Building Decarbonization Coalition.

Carbonfuture named Leila Toplic as its chief communications and trust officer. Carbonfuture is working on building technological infrastructure to support high-quality carbon removal and trading.

For the record

A graphic that says just 2.2% of electricians in the United States are women

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2022, there were approximately 918,000 electricians in the United States, and only 2.2 percent of them are women.

Check it out

Canary Media is hosting a live event at the KEXP Gathering Space in Seattle, Washington on Wednesday, June 28, 6:0010:00 p.m. PT. We’ll have food and drinks, networking breaks, and two live panels. David Roberts, Volts founder and Canary editor-at-large, will record a live episode of the Volts podcast in conversation with Ramez Naam, climatetech investor and award-winning author. And we’ll also host a journalist-led panel that digs into the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act. You can get tickets here.

BayWa r.e. is the home for changemakers. With the same passion in heart and ambition in mind, we drive change for our planet — every single day. Our dynamic and proactive work environment empowers our people in their personal and professional growth. As one global team driven by a shared purpose, we continuously r.e.think energy to maximize the impact for our clients, as well as society and the environment. Visit our careers website to find out more.

Eric Wesoff is the executive director at Canary Media.

Maria Virginia Olano is chief of staff at Canary Media.