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Shining a light on solar power in Fort Collins

In the summer of 2020, Colorado State University electrical engineering student Giuliana Seretti was supplementing her learning with an internship at the Platte River Power Authority (PRPA). Her growing interest in solar energy, both in and out of the classroom, led her to John Bleem, a research associate at the CSU Energy Institute and former PRPA employee who was working on a She’s in Power initiative.

The goal: Estimating the total amount of solar power energy being produced in Fort Collins. With more than 1,700 photovoltaic systems producing data simultaneously throughout the city, this is no small task.

Seretti had to get up to speed quickly on the years-long project and solar energy jargon. “It was a big learning curve for me at the beginning,” she allowed. But before long, she had developed her own machine-learning model that predicts solar output based on temperature, global horizontal irradiance and other parameters. She also examined all models, existing and proposed, for data accuracy — work that continues to this day.

“Basically, I’m trying to demonstrate the benefits of certain models and how they should be applied to measuring solar output in Fort Collins,” Seretti explained.

Her mentor Bleem has been impressed with the results and Seretti’s perseverance: “The She’s in Power project allows Giuliana to learn about solar energy modeling (not part of the curriculum) and provides a real-world application for machine learning. She is gaining both ‘hard’ (technical) and ‘soft’ (collaboration) experience.”

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Judy Gates

Judy Gates is a local retired physicist/engineer with a career that spans 30 years, primarily in technology development. As a developer and technology transfer engineer with Hewlett-Packard Company, she contributed to industry electronic interconnect standards that enabled rapid emergence of small footprint electronics that are still in use. After taking early retirement from HP, Judy joined Woodward, Inc. where, among other things, she managed their contribution to the execution of a grant to the City of Fort Collins through the Department of Energy Renewable and Distributed Systems Integration program. This work demonstrated the feasibility of using a decentralized network of power sources such as solar panels and wind generators to provide reliable electricity to Fort Collins residents and businesses. Judy’s educational background includes a Ph.D. in Physics from Indiana University and a B.A. double major in Mathematics and Physics from Lake Forest College.

Retirement has provided an opportunity for Judy to shift her focus to helping halt global climate change and encouraging women to become involved in the technical aspects of the clean energy industry. She is currently a Volunteer Presenter for Citizens’ Climate Lobby in addition to joining the C3E Steering Committee. She values being part of the She’s in Power program because of its emphasis on mentoring and reducing energy demand in local communities.

How does your current work impact clean energy?

Citizens’ Climate Lobby, for which I am a volunteer speaker, is dedicated to building political will for a livable climate. We advocate for legislation that will reduce national emissions by 90% before 2050. Besides replacing current energy sources with clean energy sources, the legislation incentivizes clean energy technology development.

What was your first experience in the clean energy space?

I managed Woodward’s contribution to the Department of Energy’s Renewable and Distributed Systems Integration (RDSI) grant to the City of Fort Collins. Woodward contributed the hardware and installation needed to connect existing power generators at various city locations to a system that would supply power wherever it is needed on the electricity grid.

I also volunteered for Grid Alternatives by assisting with solar panel installation for low income citizens.

What sparked your interest in clean energy as a career path?

I was fascinated by the challenges of the grid control system — seamlessly connecting and disconnecting energy sources in a way that electricity users would not see any changes. We will have to use control systems like this for clean energy sources because solar panels and wind generators do not generate energy continuously.

How have your educational experiences informed your journey?

Experimental physics provided me with a general background in many technical fields.

What role has mentorship played in your career?

Mentorship was not emphasized or even articulated until very late in my career. However, there have been a few people who helped me a great deal in learning how to work in teams, navigate the corporate world and advocate for my ideas and findings.

Have you encountered any challenges as a woman working in a technical field? How have you addressed those challenges?

Being different in a team of people can be a challenge. Because I think we all tend to want to interact with people we are comfortable with, the only woman in a team of men can feel ignored or left out. My best strategy has been to become more assertive by entering conversations and recognizing that, in general, men don’t intend to leave me out.

What one thing would you change about the clean energy workplace to make it more equitable for women?

Increase the number of women leaders.

What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue a career in clean energy?

I would advise women in any field to try to understand the people they work with so that they can be assertive in non-threatening ways and understand how to be recognized for the quality of their work.

What is your proudest achievement in the industry to date?

I am proud of my advocacy of national legislation to address climate change and incentivize technology development. It will be exciting to see new, emerging technologies for electrical grid redesign, energy storage, carbon dioxide sequestration and storage, and other areas required for a carbon-free future.

What would you like your legacy to be, in clean energy or in life?

My goal is to have an impact on making the future better than the past. Currently, this means helping increase the number of women in technical fields addressing climate change so that these women can have long, productive careers.

How do you think educators can inspire more girls and young women to enroll and stay in STEM-related studies?

It would be great for educators to provide exposure to women in STEM fields in order to break stereotypes that some girls may have. Also, showing girls that engineering is important even in fields that are associated with women such as clothing design and pattern making, mathematics of knitting, etc. Also, teaching skills that they are less likely to learn outside of school but can put them behind in entering a technical field in college would be very helpful. Examples are use of mechanical tools, metal or wood working, operation and repair of common objects such as bicycles, faucets, solar panels, wind generators, etc.

How do you think clean energy professionals can encourage more women to pursue careers in clean energy?

Professional women can reach out by participating in STEM and mentorship programs sponsored by high schools and colleges.

