Transitioning from High Tech to Green Tech

Filed under: 1sdn,Green Jobs & Careers | |

transitionThe greentech top talent shortage is real. Green industries’ high growth and fast innovation, makes for fierce competition among experienced green professionals. High tech-experienced talent is filling some of the demand; the ease of transition depends on the role and industry.

by Rob Reeves, President, CEO, Redfish Technology and Anna Mathieu, Marketing Communications Manager, Redfish Technology. Redfish Technology specializes in recruiting talent in the High Tech and Green Tech / Alternative Energy sectors. Follow Redfish Technology on twitter: @RedfishTech; connect with Redfish on Facebook; connect with Redfish on Linkedin.

The greatest challenge in recruiting for green technology professionals at this time is the small pool of candidates with direct experience, relative to other sectors. From start-ups to established large firms, companies are setting the bar higher during the last few years. This is because they can and they should. The downturn has made available many more qualified (and less qualified) candidates for all roles. Companies are on tighter budgets and funding is not as easy to come by even as VC funding returns to healthier levels, so every penny counts and every opportunity should be fully exploited; all that to say, companies are looking to hire the best talent they can afford.

Green or clean tech has been around for several decades but not really considered viable by the mainstream until the last decade. Investment in cleantech has increased 15 fold over the last decade and leading industry resources such as the Cleantech Group anticipate that 2011 will be a record year for cleantech innovation financing due to growth in Asia and the ongoing push for resource efficiency. Given these industries’ high growth, fast innovation, and relative youth, the demand for qualified and experienced professionals is competitive, and will not be satisfied entirely by candidates within the greentech industries.

There are several ways to enter greentech. Executive Recruiter Greg Schreiner has written on the subject in an article entitled “Breaking Into Green”. Greg acknowledges the challenges and offers ideas such as joining industry groups, volunteering, and pursuing education and certifications.

By far the easiest way to get into greentech is to look to transferability. Of course certain skills and experience are more transferable than others. As both a high tech recruiter and a green recruiter, Redfish is uniquely positioned to help transition outstanding talent from high tech to greentech. In 2010 thirty-eight percent of our green placements came from a similar role in a high tech sector.

A lot of the engineering skills necessary for success in the solar field are similar to the skillset developed in semiconductor industries. Wind turbine manufacturers often seek out mechanical engineers with experience in rotating and vibrating machinery design from the aerospace industry. Auto manufacturing expertise can translate to renewables in terms of process engineers and the plant floor. Many of the needs in the smart grid space are similar to the RF/wireless/networking technology fields.

Software and hardware developers will transition to energy efficiency technologies, energy transmission and management, advanced metering, distributed power generation, and smart-grid consumer applications such as grid-friendly (chip enabled) appliances. IT expertise is also a driving force behind electric vehicles/charging, as well as solar technologies, manufacturing, and equipment design.

People with transferable skill sets will clearly find the least resistance to entry. It is important to clearly evaluate your experience and know-how and match that to sectors with similar skills. It is fairly easy for engineers to identify transition-friendly moves. Despite the old saying that a good sales person can sell anything, the transition for outside the industry for sales professionals can be more difficult. A sales generalist will have more significant barriers to entry, whereas someone in natural gas sales may find it more obvious to transition into biofuels sales.

Our related career post:, Making a Career Transition from Tech to CleanTech also looks at ways for technical professionals to transition to a green career.

Transitions stories abound, here are some of our favorite inspiring stories:

David Kaplan’s V2Green venture. David took his 30 years of experience in high tech and started a vehicle to grid startup developing software and hardware for utilities to better manage power flows to plug-in vehicles.

Solyndra’s solar panels. Solyndra prefers in-house solar panel and equipment design. Folks like Dan Purdy, who worked at Intel for 14 years prior to layoffs due to plant shutdowns, have transferred high tech skills to this green tech. The company is harnessing the talent of experienced high tech innovators for equipment design and fabrication.

Renewable energy reclaims brownfields. While not necessarily from high tech, technical employees are being put back to work by Gamesa Wind US and AE Polysilicon. The Fairless Works complex once employed steel production plants, a powerhouse and chemical plant. These wind and solar companies have set up on this previously contaminated land and created 450 green jobs, not to mention hundreds of construction jobs.

For insight into how to transition from high tech to green tech see our related career posts:

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About the Authors

Rob Reeves, President, CEO, Redfish Technology

Rob Reeves has enjoyed recruiting for a long time. He founded Redfish Technology in 1996, and has taken it from a predominantly West Coast Technical recruiter to a nationwide, full service firm specializing in High Tech and Green Tech sectors. Connect with Rob on LinkedIn.

Anna Mathieu, Marketing Communications Manager, Redfish Technology

Anna Mathieu’s experience as a recruiter and as a seasoned sales & marketing professional give her a winning perspective on communicating Redfish’s specialized recruiting services. Her evangelization and branding continue to drive bottom line results. Connect with Anna on Linkedin.

© 2011, Redfish Technology. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Redfish Technology (1 Articles)

Redfish Technology specializes in locating talent in the High Tech and Green Tech / Alternative Energy sectors. Recruiting since 1996, the company offers nationwide coverage and boasts offices in Silicon Valley, the East Coast, and the Intermountain West. Follow Redfish Technology on twitter: @RedfishTech; connect with Redfish on Facebook; connect with Redfish on Linkedin.

  • http://greenoughcom.com phil greenough

    Rob and Anna, you should look into programs like the ‘fellows’ of the NE Clean Energy council. The graduates get a deep dive from clean tech stalwarts to make a rapd transition. Cheers, Phil

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/thepinto David Pinto

    Hmm….I was just having a conversation with an ex-colleague about this! Literally took the words out of my mouth. I’m a living example of someone who made the transition a little over a year ago, and would encourage others to consider the move. I took it for granted but, yes, trasferabiltiy is key. Even though I majored in digital systems, it sure helped that any EE course covers powers electronics, electricity fundamentals and all the fun stuff that goes with clean tech (after all, it’s all about our insatiable appetite for energy, right?). The best part of making the move? It’s knowing that one’s efforts are fueling – no pun intended — the drive towards sustainability and saving the planet. Even if it’s baby steps, at least we’re headed in the right direction, political will et al.