Many younger professionals working today have had a hard time in jumpstarting their careers. For all the talk of coddled millennials, many graduated into the worst job market in decades with significant student debt and facing the kind of industry disruptions that tend to result in mass layoffs amid serious fundamental skills mismatches.
It is arguable that the energy sector has been the exception to that rule, and that the expansions in renewable energy (since dimmed, perhaps temporarily), in energy efficiency and technology (still enjoying rude health) and shale plays in oil and gas (growing like gangbusters) have attracted young people to the sector in droves or the first time in years.
While New York is no longer home to traditional giant energy firms, the decentralized and partnership nature of energy’s future, combined with its reputation as a global leader in services, technology, finance and design make it a natural home for young people looking to start a long and fruitful career in the sector. Whether designing advertising campaigns, building data sets for energy use or financing groundbreaking new generation technologies, the scope for partaking in the energy business in New York is huge.
For years energy sector CEOs have fretted about the coming cliff of retirements, as baby boomers begin to leave the workforce. They worry that their sector hasn’t done enough to attract the most talented students, and that one of the largest and most important components of the US economy might suffer as a result. In the end, the economic contraction may have done their job for them, leaving talented people eyeing the energy business for ways they can contribute.
New York City is flooded with young people each year, coming from across the country and around the world to attend its leading universities or try to make their way in the US’ largest city and most high-profile business environment. “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere” sang Frank Sinatra and Breaking Energy worked with the New York Energy Week leadership to identify those young people in energy who are already making it here in the energy business, and who show every sign of staying on as leaders as their careers evolve.
Young New York Energy Leaders
Names are listed alphabetically
Energy Solutions Forum
Anyone involved even marginally with New York Energy Week has grown to admire the drive and detail orientation of Energy Solutions Forum’s co-founding partner Bjorklund. She is that unusual combination of a marketing professional, a startup veteran and an energy expert. She was in commodities sales trading at Macquarie, then joined another former Macquarie power trader as the first hire at Viridian. There she was the director of operations before moving into marketing and developed marketing strategy for the retail power provider. Viridian grew to several hundred thousand retail customers during her tenure as she helped launch operations in 7 states.
Co-founder and CEO
Urban Green Energy
When New York Energy Week’s leadership reached out seeking nominations for young energy leaders, Blitterswyk’s name came up over and over. Blitterswyk literally grew up on a nature reserve on stunning Vancouver Island, and brings an infectious conviction to his speaking engagements and media appearances on behalf of Urban Green Energy, which has diversified rapidly into wind turbine design, remote monitoring electronics and site assessment and planning platforms, among other projects. The Manhattan-based firm has leveraged partnerships to become an industry presence only five years after its founding in 2008.
Project Manager Energy and Sustainability Services
Jones Lang LaSalle
It is unusual to meet someone who can get an energy-focused conference crowd excited about trash disposal, but as a consultant for Waste Management Sustainability Services Davis attracted attention at New York events through her compelling and creative insights into cross-disciplinary approaches to sustainability and energy. Building on her experience as an architect after completing one of the country’s top architecture programs – followed by a Columbia University masters degree – Davis just completed her first year in a new role at real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle.
Julien Dumoulin Smith
Working as an analyst at an investment bank has been a traditional stepping stone to leadership positions in finance and beyond, so it was no surprise that one of the sector’s leading power analysts received firm support from nominators for New York Energy Week’s young leaders. Dumoulin-Smith’s research puts hard numbers on often vague and hard-to-assess trends in the power business, and his timely forecasts have made utility executives jump at news of the latest shift in his thinking. His strong numbers background from his Columbia University days is underpinned by a triple minor that included economics, political science and environmental engineering.
Founder and President
The future of work is widely held to be entrepreneurial and based in partnerships to accomplish the complex projects a technologically sophisticated ‘smart’ economy requires. If so, Frank should have no problems: he is hard at work expanding his own startup after garnering praise in business development roles at C3 Energy and Efficiency 2.0. A Harvard grad, Frank has been called the “consummate sales professional,” a talent set that will come in handy as Sealed – which relies on smart design and innovative interactions with ratepayers to simplify energy bills and easily identify cost-saving improvements.
NYC Economic Development Corporation
Gilford’s active role in promoting the best of New York cleantech on social media means that many people in the energy sector feel they know him, and his work on behalf of the city’s emerging energy leadership, even when they haven’t met him. His accomplishments and name recognition meant many were surprised to find out this holder of a 2007 Yale MBA wasn’t yet boasting multiple decades of sector experience. He has a command of the numbers from time spent in finance at GE, and in nearly four years of leading clean technology, energy and entrepreneurship in New York City has helped transform the city’s reputation to one of the globe’s new technology hotspots.
NYC EnergyTech Program Manager
Two years ago Hochman joined New York State’s Industrial Technology Assistance Program as an associate and became an essential member of the team. He received particular attention from New York Energy Week leadership and nominators for his role in managing a technology accelerator program in NYC called the Cleantech Open. He built a base in local and city politics before bringing his talents to the cleantech sector and is a member of many of the city’s still-forming energy coalitions. Already juggling multiple priorities, Hochman can expect demands on his time to only grow as the energy sector in New York continues to expand.
NYSERDA EDGE Regional Outreach Contractor
Jayanthi is one of those young energy leaders who always seems to be everywhere. At events around New York, on leading energy sites and in discussions with city energy bosses her name comes up over and over. In addition to acting as a special advisor for New York Energy Week, she has educated and provided assistance to New York City’s homeowners, business and the public on energy efficiency and renewable resources as Senior Energy Smart Communities Coordinator at Solar One Energy Connections, and took on her most recent role as Solar One NYSERDA EDGE Regional Outreach Contractor in February 2013. She is a member of the Manhattan Borough President’s Office Go Green Steering Committee and a board member for the NY Association for Energy Economics.
Senior Fellow for Energy and Environment
Council on Foreign Relations
CFR has proved the jumping-off point for many star careers, and Levi has made its published energy and environment commentary lively and attention-getting while remaining as thoughtful and as influential in powerful circles as ever. Levi’s comparative fame as the author of multiple books and and articles make his inclusion on the young list seem almost unfair to other entrants, but his work has set him up as a role model for many of the city’s early-career energy professionals, who track his active social media presence and regular speaking engagements with something approaching fandom.
NYC ACRE at NYU Poly
New York Energy Week was born in large part at the downtown startup incubator NYC ACRE, part of the office of innovation development run by one of New York’s heavyweight educational groups and backed in part by the state’s energy research authority. As anyone running the framework for a collective group of ambitious startups could attest, keeping an incubator on track and organized enough to create meaningful results is a job that requires dedication, attention to detail and a willingness to jump in and help with projects that are probably not part of the job description. Wheeler, who brings both private sector experience from GE and public sector leadership from the Department of Energy to her role, is known both at ACRE and across town as always helpful, creatively resourceful and fast to turn decisions into action.
Various Disclaimers: Peter Gardett is the Founding Editor of Breaking Energy and a board member of New York Energy Week. The lists compiled as part of Breaking Media’s partnership with New York Energy Week would give his old statistics professor a seizure, as they have been put together with an emphasis on the qualitative but an effort to acknowledge where multiple nominations identified initially unlikely candidates or left initially nominated leaders unsupported. Essentially, Breaking Energy and ESF spoke to a lot of people and applied our editorial judgement and decades of experience to highlight leaders we thought deserving as part of New York Energy Week. Please tell us how right or wrong we were in the comments.