This is another 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 Laks Sampath, a Principal with ElliptlQ Energy Partners, who made a transition from Software to Solar. This week we are presenting my interview with Nicholas Mack, General Counsel, for Mainstream Energy Corporation, REC Solar, Inc., AEE Solar, Inc.
Name & Title: Nicholas Mack, General Counsel
Company: Mainstream Energy Corporation, REC Solar, Inc., AEE Solar, Inc.
Q: In what industry sector were you working before you made the transition?
A: Intellectual property law and computer hardware and software companies, including Sun Microsystems and, most recently, a privately-held Silicon Valley financial services software company.
Q: What industry sector are you in now?
A: Renewable energy system distribution and integration, with a focus on solar energy systems for commercial and residential markets.
Q: What were the circumstances for your transition?
A: I had been researching the renewable energy industry for many years on my own initiative, by taking classes, reading industry materials, attending trade shows and conferences, joining networking groups, learning the leading companies, etc. At the same time, I was increasing my legal skill-set and becoming a more experienced in-house attorney, focusing on skills that would be applicable to renewable energy companies. Examples included learning how to support fast-paced, complex sales deals and channel partnership negotiations, as well as strategic vendor relationships. Ultimately, the legal and business challenges faced by renewable energy companies are not far removed from those faced by high-tech companies. A skilled business-person who has a passion for renewable energy and takes the time to learn the industry will have something valuable to contribute, especially when you combine relevant subject-matter expertise (business law) with substantial negotiations experience.
Q: What was your path to success?
A: Over the past eight years, I often discussed my interest in renewable energy with friends and colleagues. Eventually, my passion for renewable energy issues paid off when a former co-worker from Sun Microsystems who knew about my interests joined Mainstream Energy and let me know that they were looking for a General Counsel for the group of Mainstream Energy companies. Because I had been studying renewable energy and solar power technology for several years, I was able to speak knowledgably about the industry and came into the interview process prepared to show how my experience in high-technology companies would translate well to the solar industry.
Q: What, if any, certifications, training, degrees do you have that have helped you in your obtaining a position in the clean sector?
A: Most of my training was either on-the-job business/in-house legal experience, or self-education in my spare time. I learned litigation and intellectual property law while practicing in Silicon Valley law firms during my first six years as a practicing attorney; how to develop and implement scalable business processes at Sun Microsystems; and how to negotiate with aggressive and sophisticated customers when supporting my previous company’s efforts to sell software and services to some of the largest financial institutions in the world.
Q: What, if anything, was a hindrance?
A: The renewable energy industry is in the early stages of its growth curve and lifecycle, and therefore many companies have not yet realized that they would benefit from dedicated in-house counsel. As renewable energy companies grow and mature, the demand for skilled in-house lawyers will grow as well. In my experience, a skilled business lawyer who exercises sound business judgment and acts as a business partner with the rest of the executive team is invaluable. It is far more cost-effective and efficient than hiring outside lawyers at firms who don’t know the business nearly as well and bill by the hour.
Q: Other thoughts that might be helpful to someone seeking to make the transition?
A: The prospective employee bandwagon for renewable energy is getting more crowded every day, so it helps to show an employer that your interest in the industry is long-standing and real. Learn as much as you can, meet as many people as you can, and ultimately focus on the fact that business is business – many of the skills that made you successful in other industries can be applied to cleantech/renewable energy.
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, Roxanne (Roxy) Podlogar, SVP Strategy & Business Development Smart Energy, transitioned from software to Smart Grid.
Recommended Green Career Resources:
GreenCareerCentral.com – A Virtual Career Center. Get Clarity, Get Motivated, Get Hired!
THE COMPLETE GREEN JOB GUIDE 2009: SECRETS FOR GETTING THE JOB YOUR WANT – Discover How To Unlock The Booming Green Economy For Your Job Search And Future Financial Security with the 10 Breakthrough Steps You Need To Know To Find And Land A Green Job Quickly.
CLEANTECHIES RESUME AND COVER LETTER WRITING SERVICE – Cleantechies help job seekers ease the transition from mainstream to CleanTech. Learn More!
© 2009, Jennifer_Massie. All rights reserved. Do not republish.