Recently I had the chance to connect with Alexandra Harbour, the Associate Program and Operations Manager at Powerhouse. Co-Founded by CEO Emily Kirsch and Danny Kennedy, Powerhouse is one of the cooler things I’ve come across in the clean energy space. An incubator and accelerator for solar startups, Powerhouse provides connections and resources while offering a tight knit, mission-driven community to solar entrepreneurs aiming to change the world. Having visited Powerhouse a few times now for happy hours and the like, I can attest it feels like an inspiring place where great things are happening. In fact, Mosaic, the largest solar lender in the US, is a Powerhouse alum, so they are clearly doing something right. As for Alex, it seems like her job is a perfect opportunity for a young clean energy leader to learn, grow and challenge herself while connecting to all of the right people. Sounds like a great experience and I think you will agree. Check out some of her thoughts below. Enjoy!
Name, Title and Organization
Alexandra Harbour, Associate Program and Operations Manager, Powerhouse
Educational Background (e.g., college, major, any graduate school or additional certifications)
B.A. in Economics with a Minor in Sustainable Energy from Boston University
How do you stay informed on your sector?
WSJ, Greentech Media, Elena Lucas’ Bay Area Event Calendar
What does a typical day look like in your current role? What are your primary responsibilities?
I describe the role that I adopted at Powerhouse as one with big shoes and a lot of hats. As with any fast-growing startup, a typical day revolves around whichever deadlines are most pressing. My responsibilities include strategizing and coordinating our Accelerator Programming, managing the three floors of co-working space that comprise our Incubator, and conducting research to identify new pipelines for recruiting solar+ entrepreneurs, startups, and talent. More recently, I’ve had the opportunity to play a supporting role in a grant application, which has been an incredible learning experience.
Why did you first want to work in renewable energy / clean technologies?
My introduction to the new energy industry and more specifically distributed energy resources was relatively serendipitous. During my time in university I was fascinated by the role of energy as a global commodity, and its impact on culture, the environment, and economic growth. I was fortunate enough to work under professors and supervisors who granted me the tools and the freedom to explore synergies between these areas. After being exposed to the impact of entrepreneurship on progress and innovation in the new energy industry, I knew that I wanted to be involved in that evolution on a ground level. The community at Powerhouse is the best place for myself and many others to achieve this goal.
What are your two favorite aspects of your job?
The people and the mission. The solar industry and the new energy industry as a whole are a roller coaster (lovingly referred to by those who have fallen too deep into industry jargon as the ‘solar’ coaster). Amidst constant changes and uncertainty, the level of determination, adaptability, and collaboration I’ve seen since joining the industry is a constant inspiration.
If someone was interviewing for your role, or a role like yours, what would they need to demonstrate in the interview to give themselves an advantage?
Hustle, adaptability, curiosity, and passion. Explore your interests, hone your talents, identify an area of specialization that plays to your strengths, and be bold. I landed my current role at Powerhouse after attending a solar conference as a recent grad, dropping my resume off in the lobby, and communicating/interviewing with the team over the span of the next four months. The process taught me the importance of follow-through, the possibility and reality of rejection, and the value of fully dedicating myself to a task or scenario.
To perform your job well, what is the most necessary skill or personality characteristic, and why?
Positivity. For so many reasons, positivity is one of the most useful skills that I’ve developed during my time at Powerhouse. It’s a state of mind, a means of interaction, and the only way to move the energy industry, the nation, and the world forward.
What is the one bit of advice you would offer a young person hoping to break into renewable energy / clean technologies?
Do your research. The energy industry is so vast—are you looking to be in policy, science and R&D, or business? Distributed or centralized energy? For the developed or for developing nations? Are you interested in hardware or software? What aspects of energy production and consumption interest you (generation, storage, inverters, rate structures)? Having the answers to these questions in mind as you look for potential roles in the industry can help you reach your goals.
What is something you have learned in your job that surprised you?
How much there is to know (and likely how much I’ll never know) about energy.
Other than the focus of your work, which realm (technology, geography, or other) of renewable energy / clean technologies is particularly interesting to you right now and why?
Recently I’ve become more interested in energy rate structures– mainly the mechanisms that determine energy prices, and how those prices incentivize demand. As more people look to adopt distributed energy resources, effectively valuing and integrating these new sources into our existing grid has and will continue to become increasingly important.
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than a paycheck, what would it be?
Thanks Alex! Keep up the great work!