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!