What role should Colorado C3E play in advancing women in clean energy?

Through She’s in Power, C3E is performing a great service by exposing girls and young women to real projects and giving them the opportunity to see the results they can achieve.

I am particularly interested in actual career paths of women in the workplace for the first five to ten years after college graduation. Early career mentorship may be a great direction for C3E in the future.

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Rachel Taylor

Rachel Taylor is a junior at Colorado State University (CSU) pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Communications with a minor in Global Environmental Sustainability. She hails from Larkspur, Colorado, a small town outside of Denver. She fell in love with Fort Collins as soon as she took the CSU campus tour and has been making a positive impact on the community’s sustainability efforts ever since.

During her freshman year, Rachel was a CSU Eco Leader, tasked with raising awareness about and encouraging sustainability practices on campus. She worked alongside the EcoCAR3 team her sophomore year, building excitement for CSU’s entry in the national Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC). Rachel is now the Communications Manager for this year’s EcoCAR project at the CSU Energy Institute and a shared intern for Colorado C3E and Toolbox Creative.

My time at CSU so far has been a process of mentors and mentees — inspirational people who are influential to me. Clean energy is just the beginning, too. I didn’t know there was so much room for career growth in this path, and I’m really glad that my other eco opportunities have led me here.

What first sparked your interest in sustainability and clean energy?

When I was in high school, I took an AP Environmental Sciences class with the best teacher possible, Jenny Dallman. She’s been my inspiration through it all, from sustainability to clean energy. Her class was amazing, she ran the Castle View Goes Green club outside of school, and she led a trip to Belize to study the rainforest and coral reefs.

My sister Emily also inspired me to look towards sustainability. When she was a student at CSU, she applied for the director job at the Student Sustainability Center and got it. She met so many different people within the School of Global Environmental Sustainability that way. That’s how she made the connections to build her career to where she is now, at the private energy company Invenergy. She’s definitely a role model of mine.

Working with the EcoCAR3 team last year really got me into clean energy specifically. It was incredible to watch a group of people transform a Chevy Camaro into a hybrid electric vehicle.

What do you consider the most important aspect of being able to work in the clean energy world?

To notice that you are trying to do something good for the world. Knowing fully that you are contributing to a greater change is as impactful as it gets.

How have your personal experiences informed your passion for the field?

The trip to Belize during high school opened my eyes. We first stayed in the rainforest, where we did forestry and animal studies. Then we went to the coral reef, Glover’s Reef, 50 miles off the coast. We stayed on an island and did lots of research on the coral bleaching that was happening. It was interesting to physically see it — we were in the water looking at all the coral. When you Google coral reef, it’s so colorful. That’s not what it looked like at all. It was gray and black and white; it was like a ghost land almost, super sad.

It’s global warming. Humans are doing this to the Earth. There’s not much we can do besides change our ways and live more sustainably. Learning about the effects of environmental change on that trip inspired me to really get to know the logistics of the environment.

How have you become involved in sustainability at CSU?

My sister helped me get into the Eco Leader program my freshman year, which really paved the way for other opportunities. As an Eco Leader, you take the whole spring semester to take on a big project — it has to impact the school. I worked with Emily and another student, and we decided to team up with the Student Sustainability Center as the sponsor. We made a story map of all the sustainability activities on campus, including ZipCars, water bottle stations and LEED-certified buildings. It’s a map of campus with little icons you can click to find more information about the sustainability aspects. The project was a success and is still sponsored by the Student Sustainability Center today.

It would be great for another Eco Leader to pick it up. Eco Leaders are all freshmen, and they need to learn to project manage [like I did], especially if they want to advance in a sustainability career. My Eco Leader mentor told me, “Any time you want to come back and tell them what you’re doing with your life now, you should because it’s inspirational to them.” And I would love to. That’s what my sister did when I was an Eco Leader.

Emily also helped me get involved with the EcoCAR project. Last semester, she was the communications manager for the EcoCAR3. She knew I liked the field and asked for my help. I would go the Powerhouse with her twice a week, bring my DSLR camera and take pictures of the car. Then we would post them on Instagram and Twitter. We got pretty good attention and at least 100 more followers.

After that part of the project was over, Emily had to leave because she was graduating. So I pursued the position and got it! I’ll be the communications manager for the EcoCAR this year and am very excited. The building of the car doesn’t start until October, but meetings have just started up.

My time at CSU so far has been a process of mentors and mentees — inspirational people who are influential to me. Clean energy is just the beginning, too. I didn’t know there was so much room for career growth in this path, and I’m really glad that my other eco opportunities have led me here.

What is the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome as a woman in your studies so far? How did you overcome it?

I haven’t stumbled on any gender barriers yet, luckily. For example, most of the Eco Leaders my year were girls. So the biggest challenge has been internal — from myself. People go through phases of not believing in themselves or believing they are not good enough to do something. But it’s all about getting into the groove and proving people wrong, and proving to yourself that you can do way more than you think. Life is all about taking chances.

Do you see a future for yourself in the clean energy space after college?

I know I want to do something in the communications field with sustainability, which is why I’m studying what I’m studying. Ideally, I’d be a communications expert within a company that provides sustainability offerings, whether it be clean energy or not. Clean energy and sustainability career paths both need not only engineers, but people with communication skills and business skills — a combination of people with different stories, backgrounds and skills.

I guess I’ll see where the wind takes me. It’s really all about connecting yourself with the campus community, getting to know different people and having good job references so you can get where you want when you’re done with school.

