Serena started working at GRID Alternatives Central Coast in 2012, back when GRID’s office locations were solely located on the West Coast. When GRID launched its Mid-Atlantic office in D.C. in 2014, she jumped at the opportunity to move across the country and join the team. “At the time, I was a Construction Assistant and there were no job openings to become a Solar Installation Supervisor in the Central Coast office. I really wanted to stay with GRID – I love the mission and the people I work with inspire me every day,” she says. Now, over two years after she moved to the East Coast, she has seen GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic grow from two employees to more than twenty. With many promotions under her belt, from starting as a SolarCorps Fellow to being a Project Manager, Serena knows a lot about what it takes to be successful in the solar industry.
Rozina is a world traveler. She studied abroad in Senegal, completed a research trip to India as a Fulbright Scholar, and received her Master of Science degree in Environment and Sustainable Development from the University College London. Rozina is actively involved in the environmental scene in DC. She is a Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI) fellow, an active member of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and a volunteer at Common Good City Farm. She also is a yoga instructor and teaches religious education at her religious community center in Virginia. Starting as the solar Outreach Coordinator, Rozina is now the Outreach Manager.
What attracted Sienia most to the organization was the mission to help the community. “A large number of African-Americans, especially in DC, have been impacted by our services and that to me is the best part of working at GRID,” says Sienia, a first generation U.S. citizen whose mother moved from Liberia to the US on a college scholarship. Sienia’s expertise and ability to keep her cool in stressful situations keep others around her calm and collected. She previously worked as a facilitator developing programs for youth. Now, as a Workforce Coordinator, Sienia’s day-to-day involves forming partnerships with job training organizations, and bringing job trainees into GRID’s day-to-day to expose young DC residents to a new, quickly growing solar industry.
In honor of International Women’s Day, we sat down with these three talented GRID women, Serena, Rozina, and Sienia, and asked them a little bit about themselves.
Serena: “Have confidence. Having confidence in your ability and your knowledge is half the battle. Enter a job or an interview knowing that no job is out of your reach. Maybe you don't have the exact qualifications for the specific job, but attitude, effort, and hard work can really be the biggest asset in hiring people in the industry.”
Rozina: “From joining listservs to attending networking events to tuning into podcasts, there are so many opportunities for women to learn, and connect with other women in the solar industry. As the industry is continuing to grow, there are plenty of ways for women to enter the solar industry and learn from other women.”
Sienia: “I would advise women in the solar industry to be comfortable and confident in their abilities and skills as it relates to their careers. I think that depending on your role in the industry, there may be different perceptions of who you are and what you can contribute, but if you always put your best foot forward, your skills can't be denied.”
What advice would you give your 15-year old self?
Serena: “Be adventurous. Don't be afraid to try new things. Don't let others or yourself discourage you from trying things you have a passion for. You should do what you enjoy and don't let preconceived notions of certain jobs and activities discourage you from trying them.”
Rozina: “Find a mentor - someone who you admire and can help guide you as you navigate your academic and career interests.”
Sienia: “Network and participate more. I always preferred to observe more than I spoke and realized that I wouldn't be able to share a lot of my ideas if I didn't speak up without being called on first.”
What has been the biggest obstacle you have faced in your life, and how did you overcome it?
Serena: “Moving to DC and helping establish the construction department for the Mid-Atlantic office.. In the beginning, we had an empty warehouse and office now it’s bustling with people. I had to learn to organize, be creative, be flexible and share ideas with coworkers to help begin our Mid-Atlantic GRID journey.”
Sienia: “I feel like I'm still in the process of overcoming the biggest obstacle in my life which would be reaching my full potential and providing for my family the way I would like to.”
What is it like being a woman in the solar industry?
Serena: “I feel so overjoyed that I get a chance to work every day doing something I love with like-minded people. I hope in the future I can be a mentor, just like the women that have encouraged and helped me grow in the industry.”
Rozina: “Because clean energy has the potential to lower our greenhouse gas emissions significantly, I am thrilled to be a part of the solar industry. For a long time, white men dominated the industry, but that is changing and it is exciting to be a part of that change. It is especially great to work at GRID Alternatives, an organization that attracts people committed to environmental and social justice and does not discriminate against women, different ethnicities, and formerly incarcerated individuals.”
Sienia: “It's awesome!"