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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Canary thanks GAF Energy for its support of this column.
Mitalee Gupta: A savvy energy-storage expert whose superpower is perseverance
Mitalee Gupta is director of commercial operations at LS Energy Solutions, a utility-scale energy storage provider with over 250 deployed projects and 900 megawatts of systems installed across six continents. This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity.
How did you end up on this career path?
I grew up in India, and I did my bachelor’s in environmental engineering there. At the time, environmental engineering was not a field that was of interest to a lot of people, and there weren’t many jobs. The solar market is only now picking up [in India], as there have been other priorities like addressing poverty and access to food and water.
But I was still very committed to sustainability and decided to go back to school to get a master’s degree, so I moved to the U.S. to attend Yale. After graduating, I thought staying here in the U.S. was my calling, and I joined a grassroots-level company because I wanted to understand energy markets and electric utilities better, as well as the policies that shape them. I got interested in energy storage because that is really the missing link for continuous access to renewable energy, and I have been in that industry for about six years. Now I’m leading the commercial team at LS Energy Solutions, where I work on project proposals.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A co-worker once told me that I shouldn’t be afraid to accept my weaknesses. It’s good to be proud of your strengths, but accepting your weaknesses helps you grow. And that’s kind of been my mantra. Even in a job that I’ve been in for a while, I don’t shy away from admitting that I don’t know something, and that helps me because then I’m able to reach out for help.
What is a barrier you faced, and how did you overcome it?
I’m an immigrant. I’m a woman of color. So there have been multiple barriers for me at every level. I have felt unheard in a lot of conversations, especially since I am oftentimes the only woman in the room. I also have not always been taken seriously. Especially in the industry I am in, that is very common, though it is changing now.
The way that I try to work around it is I don’t shy away from making my points. If people don’t care about what I have to say, it doesn’t bother me, but I make sure I speak out anyway. It is also important to listen and make sure I am allowing space for everyone’s perspective to be heard. That has helped me succeed.
What do you think are the most exciting new career opportunities in climatetech?
There’re a lot of sales engineering and commercial-management-related roles that are pretty exciting in the field. And there are still not enough people. We’ve been trying to hire technical folks for the longest time. That was a problem for me in my previous job, too — finding people with technical backgrounds. It is definitely a great time to be both in storage and climatetech in general. It’s growing so much and there are a lot of opportunities.
What is your superpower?
Perseverance. If I decide that I want to do something, I will do it with full determination and give it my all. It’s a skill that has helped me navigate the industry, and I have been able to climb the ladder over time.
Christina Hayes, previously VP of federal regulatory affairs at Berkshire Hathaway Energy, is taking the helm as executive director at Americans for a Clean Energy Grid, a coalition focused on the need to expand, integrate and modernize the North American high-voltage power grid.
Andrea Luecke is now executive director of the Cleantech Leaders Roundtable. Luecke was previously executive director at The Solar Foundation, which is now the Interstate Renewable Energy Council or IREC, and was the creator of the organization’s National Solar Jobs Census.
Katherine (Kayti) Curtis has been promoted to VP of preconstruction at AES Clean Energy. In a solar industry dominated by Chinese imports, leading U.S. solar companies AES Corporation, Clearway Energy Group, Cypress Creek Renewables and D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments have formed the U.S. Solar Buyer Consortium to drive the expansion of the domestic solar supply chain and support the growth of the American solar industry.
Jessica Kelley has joined Longroad Energy as VP of human resources and environmental, social and governance issues. Kelley spent nearly a decade working at 24-Hour Fitness, where she led talent, communications and HR functions.
Zoe Elizabeth has been promoted to deputy director of decarbonization programs and policy at Silicon Valley Clean Energy, an electricity provider to 13 communities in Santa Clara County that works in partnership with California investor-owned utility PG&E.
Lizzy Aldridge, previously with Green Street Power Partners, is now senior director of business development at Nikola Power. Nikola builds software that integrates and manages distributed energy resources and storage.
Kate Malcolm, previously with Chevron, is now a manufacturing process engineer at Sila Nanotechnologies, a battery materials company focused on next-gen anode materials that increase the energy density of lithium-ion batteries.
Shel Evergreen, a journalist who’s in the home stretch of a master’s degree program in science writing at MIT, joined the Canary Media editorial team as our first-ever intern. Check out her writing on critical minerals’ role in the energy transition, what scientists learned about historical climate-change patterns from studying ice cores in Greenland, and new methods of leak detection for fossil gas. Welcome aboard, Shel!
Considering a career move? Climatebase is a platform that lists jobs at thousands of climatetech companies and nonprofits.
An inspiring artist
Born in 1989 in Denver, Colorado, Jordan Casteel paints large-scale portraits of men and women of color that are rendered unique by their “tenderness, keen social commentary and technical brio.” At just 33, Casteel has already had several solo exhibitions in major museums around the world, and last year, she was awarded one of the MacArthur Foundation’s coveted “genius” fellowships. Check out a sampling of her work — complete with close-up detail shots — on Instagram.
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