Solar Series: Post #1 – Call to Action from IDEAS Ambassador, Justin Vandenbroeck
Curiosity translated to opportunities, if persistence wasn’t kickin’ in, the opportunity slipped away.
For me, not many took that route…
When you’re new to an industry or sector, take advantage of it. If you’re a student, leverage your university’s network. Is there a student scholarship? Ask! Internship? Ask! Could you volunteer at a conference for free access? Ask! Better yet, pitch to the event coordinators when you figure out a mutually beneficial way to add value. Could you exchange freelance writing on the IDEAS Blog and shoot some photography off your iPhone for free access? Yes? Ok… Go write a blog post for the first time in your life! Take that step, whichever step, any step, left, right, both? Go for it.
Four years ago I found myself stepping foot onto a job site where a local solar company was installing a residential system. Myself, I had
minimal zero experience in construction nor renewables, simply interest. After all, I was studying engineering so I didn’t have to have that job. That ideology was quickly shattered as I came to the realization that every part of the solar industry was worth learning about. At the end of a summer installing solar PV, the owner recommended that I join Team Florida in the 2011 U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. Didn’t know much about designing a solar energy system or pitching for a free solar energy system, but hey, with some patient and encouraging folks, experiential learning led the way.
I ended up locking in SolarWorld, one of the largest U.S. solar panel manufacturers, to sponsor Team Florida. Next thing I know, I found myself at their HQ interviewing for a summer internship in California at the oldest solar panel manufacturing plant in the U.S. Someone in their leadership saw the stoke on my voice as I spoke about my passion for solar.
Perhaps the most humbling moment was when a manufacturing engineer who had been at the plant for 30 years told me, “young blood, you know nothing”… still don’t. But I’m dedicated to learning as much as I can.
Fueled with passion as the internship came to an end, I returned to my university, yearning, craving, hungry for more knowledge about the solar industry. Anyone within FSU’s network that was involved in energy, I wanted to meet them. Seminars, conferences, auditing classes, you name it; and as the law of attraction worked its magic, I got connected to an FSU-Alumni from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Following his presentation, I ran up to him, shared my passion and to the expense of his inbox, I eventually found myself interviewing for an internship doing communications and strategic writing in Washington D.C. Working a job far outside my experience and studies.
From public speaking engagements to research positions in FSU laboratories, leading clean energy rallies to guest lecturing at conferences and classrooms; the platform to volunteer, discuss and share my passions for solar energy became limitless.
As the solar industry grows at a 20% rate, please honor your passion and engage yourself in the field. There’s an incredible amount of opportunities. A curious, positive and proactive character could turn these small gigs into a full blown career in the industry. There’s no better time than now to join the solar coaster and transition your passion for change into a way to make a living.
Consider the Solar Series to be your inside look into opportunities and developments between IDEAS For Us and the Solar Industry. This industry has become who I am, not just what I do.