How do you think C3E can encourage more women to pursue a career in clean energy?

This story campaign is a huge step. As the Colorado C3E intern, I’ve been conducting the interviews of the women profiled in the campaign, and it has been so inspiring.

How would you like to see sustainable energy use and consumption evolve?

I want to see Fort Collins move into more clean energy. It would be great to see other cities and towns along the Front Range of Colorado adapt to more clean energy-based functions, too. For example, my hometown is really close to Castle Rock, where I went to high school. Castle Rock is a continuously growing city; every time I come home, there’s a new building. It would be awesome to see some of the buildings be certified LEED or built with low energy consumption. Evolving clean energy in smaller cities along the Front Range is a great start to seeing clean energy evolve, especially in Colorado.

Any thoughts on your legacy?

I want my legacy to reflect the impact I’ve made on the world. I want to be the kind of person that brought food into the world but also made it a better place for future generations. I want to be a role model to my younger siblings and I want to prove the world wrong about gender barriers, especially within fields like sustainability. I want my legacy to inspire others to do good and make a change when it’s necessary.

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Dawn Putney

Dawn Putney considers herself a Minnesota country girl by nature, having grown up on the farmland her Irish ancestors homesteaded. She was active in 4H and the Future Homemakers of America (FHA) as a child. Then she discovered design in high school, and she knew she’d found her calling. Dawn’s first “real job” was as an advertising typesetter, where she developed a passion for big ideas, storytelling, the printed word and attention to detail. She went on to work at some of the most prestigious advertising and design firms in Minneapolis.

Dawn moved to Colorado in 1994 when her husband landed his dream job in atmospheric science. Though that marriage ended, her love for Colorado and the desire to raise her kids surrounded by mountains and big blue skies remained strong. After many years pioneering beautiful design in Northern Colorado for other companies, Dawn co-founded Toolbox Creative, a branding and marketing firm that helps innovative technology companies tell their unique stories. She is an active advocate for women in technology both in and out of the office. She sits on the board of Colorado C3E and Pretty Brainy, and volunteers her time and expertise with several other women-focused enterprises.

I love helping tech-centric companies develop their brands and positioning, demonstrate their expertise, and then show off their brands genuinely and consistently. There are so many innovative companies coming up with solutions that make our world a better place, and those stories need to be shared.

What inspired you to start Toolbox Creative? How did you do it?

In my 20s and 30s, I had the good fortune to work at some of the largest and best design shops in Minneapolis — a great way to learn design thinking from the best in the business. But it was my experience working with some of the smaller agencies that helped me focus my attentions on design and positioning as a marketing strategy.

I’ve always been entrepreneurial, so starting a creative agency seemed like a logical next step when the company I worked for shuttered after 9/11. I love a challenge, and starting a company with my pragmatic husband while being my own boss was a challenge too good to pass up. Bootstrapping is in my blood, and we put a lot of sweat equity into building Toolbox Creative and a culture we could be proud of. There have been plenty of bumps along the way, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Why did you choose to focus on clean energy clients?

Toolbox made the decision to work with engineers, in part, thanks to our immediate surroundings. Northern Colorado is a hotbed of innovation, and when we were a new Fort Collins company 15+ years ago, we began working with local engineers. We discovered that through design thinking, we spoke a common language. That kind of magic really gets the creative wheels turning. Clean energy and tech was a natural progression for us — the industry is chock full of innovators who think differently for the good of all.

Clean tech and energy companies are all about creating tools that solve a problem — often big, hairy problems. Planet-saving problems. Helping companies that are making a real difference in the world is why we’re passionate about working in clean energy.

By working with some of Toolbox’s innovative clients, we’ve seen firsthand what small businesses can do to make a big impact. It started when we first helped develop the brand for the Colorado Clean Energy Cluster several years ago. Since then, we have worked with other save-the-world-with-clean-tech organizations like Brendle Group, Prieto Battery, Colorado C3E and Pretty Brainy. Every day, we strive to leave the world a better place than we found it. At Toolbox Creative, we choose to focus on working directly with clean tech companies to help make that dream a reality.

How does your company work within the clean energy sphere?

Our specialty is working with clean tech and clean energy innovators, along with 3D printing and ag tech. Most people hear “clean tech” or “clean energy” and think that means working in engineering or another technical STEM career. Marketing has a place at the table, too! When is the last time you saw a successful innovation company, start-up or otherwise, that didn’t have a need for marketing? Never (I hope). I love helping tech-centric companies develop their brands and positioning, demonstrate their expertise, and then show off their brands genuinely and consistently. There are so many innovative companies coming up with solutions that make our world a better place, and those stories need to be shared.

Some people think marketing is simply about putting content on the company website or coming up with the next idea for your digital ad campaign. While those tactics are all creative, building a brand that cuts through the extraneous noise — that’s when the fun really starts. I love rolling up my sleeves, poking, prodding and understanding a customer’s pain points — that’s when what we do becomes really fun.

Which new work projects excite you most? and this initiative to collect and share the stories of women in technology, clean energy and beyond is one of my current favorites. Women’s voices need to be heard, and their stories told.

What role has mentorship played in your career?

My high school FHA advisor, Mrs. Sederstrom was my mentor before I knew what that meant. She encouraged me to get involved with leadership roles within the regional organization. She believed in me when I didn’t know what I was capable of doing.

What advice would you give young women who want to pursue a career in clean energy?

