A Positive Impact on People and the Planet: Why These Two Leaders Choose Careers in Clean Energy

Sponsored by Sunrun

Kelly Miller and Katherine Lee. Photo courtesy of Sunrun.

Kelly Miller and Katherine Lee. Photo courtesy of Sunrun.

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Fairygodboss
July 18, 2024 at 3:7PM UTC

Looking for a sales role where you can make a positive impact on society and the environment? If so, a career in the solar industry may be just the fit for you!

To learn more, we reached out to two leaders who are doing just that. The most rewarding part of working in clean energy is “the impact our products have on people and our planet,” shares Kelly Miller, the Senior Director – Enterprise Accounts at Sunrun, the nation’s leading clean energy company. “It feels good to make a difference in my professional life, as well as my personal life. How many people can say that their job helps save our planet?”

“I love working in the solar industry and the sustainability field because our intention is to help build a legacy for generations to come by protecting this beautiful planet we get to call home,” agrees Katherine Lee, Senior Sales Demand Manager in the Bay Area.

And Sunrun specifically is a great place for this type of work! “The reason why I love working at Sunrun is because we are a human-centered company,” says Lee. “I firmly believe that the more people you meet in our organization, the more you will find like-minded and, importantly, like-hearted people. What we do is help people grow out of a limited and lack mindset to a growth and gratitude mindset.”

“I also have to give a shout out to the amazing team we have at Sunrun,” Miller says. “Over the years, I have worked with fantastic people, many of whom have become some of my closest friends.”

Here, Lee and Miller share more about what it’s like to work in sales and solar, their career wins, and their top advice for those who are considering taking on a similar career path.

To start, how did you decide to join this field, and what made you join Sunrun?

Lee: It was a no brainer. I studied Sustainability in Denmark and got my degrees in Management & International  Business. When thinking about working in the sustainability industry, residential solar caught my eye. Choosing to be a part of Sunrun, the top residential solar company in the U.S., just made sense, especially with women leaders who are paving the way for the company. Both our founder and current CEO are amazing women who constantly inspire me.

Miller: I joined the industry after looking for a change. I had been a buyer for a medium-sized specialty sporting goods chain, and after going through chapter 11 bankruptcy and an acquisition, I wanted something completely different. I originally joined another solar company whose residential division was acquired by Sunrun.

When I joined the organization, we had less than 100 people. Now, we’re over 10,000. It’s been quite a ride — a journey that has lasted longer and been more fun than I ever expected.

Next, please tell us a bit about your current role. How long have you been in this role, and what’s your day-to-day like?

Lee: I was promoted into my Senior Sales Demand Manager role in January this year. My day-to-day work involves setting intentions with the district managers across the Bay Area so that we can make the best possible impact on our teams and community. We are constantly driving change to help people grow and deliver on our goals. 

Miller: I’ve been in solar for 17 years, and most of that time was spent managing retail programs and accounts, though I’ve taken on a few additional roles along the way. This is definitely a fast-paced industry, company, and role.  

My day-to-day job is nonstop, and it requires frequent reprioritization since I not only support the company I work for, but also represent the partners I support and am an advocate for the end customer.  I enjoy that I get to work cross-functionally, as my role touches sales, marketing, customer experience and resolutions, and operations — really every department within the organization. A standard day is usually spent with a mix of cross-functional meetings, connecting with partners, and working through initiatives to push the business forward.

Do you have any recent projects or accomplishments that you are particularly proud of?

Lee: I’ve always been big on developing internally, and I will always stay committed to growing people wherever I go and always leaving things better than I had it. This year, when celebrating my promotion, I was also able to see a team member, who I hired as a retail associate, be promoted into my previous role as a district manager in Hawai’i. I advocated for a higher pay for him as well as the entire Hawai’i retail team. Since taking the position in the Bay Area, we have promoted two associates into district manager positions. I’m also currently working on improving the leadership and experiences at all levels, from associate, to consultant, to district manager.

Miller: Looking longer-term, I’m super proud of the evolution and growth of Sunrun’s retail business. We were really the first residential solar company in retail, and arguably the one who has made it work over the long haul.

When growing your career at Sunrun, was there anything that surprised you?

Lee: We are pandemic-proof. Not only were we still operating, but there was an urgency to help households in our communities save on electricity costs and expenses when other businesses were having to close their doors. We even hit some new records.

Miller: I joined solar fairly early. It was definitely an industry that could be described as male-dominated, and some would likely still say that today. While women remain less represented, Sunrun has been led by two incredibly inspiring female CEOs. I’ve also had the opportunity to learn from and work alongside both of them as well as other great women. These women have helped empower me, and I’ve felt a ton of respect and support from my male colleagues, as well.

What traits/skills do you have that help you succeed in your industry?

Lee: I rely on being:

  • Vision-oriented,

  • Culture-centered,

  • Results-driven, and

  • Focused on talent development.

I also believe in our service and, most importantly, believe in the development of people. It's such an honor to help people reach their full potential.

Miller: 

  • I have a really strong work ethic and am super tenacious. Without solar knowledge or experience, there was a lot of learning that took place early on in my career. We were a small company at the time, so I was more of a generalist who had to step outside of my box to learn how everything fit together. I had great people around me who really supported me and helped teach me what I needed to know. Now, I have years of solar knowledge and experience. I think strategically at a high level, but can also get into the weeds when I need to.

  • My past retail experience as a buyer is also incredibly helpful in my role. I understand what it’s like to be in that seat, how they are measured, and what’s important to retailers. I love that I’m able to bring my past retail experience together with solar.

  • Last, I am incredibly committed to the care of our partners and the end customer.  I have an ability to put myself in their shoes, and I hold myself accountable to providing the best service.

What’s your No. 1 piece of advice for women looking to start a career in your industry?

Lee: Never give up. There are opportunities to grow in this industry if you stay committed, consistent, and celebrate your curiosity to grow. Just apply yourself. Your time will come, and there are amazing people here to support you! I would love to see more women in this industry lend their voice, dedication, and energy to such an amazing cause.

With the right mindset and actions, you can truly create anything you put your mind to. I encourage everyone to apply and lean into growing. 

Miller: There are a lot of different opportunities within solar. Find the path within the industry that fits your aptitude and talents, whether it’s sales, marketing, HR, legal, finance, policy, installation, or customer care — there are so many roles required to make this a success. Be sure to align yourself to a company that shares your values. And, when you get in, work to become a subject matter expert.

Finally, how has Sunrun supported you in your career?

Lee: Our company, leaders, teams, and the people who I have met at Sunrun have inspired me to go after my goals and have supported me throughout my entire journey. They’ve challenged me to make every scenario an opportunity to grow and showcase what’s possible.

I’ve also had the opportunity to give back time and time again in community projects like highway cleanups, planting trees, and making Genki balls to clean up the polluted Ala Wai on Oahu.  

Miller: Sunrun really invests in their people. They offer a variety of different development and education programs, and I’ve been able to learn and grow from those. I’ve also had the opportunity to work for some of the best people; more than anything, they’ve helped shape my career and who I am as a leader.



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