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Julia Emerson, Vice-President at Hillcroft Group

Julia Emerson

"Thanks to the program and to networking with other participants, I know the basics of building efficiency and what else I can offer multifamily and school buildings to encourage people to go into clean energy, and what I need to do to help them take that next step."

How did the program build your knowledge and skills of clean energy?

I have a Master's in Environmental Management, but this program went further into the finance side and taught me more about the technical side than I had learned previously. In clean energy and environmental management degrees, we do science as well, but it was years ago, and things have changed a lot. I love learning the technology side, and the program helped give me the confidence to go out and look for new clients and dive into an area that I've wanted to go into for a long time, but just didn't have the knowledge behind it. It's like an extension of the environmental management course, in my opinion, a deep dive into finance. The program gave me what I needed to take that next step in my career. I also really enjoyed the guest speakers; some of them inspired and motivated me more than I thought I could be.

In which ways do you believe the program has enabled you to expand your network?

I love networking, and I'm keeping in touch with as many people as I can from the program because everybody has been very happy to share what they know; after all, it's for the betterment of everyone else. When I have a question on community solar I'll reach out to the cohort members who are in community solar; then, if I have a question on financing I'll reach out to the cohorts who are in financing, in green bank or other banks. Everyone has been really collaborative. Some people throughout the process changed jobs, so we've been trying to get together and have Zoom meetings to update each other on the latest or who's doing what now, and share their new company, or share what they're doing within their company because you never know when you might want to connect with someone, or when you might have a project that you can work on with someone else.

In what ways is the cohort diverse and how does that benefit your learning and career development?

It’s diverse because you have the technological and the business side of the cohort. I'm not on the technology side, and I'm not an engineer, but it's really good to talk to people who've actually done a project similar to what you're looking at from the business perspective. They can share the pros and the cons, or the lessons learned. Otherwise, you're just reading about it and if it's your first time going into it, you're probably going to make a lot of mistakes. The same goes for financing; I think the amount of experience this whole group brought to the table has been amazing and I've learned a lot. I'm more involved in building efficiency and not so much on the finance side or the large project side, but now I'm hopefully heading into the larger project side and now I’m able with the financing to take on bigger projects. I’ll often write to people and say, “can I pick your brain?” and other past participants love to share what they do and share their experiences. The same goes for me; if anyone has a question I'm always happy to connect them or answer any questions.

In what ways did you connect with your classmates through the weekly discussions or other tools? and what do you think the benefits are of that social aspect of the program?

We would frequently have discussions and you'd have to give your opinion based on a topic, conversation, or a video that you had just seen. It was always wonderful to see a different person’s perspective from a different country, or in Texas, the East Coast, the West Coast, in Africa or India; it all would work a bit differently, they would have a different problem or a different view. It was really helpful to hear different professional perspectives. Whether on the technological side or the finance side, you got to see everyone's professional roadblocks, and understanding the issues that different professions face in tackling the same problems is fascinating. I actually have saved a lot of those conversations because I like to read through them again. The discussions were really important in my opinion, and then the weekly webinar we had brought everyone together live; they always had very interesting people. I don't think there was one single webinar that I found boring and I go back to them. In terms of the social aspect, we were all on WhatsApp and people were always sharing anything that they had read or further thoughts on the discussions we’d had, and being together on that Thursday was also important. I think it was necessary to have that space. I think the program was very well designed.

What are the advantages of this program being online?

I love being online because I can do it from wherever I am. And the year that I started this program there was a lot of travel and so I wasn't always in one spot but if I had a laptop I could literally just put my headphones on and join my class. I think for a lot of people that was the case; a lot of people in this group traveled. It was very easy to do online at your own pace as well, you had a week to get the work done.

How has the program helped you with your current career success?

I've always known what I wanted to do, and it was finding the right way to learn how to do it or the connection or the network to do it. I do building performance and efficiency work, and one of my portfolios is multifamily units. The slowdown in that work that COVID has caused has given me time to network with my cohort and plan my next steps for going into community solar and do more work in affordable multifamily housing. Thanks to the program and to networking with other participants, I know the basics of building efficiency and what else I can offer multifamily and school buildings to encourage people to go into clean energy, and what I need to do to help them take that next step. Another cohort member and I have made a pitch to a large international school group offering to do building efficiency and ESG. With this program, I've been able to take a step back and see where I am and where I want to be, and now I'm doing it.

Why did you choose this program?

Another participant that I have presented with before told me about it. Finance is one of the reasons that a lot of people won't take the next step in their career, and I know I needed to understand how the financing world works; it's not my absolute strength. The program helped me figure out where to look and who to talk to stay current so that I can always update my clients. I have a “Christmas list” for everyone, in other words, “this is your building and this is where I'd love to take you, this is your budget, this is where I'm going to take you.” This is what the program has helped me do, it prepared me or helped prepare my clients for the next step, finding the best way to help my clients with their green initiatives by taking advantage of available incentives and financing.

Who would you recommend this program to and why?

I have recommended it to several people who were directors of nonprofits who work in clean energy or energy poverty, anyone who wants to do community solar for sure. I think this is a great program for anyone who wants to progress in clean energy. It's not just because of the fantastic lectures, because we have really good teachers and guest speakers; it's also because of the network that you gain throughout those. They bring all these different types of people together. It's not just the finance department or the engineers who are going to put it together, it's everyone working together. This program is for anyone who wants to truly understand the whole process and also know where to find information in the future. It's not just what I learned in the program, it's more what I've taken from the program--the tools I have been given from the program to keep doing what I do and do it better.

Everyone can do this program. I'm a mother, I'm working full-time and dealing with a child at school. So everyone has to figure out what their pace is and how they're going to handle it. Some people can literally spend all day Saturday because they're not married with children, so they can sit down and get it done. Other people like me have to do bits and pieces when we can throughout the week. So just pace yourself and know your limits. The program was really well thought out; I’m grateful that they picked me.


Want to learn more about the program?

Intrigued?  Want to learn more?  Find detailed information about the Financing and Deploying Clean Energy certificate program here or reach out to us at