Each quarter, we sit down with female leaders in the solar industry to learn more about their paths to success, their careers, and we ask for their advice to our network. This quarter, we sat down with Nicole Litvak, Solar Analyst at GTM Research. Nicole has been an avid supporter of WISE, and even helped WISE to launch our SheSpeaks Solar program in 2014. Here’s what she had to say.
How did you get into the solar industry?
I first became interested in renewable energy from my college classes. I was really interested in solar hot water after studying abroad in Israel; almost every home there has a solar water heater. I wanted to bring that technology back to the U.S. and my college campus, so I ended up spending the majority of my senior year leading a project to get a solar hot water system installed. That’s how I knew I wanted to start my career in solar.
Tell us about how you started at Greentech Media.
As I mentioned, I knew I wanted to work in solar. I also liked the idea of a consulting role that would allow me to work with a lot of different companies and learn about the industry. I was lucky enough to find a position at GTM that combined those things, and have been here for 3 years. I started as a Research Associate working on a number of different areas including global markets, the U.S. market, and manufacturing. Now, as an Analyst, I focus primarily on the U.S. downstream market. I cover the competitive landscape of players in distributed solar, and I am the manager of the U.S. PV Leaderboard, which tracks market shares of installers and equipment suppliers in the residential and commercial markets. I also write individual reports on those markets.
What are you most proud of about working at GTM Research?
I am most proud that GTM Research has become the leading provider of market intel on the U.S. solar industry, and I’ve been a part of building up that segment of our research practice. Specifically, I’ve had the chance to shape our coverage of the residential solar landscape, and now I’m starting to do the same for the commercial market, which is an extremely tough nut to crack.
Greentech Media has been very involved with WISE. You have also been very influential in shaping our SheSpeaks Solar program [which helps to get women speaking at solar conferences]. How did you become involved?
GTM has always had a hard time recruiting female speakers for conferences, as I know many other conferences do too. A lot of event organizers get criticized for this, but because there are so few women in senior positions, it is always harder for us to find qualified women to speak. To solve this, we need to get more women in executive roles in the first place so this can be a non-issue for conference organizers.
In the meantime, we came up with an idea to find more female speakers. GTM’s Director of Solar Research, MJ Shiao, once joked that we needed a binder full of women [to get more speakers at our conferences]. I thought that would be a great initiative for WISE and reached out to them with the idea [which later became SheSpeaks Solar]. We are now working with WISE to get more women to speak at our conferences.
I also love the events WISE has started planning at solar conferences and trade shows, like the breakfast they held at our Solar Summit in April. Ahmad Chatila from SunEdison spoke, and it showed what companies can be doing to hire more women in solar in the first place.
Do you have any advice for women starting a career in the solar industry or looking to transition?
I would encourage women trying to get into solar, especially younger women looking for entry level positions, to not worry about knowing enough about the solar industry to go for a position. For a lot of positions that we hire for at GTM, we are looking for more general skills rather than knowing a lot about solar. The industry changes so quickly all of the time, so it’s a constant learning process anyway.
I think it’s also on female leaders to try to be role models for other women in the solar industry. At many of these Women in Solar events, it tends to be a lot of younger, eager women who are trying to grow in their careers. It would be helpful to have more female CEOs and executive participants at these types of events, since a lot of us would like to hear from women who are leading a company or starting a company. They have a responsibility to be role models.
Anything else that we should know?
GTM is hiring! We are currently seeking an Analyst and an Account Manager, both for our solar research team. You can send resumes directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. And of course we’re always looking for promising female candidates.
We are also starting to recruit speakers for our U.S. Solar Market Insight Conference (November in San Diego) and Energy Storage Summit (December in San Francisco). Please send ideas for possible speakers to email@example.com.