Charging Up: Climatetech career moves at Perch Energy, Savion, DOE, Google, Bodhi, Form Energy and more

Plus, a Q&A with Tani Brown, vice president of platform and operations at MUUS Climate Partners.

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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.

Tani Brown: A VP with a flair for abstract thinking

Tani Brown is​vice president of platform and operations at MUUS Climate Partners, an entrepreneurial investment firm operating at the convergence of climate solutions and high-tech applications.

1. How did you end up on this career path?

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I studied religion as an undergrad and started my career at Google during what I like to call the golden age” of ad exchanges. Internet advertising was only just beginning to be measured, packaged and monetized, and I had the opportunity to launch my career with YouTube. It was an extraordinary time to be at Google and learn from top industry leaders. I wanted international work experience and eventually left Google to carry out a teaching Fulbright in northern Vietnam. It was a transformative experience for me because I saw the effects of education and career access on local economies. 

When I returned to the U.S., I was intent on transitioning into public policy. I joined Jopwell in 2015 as employee No. 3, eventually building it into the leading career-advancement platform for Black, Latinx and Native American students and professionals and securing more than $12 million in venture funding. 

At the end of 2021, I was tapped to join MUUS Climate Partners to lead their platform and operations functions. Everything I’ve done in my career seems to have led up to this moment. We were founded by serial entrepreneur Michael Sonnenfeldt and continue to reinforce a flexible, entrepreneurial approach to our funds.

A picture of a smiling woman with black shoulder-length hair wearing a dark blue shirt.
Tani Brown, ​​VP of platform and operations at MUUS Climate Partners

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

I have two. The first is, It’s not who you know, but who knows you.” That was a nod to doing outstanding work and having impeccable character. Be the person others want on their team. When new opportunities arise, people will knock on your door or recommend you because they value your work. The second comes from my mother and it’s to get rest.” Rest is central to my health and performance, and constantly restoring balance to my environment has been key to my growth. 

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

I’ve had to deal with a lot of grief in the past 10 years. I lost my grandmother, uncle and mother all in the same year. It was awful. But I credit my closest friends, family and colleagues, plus therapy and exercise, with keeping my nervous system intact and allowing me to have good days and bad days. 

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

On the portfolio side, I’m seeing a huge influx of sales-adjacent roles, technology-specific technician and installer roles, and environmental scientist roles. We’re also seeing a lot of academic institutions and corporations create schools for climate and chief scientist roles, which is incredibly exciting.

5. What is your superpower? 

Abstraction. I try to take inspiration and practical working knowledge from a variety of disciplines such as painting, philosophy, martial arts, biology and more and apply them to my core function. Working in venture capital requires a lot of thinking slow and thinking fast, and knowing the difference between the two. I’m grateful for my team who sets the pace every day.

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Career moves

Chris Nichols has taken the role of executive director for Renewables Forward, a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative. From 1998 to 2003, Nichols led national communications for the federal Energy Star efficiency program. Most recently, Nichols served as senior program director for Groundswell, a nonprofit working on community solar and climate justice issues. The founding members of Renewables Forward include the companies Capital Dynamics, Cypress Creek Renewables, EDF Renewables, Generate Capital, Mosaic, Nautilus Solar Energy, New Columbia Solar, Nextracker, Sol Systems and Volt Energy. 

Sencelia Reynolds has been hired as chief operating officer for Perch Energy, a provider of community-solar services. Prior to joining Perch, Reynolds served as chief operating officer at service-contract administrator Centricity. Georgina Arreola has been promoted to vice president of policy at Perch Energy. Arreola has over a decade of experience in research and policy advocacy in the renewable energy industry, including a seven-year tenure at the Center for Sustainable Energy.

Charlotte Beard has been promoted to SVP of finance at Form Energy, and Anna Schneider has been promoted to director of software engineering at the firm. Form Energy is developing iron-air batteries, a technology that has been studied for decades but has never been commercialized for long-duration energy storage.

Clare Magee, previously with Uplight, is now a senior advisor at the DOE Loan Programs Office, which manages $46 billion in lending authority to commercialize innovative U.S. energy projects across two dozen technology verticals.

Gizelle Wray, previously senior director of regulatory affairs with the Solar Energy Industries Association, is now director of regulated markets at Savion, a Shell Group company developing utility-scale solar and energy storage projects in the U.S.

Felicia Kelly has been promoted to chief of staff at Alliance to Save Energy, an advocate for high-impact energy efficiency policies. She previously served as director of stakeholder relations at the organization. 

Ellen Zuckerman is joining the Google energy markets and power team to accelerate 24/7 clean energy” as the company’s Western U.S. lead of energy regulatory and policy. Zuckerman was previously with the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project.

Ashley Leonard has been promoted to chief financial officer at ConnectDER; in the role, she oversees finance, human resources, strategic planning processes and business operations. ConnectDER’s meter collars help utilities improve customer safety, choice and cost while increasing the deployment of distributed energy resources. 

Katarina Brown,​previously director of marketing with consultancy Jones-Dilworth, is the new head of marketing at Bodhi, a startup building software to improve the solar customer experience. Yana Myaskovskaya, previously with Threekit, is the new head of customer success at the company.

Pitching to VCs

According to Aalia Mauro, founder and CEO of Verte Mode, a sustainable fashion, beauty and zero-waste home goods marketplace, her company is in the early days of pitching to VCs. I’m almost always the only woman in the room. And we are all very aware that the gender gap among founders and the funding received is still massive.”

An inspirational artist

Vivian Maier, who worked as a nanny and caregiver, took more than 100,000 detailed and richly evocative photographs in the streets of Chicago, New York and Los Angeles from the 1950s through the 1990s. Unknown as an artist during her lifetime, her vast portfolio was discovered after her death at a thrift auction house in Chicago. Learn her story and see more of her work here.

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GAF Energy is transforming the rooftop solar industry to generate Energy from Every Roof.” As a Standard Industries company, GAF Energy works in partnership with North America’s largest roofing and waterproofing manufacturer, GAF, offering homeowners elegant, roof-integrated solar options. The company also provides commercial tax equity funding for large-scale rooftop solar projects. For more information about GAF Energy, visit gaf.energy.

Eric Wesoff is the editorial director at Canary Media.

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