Find a mentor and believe it when she tells you that you can do anything you set your mind on. In the male-dominated world of high tech, it’s critical that women take an active part.

What is the most difficult vocational challenge you’ve overcome as a woman?

I was a single mom early in my career, and the challenges of raising my kids while working full-time was tough. I could not have done it without the support of my family and friends. When your Mom is willing to take care of your kid with chicken pox – then you know you have a strong support system!

What would you change in the clean energy work space to make it more equitable for women?

Technology companies can provide more support for women as we focus on taking care of our families with flexible work schedules, equal pay and a level playing field in career advancement.

What do you consider your biggest career success?

As a business owner, I’ve always been involved with organizations that help women in business succeed. I believe that when women work together to magnify and amplify one another’s voices, the world is a kinder, smarter place. As a board member of both Colorado C3E and Pretty Brainy, a girl-focused STEAM (STEM + art) nonprofit, I have had the opportunity to meet and support some of the smartest, most creative women I’ve ever known. That’s hard to beat.

What do you want your legacy to be?

For me it’s all about getting stuff done. Doing that while helping women advance their careers is the best gift I can give.How do you think C3E can encourage more women to pursue a career in clean energy?

By supporting one another through networking, encouragement and amplifying one another’s stories, we can — and do — make the world a better place. I’ve seen a handful of Women in (fill in the blank) initiatives out in the world and truly admire what they are doing to advance women in all kinds of tech and STEM fields. I am most inspired by how Women in 3D Printing are taking action to advance women in the male-dominated additive manufacturing industry.

Now more than ever, women supporting each other is critically important. The Women in Clean Energy initiative will help increase the visibility of women in the clean energy industry through shared stories, which will hopefully encourage more women to contribute to clean energy innovation.


Julie Zinn

Julie Zinn was formerly the Chief Operating Officer at Spirae Inc. Acting as her first entry point for the clean energy sphere, she was with the company for 9 years and was responsible for all of the operations of the company across all functional areas, including project development, delivery, administrative functions and sales. One of her key roles that she performed was recruiting high demand power, including various engineers due to its competitive landscape.This role ignited a passion for seeing more women in this talent pipeline because male candidates were the ones being seen the most, when she knew that there was female talent out there. When she first joined the company, they had just won the RSDI award in 2009/2010, in which she personally loved what that project was about in order to support communities carbon initiatives.

Julie is originally from Littleton, Colorado and lived in the Washington D.C. area for 12 years before coming back to Colorado and landing in Fort Collins. Julie also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music and Bachelor’s of Science in Business from the University of Colorado Boulder. Julie also holds a Masters Degree in Education and Human Development from George Washington University.


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Michelle Finchum

As the City of Fort Collins Sustainability Coordinator, Michelle Finchum looks at energy use at a municipal level. Her job is to look at how much energy the community uses, and how we can shift to lower usage levels while utilizing renewable resources, such as wind and solar power. She negotiates how to get more renewables for the city, and ensures operations are running as efficiently as possible. For example, evaluating lighting, user behavior and processes in buildings in order to use the least amount of energy possible. Michelle previously worked for Fort Collins Utilities and taught people how to use energy wisely. Michelle has always been passionate about conservation. She has a bachelor’s degree in Zoology from Louisiana State University (LSU), a master’s degree in Natural Resource Management from Colorado State University (CSU) and is a Peace Corps alumnus, where she was based in Ecuador.

Take those opportunities that don’t seem like they fit you. Be open to those opportunities. Be curious, and keep that curiosity with an open mind — and always be asking questions.

How did you arrive in the clean energy sphere?

At the beginning of my career, getting hired at Fort Collins Utilities was a breakthrough that began my path towards clean energy. I didn’t know much about clean energy or energy in general — I had more knowledge in water. But then I got really involved with the conservation side of things, such as helping our community understand why it matters what appliance you buy. I just got more and more involved with energy and the importance of efficiency. Energy is considered a natural resource — and certainly one that needs to be taken care of. Having a background in natural resource management has helped me gain more knowledge to inform the community of clean energy production, especially by mixing my two backgrounds of utilities (16 years) and municipal sustainability (1 year). We are really in the intersection of a transition for our  community.

What role has mentorship played in your career?

Mentorship is huge in so many ways. It helps people develop leadership skills, helps you understand how to get your work done and much more. And it’s not always about the subject matter — you need someone to help you understand the workplace, but it’s also about how to make relationships and connect with people. I am helping start a mentorship program here at the City of Fort Collins, where we host about two sessions per year. It really is not only about work, but also about balance and personal strengths, which helps everyone grow differently.

What career challenges have you had to navigate?

I struggle with traditional career growth. I seem to always be given projects and exciting things to do. However, people peg you for what they think you can do best, but they don’t know you can do other things, too. Taking on projects outside your perceived path and showing people that you can do it is a priority in order to grow and get a foot in the door. For example, you could be hired to be a writer, but you have the capability to do other things, too, and it is important to show that.

What challenge does the industry face that makes it less equitable for women?

Pipeline talents are not there. Going way back into high school, I don’t think girls see themselves naturally as engineers, statisticians, etc. Going into schools, my audience would always be boys and very few girls. Science, math and engineering — girls are not getting into these fields at a young age, and it bleeds into college and the workplace.Even though a company says today that it wants to hire more women, there are not a lot of options. We need to fix it from an earlier stage and communicate how many different kinds of jobs are associated with these fields. It’s not about wearing a hardhat; we need diversity at all levels.

