This is the second installment of my weekly series of interviews I have conducted with people who have made a career transition to the clean/green sector. Last week focused on my interview with with Glenn Booth, VP of Marketing & Business Development at Cool Energy, Inc. He has made the transition from telecom to solar. This week we are presenting my interview with Laks Sampath, who is a Principal with ElliptlQ Energy Partners.
Name & Title: Laks Sampath, Principal
Company: ElliptlQ Energy Partners
Q: In what industry sector were you working before you made the transition?
A: I was in the software industry working for companies like Xerox and Autodesk when I decided to chase the dotcom rainbow.
Q: What industry sector are you in now?
A: Renewable Energy – Solar PV
Q: What were the circumstances for your transition?
A: With the Dot Com bust of 2002 the prospect of a Software Product Marketing job was rather bleak. I had been interested in Solar PV and renewable energy and had looked into it. Found a local company that was just starting in the PV installation business. For me, it was all about being in the right place at the right time.
Q: What was your path to success?
A: I reached out directly to my employer’s Executives to see where the solar industry was and if it matched my skills. This was back in 2002. They liked my software and management background and convinced me to join their team.
Q: Are you receiving less, equal, or more compensation than your prior position?
A: I started out at less than half my pay from my dotcom roles, however, I was paid a commission on every sale. The first year was slow but the last three years I have made more money than with my previous employers.
Q: What, if any, certifications, training, degrees do you have that have helped you in your obtaining a position in the clean sector?
A: An Engineering degree with a MBA comes in very handy in a number of different industries. Even though I had no experience in the solar industry, because the industry was just starting out and there weren’t many people with solar experience, it wasn’t too difficult to make the transition. Things were lot slower when I entered the space and I was able to learn while contributing and improving the productivity of the Sales team.We were successful in automating a number of sales processes helping us reach more customers than otherwise we would have. This helped the company grow from a $5 M company in 2002 to nearly $100 M in 2008
Q: What, if anything, was a hindrance?
A: In 2002 there wasn’t any. Today it is lot more difficult to enter the solar world at a middle or Executive management unless you have related experience.
Q: Other thoughts that might be helpful to someone seeking to make the transition?
A: For System Integrators:
Sales – over the past 5 years there are a number of sales people that have the necessary experience
Design – CAD experience is a must
Purchasing – electrical purchasing experience
Construction/Project Management – construction PM experience a must
Field Electrician – electrical experience a must
Field Construction – probably an area where new people can be trained easily
Customer Service – probably an area where new people can be trained easily
For Inverter Manufacturing:
This is very much an electrical power sector and people that have worked in manufacturing or designing welding machines can transition fairly quickly
Solar Module Manufacturing:
Depending on the technology (Si, Thin Film, etc…) R&D work will need some serious qualifications. People in the wafer industry probably will have the smoothest transition.
I am finding more and more that job seekers want to know “how do you do it?” Please come back next week to see how, Ross S. who is a US Sales Manager with an International Solar/Wind Distributor, transitioned from software and IT.
Recommended Green Career Resource:
THE SOLAR JOB GUIDE – The Solar Job Guide is a useful resource for anyone looking to enter the Solar industry. It is a comprehensive e-book that offers detailed information about the industry and draws directly from people working in it. Included are descriptions of proven job search techniques, advice from professionals who have successfully transitioned into a Solar career, interview tips, salary listing for various positions, and an overview of resources that can be helpful in finding a job. Click here to view more details about The Solar Job Guide
SIX STRATEGIES TO FIND YOUR GREEN CAREER – This free ebook by Carol McClelland PhD is a step-by-step process helping green career seekers use their passions, interests, experience, and training to plug into the green economy.
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