Katie Neal knows her way around a solar electric system. After earning her Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering, she launched her career working as a residential and commercial solar designer with SolarCity. But after spending the first part of her career behind a desk, she recently elected to shift to a more hands-on focus.
Now she has the opportunity to get up on the roof each day as GRID Alternatives North Valley’s newest SolarCorps Construction Fellow under the national AmeriCorps program, with additional support from Pacific Gas & Electric Company.
“What drew me to construction is that I was always telling people what we were going to install but I didn’t have any personal, hands on experience with it,” Katie said. “I thought gaining that experience would not only be interesting and fun to do, but make me a better designer and kind of round out what I know about solar.”
As a woman who has worked in traditionally male-dominated fields for her entire career, Katie is also committed to increasing gender diversity in the workplace. She feels that the most important way to create an environment that is amenable to the participation of women in the solar workforce stems from providing opportunities for confidence-building.
“Training is the number one thing. Before I ever go out and do something hands-on, I want to know what I’m doing and have an overview of it. A lot of women don’t want to jump in and possibly make a mistake or waste material. Training definitely increases comfort and confidence.”
We are thrilled to have Katie as an integral member of our team. Her bright smile, spirit to take initiative, sharp mind, and understanding of mechanical and electrical complexities are great assets to the cause of making renewable energy technology accessible to community members of all stripes in California’s North Valley.