What advice would you give to your younger self and/or young women who want to pursue a career in clean energy?

Be open-minded. I was pretty sure I wanted to go out and save the rainforest and got my degrees, and I was just not open-minded. I didn’t know the world of clean energy existed. I would say take those opportunities that don’t seem like they fit you. Be open to those opportunities. Be curious, and keep that curiosity with an open mind — and always be asking questions.

What do you want your legacy to be?

Personally, I want to leave a better place for my children. Overall, I want to make a difference in my career and in my life, not just for children but for everyone. I want to be able to say that I did my part, and I did it while thinking about people and the environment — that I was not one-sided and was thoughtful in all my decisions in order to make Fort Collins better for the future. 

How do you think C3E can encourage more women to pursue a career in clean energy?

I think the programs we have are solid if we can figure out how to partner with the schools and continually mentor and showcase these fields to girls and women — show them how they can apply their natural skills to these fields. We need to grow and get the word out about this career path. Women and girls need to be encouraged to get involved. If you’re good at something, all fields need to be explored — not only energy fields, but fields in art, public speaking and more.

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Sara Emmons

Sara Emmons is the Senior Project Analyst Contractor to the U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Office. Here, she provides non-technical project management/monitoring support to the Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Office.  Specifically, she supports the facilitation, initiation, execution (adherence to scope, schedule, and budget), and close-out of renewable energy (geothermal) projects.  Additionally, Sara helps lead the planning process for the biennial Peer Review, a three-day event which brings together around 80 project leads in order to be assessed on the technical achievements of their work. Sara is also a certified Project Management Professional. Sara was born in Des Moines and grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and moved to Fort Collins in 2001 to go to Colorado State University and earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. Colorado was always on her mind as the place she knew she would live one day. “As a lover of the outdoors, it has just always felt like home.”

I think gender equity starts with awareness.  The first step is for companies to take a look in the mirror and own their opportunities for growth- areas or levels where they may not female representation.

How have your studies contributed to your interest and eligibility to pursue clean energy as a career?

Once I got into this industry, it became evident that project management was an important component. I saw this as an opportunity for me, so I worked to gain expertise in that knowledge area.  In time I was able to obtain my project management professional certificate and have gone on to serve as a resource for my team on the topic.  The PMP certification is well recognized and valued across all industries.  This, in addition to my bachelors degree, has allowed me to support the technical experts on my team in a way that provides better oversight of the projects that we manage.

What role has mentorship played in your career?

Mentorship is undeniably an incredibly important piece of anyone’s career growth. It’s also something I hope to foster in the coming years and is one of the primary reasons I became a member of the CO C3E Steering Committee.

What is the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome as a woman in your career? How did you overcome it?

One of the most challenging things I fight as a woman is the inherent tendency to stay quiet and assume that the input of others in the room is more valuable. Personally speaking, I know that my propensity for perfectionism and self-doubt can wreak havoc on my ability to speak up.  In time, and with the help of matured confidence, these fears have quieted.  Educating myself is also one of the best ways I’ve found to push back against this problem, so I am regularly trying to listen to new podcasts or read related articles that may help me in my current field of work.  Lastly, I’ve found that it’s important to own where I’m at on a particular topic.  If I don’t understand, I’ll ask questions!

What one thing would you change in the clean energy work space in order to make it more equitable for women?

I think gender equity starts with awareness. The first step is for companies to take a look in the mirror and own their opportunities for growth- areas or levels where they may not female representation.  I’d love to also see more companies hire an outside party to complete an assessment of possible pay disparities. The thing I would change to make it more equitable for women would also benefit all genders. This really boils down to companies (large or small) finding ways to implement flexibility into the way they get work done. Many women, particularly those who are caregivers, are seeking greater flexibility in order to be able to tend to the needs of those they care for. If you provide employees the flexibility to get work done in the way that works best for them, it will pay dividends back to the company.

How would you like to see clean energy use and consumption evolve?

So many ways. First and foremost, I would love to see geothermal represents a bigger slice of the U.S. renewable energy portfolio. Unlike wind or solar, geothermal is “always on”! There is some really interesting research being done as we speak that I believe will make this a reality.  I’m also incredibly excited by some of the technologies that are on the horizon for commercial and personal transportation! I look forward to the day that vehicles are no longer one of the largest contributors to pollution.  I would love to see cities embrace composting on a more global scale and make this service more widely available to its residents in the same way as recycling.  While Denver (where I previously lived for the last 10 years) instituted an amazing composting program, I have not seen this made available in Fort Collins, so my Husband and I collect our own compostable material and bring it over to a compost heap at a nearby urban farm. I’m really excited to see the clean energy momentum that is building at the city level, with many instituting 100% renewable power generation goals for themselves.

What do you want your legacy to be, whether in your workplace or in life?

I hope I’ve set an example of what it looks like to tread lightly- to try everyday to take a little bit better care of the world around me.I’m deeply affected by the way that we as human beings are impacting the air, oceans, wildlife, forests, etc.  I hope I will be seen as someone who recognized the challenges we were facing and chose to be part of the solution.

Consider what you know now about being a woman in the clean energy sphere, what advice would you give to your younger self and/or young women who want to pursue a career in clean energy?

If I could go back to undergrad, or even high school, I would tell myself to recognize the incredible resources that were available to me at that time and to take better advantage of them- to build more connections and be more curious. Making those connections and creating these relationships back at this age is so important!

