GRID's "How I Got Here" Series: Ashley Perez


March 24, 2018


A person with body harness and helmet gear on over a shirt and jeans displays a solar panel on an elevated surface, with someone else doing work
Since she joined our team less than three years ago, Ashley Perez has shaped all the different aspects of the culture here to make us better at what we do and how we do it.

This is the latest in a series of regular profiles introducing the GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles staff. In their own way, each member of our team brings a passion for renewable energy to the day-to-day work of Los Angeles' most socially-minded solar company. Here's how one of them got to that point: Ashley Perez, Executive Assistant/Office Manager.

As Executive Assistant to Michael Kadish and Office Manager at the Greater Los Angeles location of GRID Alternatives, Ashley Perez has the tall task of making sure a not-for-profit solar program just over a decade old has everything in place for it to thrive. During a typical day in Ashley's position, though, that could start with a minor self-care act that tends to her own needs: coffee. Before the rolling front gate of GLA fully opens up in the morning, Ashley might be changing a filter upstairs and starting a batch of caffeine—brewing for herself, but leaving enough for the rest of the staff, too. After that coffee, it's a usual weekday of managing Executive Director appointments, reviewing the calendars, and making sure that support is available.

The need to move gracefully from coffeemaker to calendar to something else entirely different is a mirror of what Ashley thinks makes solar "worth it": GLA's programs are focused not just on one outcome pursued with blinders, but on a triple bottom line. "I would say that triple bottom line – people, planet, and employment – shows that we're an organization committed to multiple things," Ashley writes. It takes the highest level of organization on her and other people's part to intermesh solar installation for low-income people with a nuanced and evolving social change mission. But that's the right way to develop an organization in a community like Los Angeles. "We want to do our work in an ongoing, sustainable way," she notes, "not just come into communities, fix things, and 'bounce.'"

When Ashley considers the next chapter of this cause's development, she's specific about mentioning that elevating our women's initiative is integral to the GLA agenda. To the extent that such elevation might involve networks of support – encouraging solar women to vigorously advocate for their own career success, and mentoring other women at work – she's got the experience and perspective necessary to make it happen. Women Who Submit is the name of a local and online organization that engages women-identified writers on the road to publication (and demands a safe space for women to do this). Ashley has a role in its leadership.

Having her established voice in a space that tackles women's issues within another industry that's historically had gender imbalance really prepared Ashley to think about an equitable solar movement. At our regional office, she's the GLA Equity Project Manager, meaning she's part of a two-year-old team that makes sure our staff "walks the walk" with regard to company values. Still, Ashley knows that everyone employed at GRID Alternatives is actually an active participant in equity, and that means distributed leadership. For those who might be newer to their activism, she has resources: a documentary night that they could attend, a discussion forum, or just the opportunity to reserve some time with Michael and discuss what feels right at the moment. It's a little bit of human resources and a little bit of magic: "As an office manager and an executive assistant, my job is to help every department get what they need to make their jobs flow smoothly."

Now in her third year growing the operations of the GLA crew, Ashley sees complexity as an ineradicable part of success. "Our departments have to work in tandem with each other, and if one part breaks down the rest can't work well. It's challenging, but in a good way, to constantly be sure their needs are met without disruptions to the process." When it's all gone correctly in the past – when the machine of GLA hums – she's seen what the impact looks like in some of the same cities where she's spent the last few decades of her personal life. (She grew up in Torrance, where we install lots of residential solar; she later finished a Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing program through Antioch University in southwest Los Angeles County, a school which places an emphasis on curriculum integrating social justice.) When Ashley turns thirty years old later in 2018, it will also be the year that GRID Alternatives helps its 10,000th California family go solar.

Making progress towards the completion of her novel, Ashley really came to writing in her later teens and once worked professionally in the operations of a law office, a substance abuse rehabilitation center, and even a mall. And while she didn't expect renewable energy to be big part of her early adulthood, it's not a case of mistaken fit. The people with whom she's surrounded herself would largely agree that energy justice is an intersectional line of work: one that recognizes interplay of privilege and oppression related to class, gender, sex, and our many other identities. As an artist who holds herself to writing a thousand words a day, and as an engaged person working for change, the responsibility she's assumed for herself as a nonprofit's "Office Manager" is ultimately an intersectional responsibility that requires her voice be loud and ensures that everyone hears the voices of others.

Nowadays, the number of voices at GLA has now swelled to thirty-six. Since she does something no one else in the house is quite as well-equipped to do – hold a team together as it does its best work – Ashley more than deserves that cup of caffeine that starts her stint on the clock at GLA every morning. The good news is that she has more than enough coffee, spread throughout her day, to keep up with the ambitious things she'd like to accomplish with ambitious people. The other good news: Ashley's apartment in Chinatown has a sympathetic listening ear in the form a large Maine Coon cat named Chewbacca.