Charging Up: A chat with Mariko McDonagh Meier, CRO at Convergent Energy and Power

Plus, climatetech career moves at Qcells, Generac, DOE, Generate, AES Clean Energy, Gage Zero, EPA and more.
By Eric Wesoff, Maria Virginia Olano

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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 Greentown Labs for its support of the column.

Mariko McDonagh Meier: Passionate about people, the planet — and batteries

Mariko McDonagh Meier is chief revenue officer at Convergent Energy and Power. This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity.

How did you end up on this career path?

I started my career at McKinsey doing consulting work. That was my first job out of college. I was largely focused on the financial and pharmaceutical sectors. But in my third year there, I asked to move to the cleantech sector. I transferred from New York to California, where I worked with cleantech clients for a year. I went on to join Southern California Edison, which is the utility in Southern California, where I worked on clean energy projects. After Edison, I went to business school and then worked for the Boston-based cleantech company EnerNOC until I decided I wanted to try something new.

I am now at Convergent because I truly believe that energy storage is the linchpin of the clean energy transition. Without large-scale energy storage, we’re not going to have the renewable generation that we need to make that transition. Half of our customers are using on-site solar with storage. We get to build those solutions for them so they can save money, be greener and have the benefit of having something on-site.

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

To put a 1-minute delay on your email outbox. I have an automatic 1-minute delay on every email I send out, and I find that it prevents the accidental typo where the second you send it you realize you made a mistake, and it also prevents emails of passion from being sent. It is a very useful and zero-cost way to have a positive impact. I think if there was such a thing as a 1-minute delay on real-life interaction, there would probably be a lot less conflict in the world.

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

Being in the cleantech space, I care deeply about the climate crisis, and I really believe it to be an immediate crisis. One of the barriers I find, particularly being on the sales side, is consistently seeing that my No. 1 priority may not be someone else’s No. 1 priority. Sometimes it’s really difficult to take that passion and put it aside in order to put myself in my customer’s shoes. I have to remember that incremental progress is still progress, and not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. People come from different backgrounds and perspectives and have different priorities, and just because you’re not 100% aligned doesn’t mean that you can’t work together to get something done. And so I find that the barrier is just that I care a little too much and sometimes I wear that a little too much on my sleeve.

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

A lot of times when people think about cleantech, they really focus on the tech” part of it, and they think they need to be an engineer or a computer scientist. While there are certainly great opportunities for those types of skills, I think people tend to forget how important the storytelling aspect of business is — for example, how do you make cleantech cool, and how do you make it something that people want to talk about? While there is great technology and breakthroughs in this space, what really makes the difference as far as adoption is making it cool, and that’s not a technical challenge. There are so many interesting roles and so much room for growth on the storytelling side.

What is your superpower? 

My superpower is that I love people and I find it really energizing to be around others. I love meeting new people and learning their stories. I can bring a lot of energy to conversations because I am truly interested, so that’s very helpful from a sales perspective. I moved a lot growing up — going to college was the sixteenth time in my life that I had moved. Most of my elementary school years I spent in Peru. My mom is Japanese and my dad’s English, so we moved a lot, and that meant making new friends in new places. I think pretty much anybody you meet is inherently interesting.

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Career moves

Danielle Merfeld has joined solar manufacturing giant Qcells as its EVP and global chief technology officer as the company starts to build America’s first fully integrated solar supply chain. Merfield was formerly VP and chief technology officer at GE Renewable Energy.

Amanda Blake, previously with Sunrun, is now senior manager of clean energy strategy and business development at backup power giant Generac Power Systems.

Anna J. Siefken has been promoted to senior advisor, office of technology transitions at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Zeina El-Azzi has founded the startup Gage Zero and is serving as its CEO. The company works with owners and operators to provide solutions for the electrification of commercial fleets. El-Azzi was previously at Brightmark.

Nicole Steele is now senior advisor for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Steele was previously with the DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office.

Dominique Keefe has been promoted to VP and smart cities investor at Generate Capital, which invests in clean energy infrastructure.

Thania Burningham has been promoted to director at utility and power generation company AES Clean Energy.

Sarah Fleckman Coggins has been promoted to principal at Equilibrium Capital, which provides sustainability-driven real asset investment products for institutional investors. Prior to joining Equilibrium, Fleckman Coggins worked in business development and capital markets for renewable energy developers and independent power producers including Clearway Energy Group, TerraForm Power and SunEdison.

Kristin Engstrom Gutman is now director of marketing at Dynamic Energy, a solar provider serving the corporate, industrial and institutional markets. Gutman was formerly at Anza Renewables.

Jessie Stolark has been promoted to executive director of the Carbon Capture Coalition, a group of 100-plus members from industry, labor and nonprofits seeking to advance carbon-capture policies and commercial deployment.

For the record

Out of the nearly 1,000 authors of the most recent IPCC assessment report, only 33 percent were women, according to an analysis by Carbon Brief. And that’s the largest-ever percentage of women to have worked on a volume of the report series. The first assessment report published in 1990 had 100 authors, only eight of whom were women. Both the number of authors and their gender diversity has steadily grown over time.

Check it out

Canary Media and Post Script Media are hosting a live event at Greentown Labs in Somerville, Massachusetts on Thursday, April 6 from 5:009:00 pm ET. If you are in the Boston area, you can get your tickets here. And even if you are not, you can still take part: The event will include a livestream panel of journalists who will be discussing New England’s ambitious climate goals and how states in the region will achieve them. Sign up to watch here.

Charging Up is supported by Greentown Labs, the largest climatetech incubator in North America, home to 200+ startups across incubators in Boston and Houston. We’re working to build an inclusive climatetech community that convenes, connects and inspires startups, corporates, investors, policymakers and others to scale climate solutions. We believe there’s a place for everyone in climate and know fighting the climate crisis means fighting for gender equity, too. This month we’re honoring the women who paved the way in climate and celebrating those who will continue to push our industry forward. Learn more about us here and connect with us here.

Eric Wesoff is the editorial director at Canary Media.

Maria Virginia Olano is editorial producer at Canary Media.