Tell us about yourself and your company: As President and CEO of Santa Rosa-based Ygrene Energy Fund, my role is to help the company achieve its goal of expanding access to energy efficiency and renewable energy nationwide. Ygrene’s energy finance programs provide capital for energy upgrades to both residential and commercial property owners at no upfront cost.
This year, we successfully launched Clean Energy Sacramento, a partnership with the city of Sacramento, which is now being extended across Sacramento County, more than tripling the economic and environmental benefits.
I am currently leading Ygrene through its national expansion process, establishing partnerships with seven municipalities in Miami-Dade County, Fla., plus Atlanta, Ga., and other municipalities across the country. Over the next five years, Ygrene is projected to place over $2 billion in clean energy finance into the marketplace, creating over 45,000 jobs and driving massive reductions in greenhouse gasses.
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?: There are two: First, surviving a 2012 U.S. Congressional run. Politics takes real fortitude!
And, second, successfully innovating Ygrene’s novel financing model, allowing us to bring hundreds of millions of dollars of sustainable financing into local communities for energy independence. We are very excited about the potential impact.
What is the achievement you are most proud of?: In addition my work in energy and the economy, I’m committed to building high-quality education for kids of all backgrounds, both here and abroad. I co-founded the Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology (CET) in the College of Engineering at UC, Berkeley that equips young engineers and scientists to become entrepreneurs and build innovative new ventures. I also serve on the board of Tripura Foundation which operates over 70 Learning Centers across India serving underprivileged youth.
What is your biggest challenge today?:Finding enough time for the various business and social impact projects I feel inspired to explore.
Words that best describe you: Committed to a better world
As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?: I’ve always felt that being a woman is a significant advantage. It has set me apart in style and substance from male colleagues. As a female chemical engineer, then technology entrepreneur and business executive, marrying an analytical mind with a deep empathy, caring heart and commitment to service is something unique in the workplace and the world. Women are very powerful leaders and bring insights, passion and relational skills that are critical to solving the very tough problems we face in so many sectors of society.
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?:We will need to see more women in the boardroom and in political office in order to successfully navigate the social, economic and environmental challenges we face as a region and country. It’s also time for a woman President.
Who was your most important mentor? And tell us a little bit about that person: My most profound mentor, a dear friend and teacher, taught me many years ago that, “the only enduring power is love.” You can rule over people by force, or gain temporary power through despotism, but the only true path to healing our planet and its people is through leadership sourced in love.
What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?: Be a goddess. Shine your power and passion into the world. Don’t be afraid to shake things up, question the status quo, paint bigger possibilities for people.
Most admired businessperson outside your organization: I admire entrepreneurs — the risk-takers and innovators who dream the next big thing and put themselves “out there” to make it happen. Being an entrepreneur takes courage and guts. I always try to help entrepreneurs when I can. They are the fuel for tomorrow’s breakthroughs in medicine, education, infrastructure, communication & technology, social systems.
Current reading: I love reading both esoteric mystical texts – Siva Sutras and Bhagavad Gita are two favorites – and quantum physics. I’m currently reading Stephen Hawking’s The Dreams that Stuff Are Made Of: The Most Astounding Papers of Quantum Physics and How They Shook the Scientific World given to me by Ygrene’s founder. To me, the mystics and scientists speak to the same underlying mystery of the human experience. Of course, I throw a few economic, business and political books onto the stack, too.
Most want to meet: Bill Gates. He’s on a mission to make a better world. I have some ideas I’d like to share.
Stress relievers: Yoga, meditation
Favorite hobbies: Building scale organizations that have meaningful social and financial impact.
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