 How do you think C3E can encourage more women to pursue a career in clean energy?

I would love to see C3E set up events to connect more women to mentors and other resources with the ultimate goal of fostering career growth.In the coming months, we will be developing some events that I’m really excited about!

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Maury Dobbie

Maury Dobbie is is the Executive Director for the Colorado Energy Research Collaboratory and the External Engagement Director for the Energy Institute at Colorado State University. Maury works ¾ of the time as the Executive Director of the Collaboratory which has been in existence since 2008 as an energy research partnership between four entities:  Colorado State University, University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado School of Mines and National Renewable Energy Lab. She also works ¼ of the time with the Energy Institute on special energy projects. Maury was the former Assistant Director at the Center for the New Energy Economy for the past 7 years and has been immersed in the energy field for over 7 years now as she finds the field fascinating and a great opportunity for women to find their passion using their unique skills.

Maury was born in Germany and raised in Wyoming before coming to Colorado in 1992, and decided to head to Fort Collins because her perception was that it would afford more opportunities and a new beginning, and as a women entrepreneur it would be more welcoming and progressive. When she first arrived in 1992, she was a stockbroker with a local firm, but then continued on to start her own award-winning multimedia production company which was up and running for 16 years. She was also the president & CEO of a regional economic development corporation for 4 years before working at CSU. Maury has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and is currently completing her MBA at Colorado State University.  She has also earned her Series 7 brokerage license in the 1990’s.When one thinks about how critical energy is in the ecosystem of a healthy economy, country and world I am even more convinced that making sure it is clean energy will impact generations into the future.

“When one thinks about how critical energy is in the ecosystem of a healthy economy, country and world I am even more convinced that making sure it is clean energy will impact generations into the future”

How did you land in the clean energy sphere?

I’ve always been a curious and ambitious learner — never being afraid to be the only woman in the room. I have noticed for most girls/women, it takes years to figure out what ignites our true passion — to figure out what we are really good at and to be confident in our own skin. Because my childhood and young adulthood was fraught with a lot of negative people and situations, I didn’t know where my true value was until I got older and allowed myself to search for a better life. I’d never have thought I’d end up in energy, per se, but I always believed I could do anything I set my mind on.

My faith and love of family have been my rock. Surrounding myself with positive influences, including remarrying a wonderful, supportive husband, have helped me create the firm emotional foundation that also influenced my career. I believe we have to perceive and then seek opportunity where others do not. Before it was popular to be a woman business owner, I felt it was the only way to control my own destiny. I don’t believe that’s the only career avenue anymore.

My reason for gravitating towards clean energy stems from being raised on a ranch where clean air, clean water, purposeful land use practices, energy as a foundational necessity and other factors could make or break the rural business and lifestyle. I learned an appreciation for hard work and environmental practices that weren’t even named back then. When one thinks about how critical energy is in the ecosystem of a healthy economy, country and world, I am even more convinced that making sure it is clean energy will impact generations into the future. It’s important to me that I am a part of something bigger than myself and meaningful in this world.

What do you consider your biggest successes?

I’ve been willing to take the risk to be different while having an eye towards finding solutions and making a lasting difference for generations long after I’m gone. It’s fun to look back over my various career paths and know that I’m peaceful about what I’ve been able to accomplish through hard work, determination, optimism, maintaining a sense of humor in dark days, thinking the best of people, finding that forgiveness necessary to moving on – all are powerful tools towards a fulfilled, happy life. While I’m not quite done in my clean energy career path and journey, it’s been gratifying to know that in spite of hardship and life’s ups and downs in my various career focus areas and my personal journey, I know the value of living it to its fullest. I remain (and practice every day being) hopeful and grateful.

I’ve ascended to some great titles in my career path, but I’d have to say my biggest success is having worked extremely hard to raise two children who grew up to be healthy, smart, kind, accomplished, honest, hard-working and positive adults. I spend time with my grandchildren trying to impress upon them the importance of the environment, why clean energy resources and conservation are so important.  For example, teaching them to turn off the water faucet when brushing their teeth, because not having running water unless we trucked it in when I was a child made me appreciate the importance of clean water and where it comes from.

Has mentorship played a role in your career?

Mentorship was not a reality in my early years, nor was it something I saw a lot of. I remember learning who I wanted to be (or not) from passive observation. When I began my career as an entrepreneur at the age of 19, there were no women to watch that had businesses — so I observed how men became successful. It makes me even more hopeful that there are avenues in which young women, women starting their careers and those that have been in careers for a long time can engage with mentors and positive organizations. Knowing the difference in what I didn’t have as an advantage in my younger years makes me even more determined to be a part of creating it for others. That is why I’m passionate about what Colorado C3E is doing alongside other positive and effective partners.

How have you moved past challenges?

It can feel very vulnerable to share one’s life story when it isn’t always pretty, but my experience with extreme domestic violence was the most difficult challenge I have ever overcome — but the most rewarding because I lived to tell my story. It could have easily thwarted my career path and my intrinsic drive to find my value, feed my family and “climb the ladder.” That was never stolen from me because I fought hard to maintain my optimism, courage and quest for a better life. I also grew up in an economically poor environment without running water and the niceties I enjoy now — it was hard to break through the feeling of not having enough while striving for more.

I’ve worked hard over the years to finally find my worth, while at the same time recognizing what I do well and admit what I don’t do well. Surrounding myself with smart and positive people, no matter what I’m doing, is one of the keys to my success.Spending my career on what can make a difference has always been a life goal because I don’t want any regrets. I’ve found my career in clean energy to be very fulfilling.

