Charging Up: A chat with Nexus Circular CEO Jodie Morgan

Plus, climatetech career moves at AES Clean Energy, Leeward, Evolugen, Volta, Solarcycle, Energize Ventures 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 [email protected]​canarymedia.​com. Canary thanks GAF Energy for its support of this column.

Jodie Morgan: A CEO who had to fight for her seat at the table

Jodie Morgan is CEO at Nexus Circular, an advanced plastics recycling company on a trajectory to convert 4 billion pounds of hard-to-recycle plastics into circular materials by 2030 to meet their customers’ sustainability commitments. This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity.

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A smiling woman with shoulder-length blond hair wearing a blue vest and a white shirt
Jodie Morgan, CEO of Nexus Circular

How did you end up on this career path? 

When I was in fifth grade, my teacher asked the class what we wanted to be when we grew up. I said I wanted to be an engineer, and she told me that girls can’t be engineers so she would come back to me for my actual answer. I couldn’t think of anything else, so when she asked again, I repeated my answer. Of course, I didn’t really know what engineers did, but my father was an engineer, and I wanted to be one too. I ended up getting a degree in mechanical engineering. I particularly love manufacturing — being able to make things while creating good jobs that can support families and communities is so incredible. 

As I moved further along in my career, I went into sales, which for an engineer was a bit like going to the dark side. But it was really fun to be able to talk to people, find out what problems they were having and how to solve them. My first opportunity in the ESG (environmental, social and governance) space was at an early-stage company that was using algae technology to make healthy food products. That is when I learned that you can create things that can solve problems and help people. Ever since then, that is the type of company I have been interested in helping grow. 

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

I had an amazing mentor and boss in my early 30s who had been in the military and served in Vietnam. He told me that one time, as he was relaying instructions, one person under his command said, What if we say no? What is the worst you could do to me, send me to Vietnam? We’re already here.”

The point of that story was that it is much more important to be able to find out what motivates people rather than just say, Do this because I am your boss.” Understanding the hearts and minds of the people you get to work with and helping them feel more fulfilled is one of the most important things a leader can do. 

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

While at my first job, I attended a large quarterly meeting at a private club. When I got to the front door, they told me I could not enter through the front because I was a woman. They had to show me a way around the back to get in. We are definitely fortunate today that things have changed so much, but when I started, it was very difficult. Part of dealing with that was learning to be OK with being the only woman in the room. It is OK to take your place at the table and take up space, to have a voice and use it.

What do you think are the most exciting new career opportunities in climatetech? 

It’s such a great time to be part of this area. The companies are growing and people are interested in investing in them, which means tons and tons of opportunities. The good thing is that this space is no longer run like an old boys’ club. There is already much more diversity, and organizations are run in much more thoughtful ways, so that means a better work environment. 

What is your superpower? 

I love to work. Hopefully bringing some of that passion to every opportunity and helping other people to feel the same way can be considered a superpower. Also, at this point in my career, I don’t feel like I have a lot to prove. So it’s a lot easier to have empathy for other people and want them to be as happy doing what they do every day as I am.

Career moves

Sarah Skinner, previously with Ulteig, is now director of project management for wind at AES Clean Energy.

Becky Campbell, previously with First Solar, is now director of government affairs at wind, solar and energy storage project developer Leeward Renewable Energy.

Rebecca Tamiru was promoted to program manager at Climate Advocacy Lab. The organization equips the U.S. climate movement with the evidence-based insights, skills, and connections needed to build durable power and win equitable solutions.”

Mariko McDonagh Meier has been promoted to chief revenue officer at energy storage developer Convergent Energy + Power.

Isabelle Deguise was promoted to senior director of business development at Evolugen. Owned by Brookfield Renewable, Evolugen currently operates and owns 61 renewable energy facilities in Canada, including 33 hydroelectric facilities, 24 solar sites and four wind farms, with a total installed capacity of 1,912 megawatts. 

Joan Han, previously with Nextracker, has joined Solarcycle as VP of global logistics. In the role, she will design and implement a reverse logistics program for recycling solar products.

Katie McClain has been promoted to chief operating officer by alternative investment manager Energize Ventures. Honour Masters is joining the firm as senior investment associate; Masters previously worked with Union Square Ventures’ Climate Fund through Columbia Business School’s Venture Fellows program, where she helped build an investment thesis around nature-based carbon sequestration methods. Hannah Magnuson has joined Energize as a content marketing strategist. Hannah previously held stints at environmental consulting company APTIM and sustainability nonprofit Elevate Energy.

Volta’s board of directors appointed Michelle Kley as executive vice president, chief legal officer and corporate secretary at the builder of EV charging networks. Kley joins Volta from Virgin Galactic.

Board moves and appointments

Lithium mining developer American Lithium appointed Claudia Tornquist to its board of directors. Tornquist is president and CEO of Kodiak Copper Corp.

Cynthia Ruiz has been confirmed as the newest member of the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners. She was also recently elected vice president of the board. With Ruiz’s confirmation, LADWP’s board continues to be composed entirely of women — the only all-female board in Los Angeles city government, according to the utility. As a member of the Cherokee Nation, Ruiz is also the first known member of a federally recognized tribe to serve on the board.

Tanya Jones is now president of the board of directors of The National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to heightening awareness of the energy needs of lower-income energy consumers, fostering public-private partnerships and engaging in education and training activities to help address these needs. Jones also serves as senior director of energy assistance and community development at HeartShare Human Services of New York.

Women painting women

In a recent essay assessing the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth’s exhibition Women Painting Women, NPR’s Susan Stamberg pondered the differences in the depictions of women created by male and female artists.

So, how do women paint women? It’s less about seeing them differently from men, than showing them different. For centuries, artists’ male gaze saw women as objects of desire, idealized and voluptuous, with luscious white skin and dimpled knees. Women artists in this exhibition, like Alice Neel and Emma Amos and others, show women as differently beautiful: pregnant, overweight, sometimes despondent. As we are, wrapped in our truths.

Zinaida Serebriakova (18841967) was a prominent Russian painter in the early 20th century whose arresting and groundbreaking self-portraits are widely celebrated.

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Eric Wesoff is the editorial director at Canary Media.

Maria Virginia Olano is editorial and research associate at Canary Media.