Charging Up: Sandra Peterson is driven to innovate

Canary chats with the VP of sales and marketing at electric mobility company Beam Global. Plus, climatetech career moves and a dispatch on the LNG buildout.
  • Link copied to clipboard
A smiling woman with a light skin tone and long blonde hair. A graphic overlay says CHARGING UP.

Canary Media’s Charging Up column chronicles gender diversity and notable career moves in the climatetech sector. Got a person or event you’d like to see us cover or a hot job tip? Let us know!

Sandra Peterson: A drive to innovate

Sandra Peterson is vice president of sales and marketing at Beam Global. This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity.

How did you end up on this career path?

I’ve always been interested in cars, even as a child, and that passion has persisted throughout my career. I’ve also been deeply connected to nature since my youth — I spent a month exploring the Grand Canyon and a month diving the Great Barrier Reef. But I think most of all, what brought me to this current role is my desire always to keep learning and exploring different industries. My DNA is in product management, but I have worked in e-commerce, hardware, software and artificial intelligence.

When I was looking for a new role, I wanted something that addressed climate change through new technology. That led me to Beam Global, and here I am four years later. I’ve always felt like the intersection of sales and marketing is the growth engine of a company, so I advocated for overseeing both departments upon joining Beam. Government relations is also a big sales channel — that’s an area that I’ve gotten to be very comfortable with.

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

Learn to manage up. That’s one key piece of advice I wish I’d had earlier. Here are a couple of tidbits for how to manage up: First of all, learn what problems your boss is experiencing that you can help solve. This approach not only increases your department’s visibility but also opens doors to new opportunities. Another lesson in managing up involves self-promotion. A boss of mine pointed out that I seemed to only ever come to him with problems — he did not see all the problems I was solving [without his help]. Don’t expect people to see all your hard work if you don’t tell them about it.

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

One significant barrier in my current role was legislation that was keeping us from selling our products to our target customers. Reading through the legislation, I found language that allowed the state to fund only grid-connected EV charging programs. But our value lies in being off-grid, offering energy resiliency and security without straining the grid. Realizing that our innovation wasn’t being considered, we worked to change the legislation. This was vital not just for immediate sales but also because California often sets a national precedent. It was a daunting task but essential for our business and the broader climate-change movement.

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

Two opportunities strike me as particularly promising: carbon-credit tracking and EV charging infrastructure maintenance. The realm of carbon-credit tracking hinges on data collection, artificial intelligence and the monetization of this data. Despite its technological aspects, the barrier to entry isn’t as high as one might think.

A more low-tech yet equally crucial area is maintaining EV charging infrastructure. With reports indicating a significant portion of chargers are nonoperational at any given time, there’s a clear need for reliable maintenance services. This could take the form of a mobile service akin to dog grooming but for EV chargers — traveling to locations, performing necessary resets and ensuring functionality. Both these areas offer a blend of high-tech and low-tech opportunities for those looking to make a tangible impact.

What is your superpower?

The capacity to see a clear path to overcome any challenge, no matter how complex or daunting it may seem to others. This clarity of direction, coupled with a fearlessness in navigating these paths, sets me apart. I think this is one of the reasons I’ve always been attracted to the next technology and have a constant drive to innovate and bring the next big thing to market.

Career moves

Yancan Lydia Li has been promoted to director of investments at Arevon Energy. Arevon develops, builds, owns and operates solar and storage projects across North America.

Maya Nitzberg has been promoted to senior vice president at climatetech incubator Greentown Labs.

Erin Takata has been promoted to director of interconnection at Renewable Properties, a developer and investor in small-scale utility solar, community solar and EV infrastructure projects. Emma DesLauriers has been promoted to development associate at the firm.

Michelle Hellums Carvin is now chief financial officer at CarbonBuilt, a maker of low-carbon concrete blocks. Carvin was previously CFO of Neely Clay Energy and a VP in Goldman Sachs’ global industrials business unit. 

Natasha Hjerrild is now R&D staff expert at solar module manufacturer Qcells Europe. Hjerrild was previously with GAF Energy.

Chelsea Adler is joining investor MUUS Climate Partners as head of investor relations. Adler brings nearly a decade of investor-relations experience gleaned at Centerbridge Partners and Arsenal Capital Partners. 

Sara Eve Fuentes is now chairwoman at nonprofit Women in Cleantech and Sustainability. Fuentes will focus on the group’s expansion and influence in the domains of sustainability and circular economy. After 13 years as chairwoman, WCS founder Lisa Ann Pinkerton will take on the role of vice chairwoman.

Check it out

Canary Media recently published an ambitious feature by Maria Gallucci, who visited Texas to report on the LNG infrastructure planned for the state’s last stretch of undeveloped coastline. One of the four projects slated to be built in the area, the Rio Grande terminal, could produce 27 million metric tons of LNG annually once completed. Local officials and business leaders support the LNG buildout, but many residents worry it will harm the area’s natural environment and public health while also exacerbating the climate crisis. Gallucci talked to business owners, Indigenous leaders and climate activists about what they are doing to try to stop the construction trucks in their tracks. You can also watch her discuss her reporting on the Weather Channel’s climate-focused show Pattrn. And to get a better feel for the area she visited, check out this companion photo essay.

Maria Virginia Olano is chief of staff at Canary Media.

Eric Wesoff is the executive director at Canary Media.