How would you make the clean energy work space more equitable for women?

I would encourage women to own their own destinies by looking for opportunities that would elevate their clean energy careers. For example, offer to serve on a high-powered board where you can learn, grow and meet the right people. If we wait for equity, parity and fairness in the workplace, it may never be offered. But we can look for ways to stand out, knowing it takes hard work and determination. It isn’t easy finding opportunities where others don’t see them, but I would encourage women of all ages to not wait for it to come to them. In addition, I would encourage women to seek wisdom from others, both male and female, as they grow and learn who they are meant to be. Comparing ourselves to others in a negative fashion only stunts our growth and breeds a sense of helplessness. But using that energy to explore new ideas, hold oneself accountable and be curious about taking risks that elevate our career in clean energy can be empowering.

What projects are you excited to be working on now?

At the Energy Institute at Colorado State University, I really enjoy taking on projects that will ultimately make a difference in clean energy, whether that be in our state, our country or around the world. For the past seven years, CSU has hosted an energy conference that I’ve headed up. Through the team of many thought leaders, it’s wonderful to see partnerships formed, people talking in civil discourse who don’t necessarily agree, multi-million-dollar solution-finding energy projects being created, new common sense regulatory and policies being put into place, etc. At the Colorado Energy Research Collaboratory, I am excited that the three largest Colorado research institutions (CSU, CU Boulder, Colorado School of Mines) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have worked closely together since 2008 on energy projects and research that will make a real difference in the world. The Collaboratory will be hosting the 8thannual 21stCentury Energy Transition Symposium on April 1-2, 2019 in downtown Denver that I’m once again heading up. Colorado C3E will kick off the event with its 3rdannual Women in Clean Energy breakfast. We’ve had powerful and accomplished women on stage telling their personal stories of how they experienced their professional careers in energy — you won’t want to miss it!

What do you want your legacy to be in work or in life?

Personally, I’d like my legacy to be one of someone who is an optimistic overcomer that spent time on the important things in life — humanity. Professionally, it’s important to me that the work I do now in clean energy affects the world for many years beyond my lifetime. In the coming decades, technologies, politics, cultures, industry, people and beliefs will all undoubtedly change. But the work we are currently doing in clean energy could be that stepping stone to a healthier and sustainable planet.I’d like to know I was a small part of that important work. While I’m not the expert in the technologies or research component, I’ve found my skills and value in the clean energy ecosystem while surrounding myself with brilliant and visionary minds.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I’d remind myself that a fulfilled life begins with recognizing my strengths and weaknesses then pursuing a career path that fits my passion and strengths. Be a lifelong curious learner that is willing to pay my dues in hard work, and educate myself on clean energy topics, which are vast and complicated. Formal education is key to success, as well as informal education such as working with mentors, being an unpaid intern if that is what it takes to get into the field of choice. Passive observation of people, asking questions and being willing to struggle through hard work may be necessary, because it can be the foundation in which to build my career. I’d tell myself it is okay to make mistakes and take risks, because eventually they become past memories and even stronger foundational intrinsic self-esteem builders. I’d remind myself to cherish the present moments versus always be striving “to get from A to B to C to D” without celebrating in between. Being too driven can rob oneself of living in the present.

How do you think C3E can encourage more women to pursue a career in clean energy?

The C3E organization is built on a firm foundation from a non-profit standpoint. Even more importantly, it is built on a culture and atmosphere steeped in encouragement of helping women find their place in the career of clean energy. There are so many facets of clean energy that no one person can be an expert in everything or every aspect; C3E is helping women find where they fit. C3E takes into consideration the diversity of age, race, culture and experience of women because they know one size doesn’t fit all. In addition, Colorado C3E leaders know the power of collaboration and partnerships. The foundation the Colorado C3E organization is founded upon should last the test of time.  I say to men and women — Get involved —there so are many ways to connect and engage!

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Annette “Net” Meredith

Net works for the City of Fort Collins and the
Institute for Market Transformation as an advisor through its City Energy Project grant. As the City Project Energy Advisor, Net helps with energy efficiency in commercial buildings, while tackling multiple projects to help lower energy consumption and increase awareness around the importance of saving energy. Formerly, she worked in energy efficiency for the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Department of Energy Western Area Power Administration as well as in Washington DC within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. As a Project Officer within the Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant program, Net worked with cities and counties in many of the Rocky Mountain states on their energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Net grew up in Bel Air, Maryland and moved to Fort Collins after college. Net moved back east for awhile and then returned to Fort Collins in 2014. Net holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and a M.S. in Sustainable Development from University of Maryland and a B.A. from University of Michigan in addition to post-bachelor’s coursework from Colorado State University. Net is also a Certified Energy Manager (CEM) and Certified Project Management Professional (PMP).

I want to help girls and women feel confident in any field that they pursue, especially those in which they are faced with challenges.

What’s the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome as a woman in your career?

During different jobs in my career I’ve been the only woman in the room at meetings and conferences and I’ve had to navigate those situations carefully to advocate for myself.

What are you proudest of in your career? What has been your biggest success?

My adaptability has allowed me to change fields as opportunities presented themselves and to learn new things quickly through these changes.

What do you want your legacy to be, whether in your workplace or in life?

