Charging Up: A chat with Lisa Neuberger Fernandez, head of sustainability at 374Water
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, plus data points on workplace trends and diversity. Please send feedback and tips to email@example.com.
Lisa Neuberger Fernandez: An executive with clear vision
How did you end up on this career path?
The short version is that my desire to rid my house of toxins propelled me into sustainability. Fifteen years later, my career has now come full circle, as I am leading sustainability for a company that is developing a technology to eliminate toxins from waste products.
The slightly longer version is that when I asked a friend about household toxins, she gave me a good list and then asked if I would enter my [then-employer Accenture] into the Net Impact Green Challenge. When we won first prize in that competition, I found my first job in the field building Accenture’s sustainability consulting practice. That experience led to my next job creating the same company’s sustainability innovation platforms, which gave me the opportunity to recruit the CEO of 374Water to judge an innovation challenge on the future of net-positive water. The rest is history.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A successful female executive gave me great advice a few years before she became CEO of a Fortune 500 company. We were working on a high-stakes project, and she told me to close my eyes and envision what success would look like for this project in a year. She stressed creating as complete a mental model as I could conjure up, down to what our customer would say about the project to a peer. Her wisdom was that by envisioning the outcome, we could then work backward to figure out the steps to make this future a reality. This has proven to be an empowering and transformative technique to drive change.
What is a barrier you faced, and how did you overcome it?
Early in my career, a manager pointed out to me that I had a blind spot: I could get so engrossed in meeting new clients that I could lose track of the bigger agenda. This was an eye-opener for me and taught me to always ask colleagues before going into a meeting what the agenda was and the core objectives of the session. This discipline has allowed me to better understand multiple perspectives and be a better team player.
What do you think are some interesting, overlooked career opportunities in climatetech?
Cleantech and blue-economy jobs are critical, exciting growth areas. When I ask cross-sector leaders in water and wastewater what keeps them up at night, talent shortages top the list. As water scarcity and quality threaten communities around the world, this is a field calling out for talent and a great place to have an impact.
What is your superpower?
Connecting people: colleagues, friends, family members, classmates. I can trace my instinct and passion for connecting people back to living abroad as a kid and wanting to be a bridge between cultures.
When the CEO of 374Water recruited me to join his team, he said one of the top reasons was my ability to bring people together across sectors worldwide to tackle big challenges. True to form, we launched Sustainable Futures — an innovative ecosystem platform to bring together pioneers and practitioners on the frontlines of water, waste, energy and the circular economy to tackle global issues, starting with PFAS/forever chemicals — within the first three months of my joining.
Emilie Nelson has been promoted to executive VP and chief operating officer at the New York Independent System Operator. NYISO is a not-for-profit corporation that operates the state’s bulk electricity grid, administers its competitive wholesale electricity markets, conducts long-term planning for the state’s electric power system and advances the technological infrastructure of the electric system serving the state.
Grace Stanke, Miss America 2023, has accepted a position with Constellation, owner of the country’s largest fleet of nuclear power plants, according to The Wall Street Journal. Slated to begin in 2024, the role will include technical work as a nuclear fuels engineer as well as public advocacy on nuclear power.
Christiane Adcock has joined Gridmatic as a research scientist. The company leverages AI to enable renewables to scale in electricity markets. Adcock will research methods and software to simulate, control and optimize grid-scale batteries.
Lindsay Cherry, previously with Qcells North America, has joined NineDot Energy as director of regulatory affairs. NineDot builds urban community-scale energy systems with an emphasis on battery storage.
Tara Young, former deputy general counsel at Plus Power, has joined Spearmint Energy as general counsel. Spearmint is a green merchant trading company that develops, owns, operates and trades battery energy storage, solar and wind assets.
For the record
According to a new report by the business group E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), one out of every 30 net new jobs added in the U.S. in 2022 was in clean energy. A total of about 127,000 jobs were added across the sectors covered in the report — renewable energy, energy efficiency, EVs, storage, grid modernization and biofuels — accounting for more than 3 percent of all new jobs that year.
Check it out
In case you missed it, Canary Media hosted an online panel discussion with recruiters and workforce experts on how to get a job in climatetech. You can watch the video of the panel here and read the top tips and takeaways to help you in your own search here.