I want to help girls and women feel confident in any field that they pursue, especially those in which they are faced with challenges. Outside of work, I coach girls lacrosse in Northern Colorado.  The girls I coach vary in ages from first to eighth grade and the overall goal is to help them to build confidence while learning to love the sport and adopting good sportsmanship along the way. By learning these skills early on, they grow into their adult lives as team players who can succeed in their careers.

What inspirational experiences do you have that you wish to share for women wanting to pursue clean energy as a career path?

There are so many women that are celebrated each year by national C3E ( based on their contributions to clean energy and a better world overall.  Reading their stories inspires me.

What new projects are you working on that you wish to share?

Currently, I am working on projects that aim to help business owners better track their energy use, to improve rental living conditions in Fort Collins through energy efficiency upgrades, and to improve public access to energy efficiency information.

What one thing would you change about your workplace in order to make it more equitable?

I would encourage more women engineers to join the team.

Thinking about what you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self?

For my younger self, my advice would be to not let anyone discourage you and to stay true to your original dreams.

How do you think C3E can encourage more women to pursue a career in clean energy?

C3E can encourage more women to pursue a career in clean energy by building networks and exposing women and girls to local employers. C3E also can help by  cataloging and demonstrating the breadth of jobs in clean energy workforce, so that women can find a place that suits them best. Worldwide you can take many things away from women and girls but you can never take away their education once they have it. And once they get a hold of education in the STEM fields, their potential contributions to advancing knowledge and technology are limitless. I am excited to help the C3E Initiative with its efforts to invite and retain K through Gray gals in the clean energy workforce.












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Emily Taylor

Emily is a member of the department of government affairs for Invenergy, a private sustainable energy company dedicated to creating clean energy consumption. Emily has recently graduated from Colorado State University with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Politics and Policy, in which during her time as a student worked as the Director of the Student Sustainability Center as well as the Communications Manager and Ambassador for the EcoCAR3 at the Energy Institute at Colorado State University. As an associate for Invenergy, Taylor assists the Government Affairs team from Denver by utilizing different communication strategies, project development and event planning for the Western half of America. Emily grew up in Larkspur, Colorado and was highly involved throughout her college career in Energy policy and production, including assisting with the Colorado State University Eco Leaders, portraying a role for the Student Sustainability Center and the School of Global Environmental Sustainability. 

There are many opportunities out there and there is bound to be something or someone that notices your passion and devotion to your interests, in which they will reward you for the hard work you have done.

What inspirational experiences/successes do you have that you wish to share with women wanting to pursue clean energy as a career path?

When I applied to become the Director of the Student Sustainability Center, I did not believe I would get the position until my doubt was lifted and I got the position. After the interview, I was relieved to have it over but highly believed that others were more qualified than I was to take up a student director position, especially with a school as big as the School of Global Environmental Sustainability. After getting the call that I received the position, I was shocked because of my mindset as soon as the interview was over. When people say expect the unexpected, I really believe that. For women wanting to begin their career path within clean energy consumption, getting involved is the first step. Go for what you don’t know. If something interests you, whether it be a job or even a club at your school, get involved. Involvement will help you grow your passions and interests, and make you want to reach your goals further.

How have your studies contributed to your eligibility to pursue clean energy as a career?

Getting involved was really the step I was trying to take to be apart of the campus community and find myself along the way. When I came to university, I was a Biology major. I changed my major up to four times until I really found the major I was genuinely interested in. My position at the Student Sustainability Center essentially created my passion for environmental affairs and made me think of the opportunities behind sustainable development for a clean growing future, hence why I graduated with a B.A. in Energy Policy. I think it is super important to get involved with what you are interested in, such as an internship or a student director position to really find what you enjoy to do. Practice makes perfect.

How would you like to see clean energy use and consumption evolve?

I grew up near Castle Rock, Colorado. I think this is what ignited a small flame for interest in clean energy, because whenever you drive around Castle Rock, people have their lifted diesel trucks emitting so much carbon dioxide that it’s black when it comes out of the exhaust. I remember seeing some of these trucks with my sister, and we would go on rants about how awful you have to be to do something like that instead of driving a hybrid. After learning more and more about sustainable energy policy and production and even being apart of the EcoCAR3 team during my senior year at CSU, clean energy consumption seems like an achievable goal. It is the way the world is moving as people grow more and more concerned for the future of our planet. People are switching to renewable alternatives, electric vehicles and more to dwindle their carbon footprints, and I want to see clean energy continue to evolve this way. Because I graduated with a B.A. in Political Science, it is incredibly hard to get everyone on the same page as you. However, as more and more people become educated on topics such as sustainability, I think it is an achievable goal to create a cleaner future for the sake of other generations. Evolution of clean energy is right at the start of moving entirely to a cleaner world, which is why it is so important to educate people on the fundamentals of energy consumption, and what it does to our planet overall. It is super important to keep the train going with clean energy, further educating yourself and others around you in order to evolve for the better.

Thinking about what you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self?

After graduating, I was extremely terrified that I would not obtain a job with my degree. I kept second guessing myself and my choice of studies, I even thought about going back to school just so I could get a degree in something that guarantees something like Construction Management. My advice to my younger self would be this: Stop worrying about where you are going, it is all about where you have been to get where you are today. There are many opportunities out there and there is bound to be something or someone that notices your passion and devotion to your interests, in which they will reward you for the hard work you have done. I am happy with what college has taught me and I am happy that I graduated with my degree because it has only made me grow as a woman within the clean energy world.

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