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Filtering by Tag: Hiring

Speaking Truth to Power

Gregg Dixon

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"Can you give me an example of when you've 'spoken truth to power' either in your professional or personal life and what that experience was like?" That's the final question Matt and I ask any candidate wanting to be part of the Voltus team. If you’re asked that question, you’re an incredibly strong candidate. Answer it well and you receive an offer. Answer it poorly and - despite whatever other credentials you have - we are forced to pass.

Why is it so important to us? There are four reasons:

  1. We want to hire people who are more bright, more gritty, and more good than us. That's really hard to know unless they're the kind of person willing to tell the CEO and President what they're really thinking: about our good ideas, our half-baked ideas, or our bad ideas. And, boy, can we come up with some bad ideas! Those willing to speak truth to power are bright – they bring a solution and not just a problem – they are gritty – they have an inner drive to champion a better way – and they are good – they speak truth to power (understanding that we must all bring out each other’s best) especially to those with a responsibility to lead.
     
  2. The only way we get better as a team is by coaching each other constantly and bringing a better solution to the table every day. We built a company around a strong vision, a strong set of values, and a strong offer for customers. Yet, we know all of it is flawed, much like an artist might cringe at their painting despite countless hours toiling over the final brush strokes of its completion. At the risk of parodying ourselves a la this week’s episode of “Silicon Valley,” we embrace the concept of radical candor (challenging directly, caring personally) because it is consistent with our values of love and compassion. When you meet a person who is willing to put their own neck on the line to help you be better, that's a special someone.
     
  3. Our product, demand response, is a product that speaks truth to power. It is the demand side of a supply/demand market equation that has traditionally and heavily favored supply resources - large central power plants (e.g., nuclear, coal) that also have an outsized voice in energy markets and regulatory arenas. These forces run deep at regional transmission operator (RTO) forums, within state PUCs/PSCs, and at the federal level where incumbent resources are often propped up despite being obsolete. We are the folks who spearheaded and won the FERC 745 battle at the Supreme Court of the United States. The grit and determination, the willingness to speak truth to power, that it took to wage a battle with odds of winning being less than 1% (knowing it was the right battle to fight) is what we look for in a Voltan.
     
  4. Our prospective customers are generally of two types: never heard of demand response or they've been doing it for years. Those who have never heard of it require us to be vocal proponents of doing something differently that delivers cash to their bottom line. Those who have been doing it for years often think they're getting the most dollars from their participation. In both instances, we need our team to stick their toe in the door to evangelize why that customer should work with Voltus before that door is shut in their face. People who shy away from rejection or conflict don't last long in that environment. They're willing to challenge conventional thinking or experiences.

If you want to be a Voltan, you need to be really good at speaking truth to power. You need to be a vocal champion for ideas worth spreading. You need to stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves. You need to be the kind of person willing to punch a bully in the nose. You see your role in the world as an agent of positive change and you're ready to get into the arena and go to battle for it.

Please share your experiences speaking truth to power in the comments below or send us an email with your thoughts on the topic.

Gregg and Matt

Wanted: Women in Cleantech

Gregg Dixon

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Recently I was in a meeting with four other women and it was embarrassingly notable. I've long ago stopped noticing when I am in a meeting with four men, so why should four women catch my attention? The answer of course is that this was a rare occurrence.  Ask any woman in cleantech and she'll tell you she's more often than not the only female in the room. I will admit that in the past I used do things like wear my glasses, put my hair back, wear a button-up shirt - essentially I was trying to blend in, so I wouldn't be perceived or judged in any way beyond my professional contributions. These were physical adjustments, rather than what I believe are more appropriate behavioral ones. Women should speak up more, say sorry less, demand what they want, and stop caveating. We need to fight the gender gap in cleantech, and encourage more women to enter, stay in, and become leaders in this amazing field. 

Ironically, the clean energy industry is one of the best opportunities to have a positive influence in the world. It impacts everyone, and getting it right makes our planet better. It is exciting, fun, and has a positive social impact . . . something that women rank very highly when considering their careers. Sadly, many still believe inherent biological reasons exist that make men better suited for STEM careers than women. Absurd . . . yes, but the argument boils down to this: if 30 applicants apply for a position and only 4 of them are female, odds are that the best candidate for the job is male . . . and doesn't every company just want to hire the best? What this is missing, however, is that the industry has a pipeline problem. The problem isn't that a company might select one of the 26 males as the best candidate for the position - the problem is that the company didn't do more up front on the issue that only 13% of their candidates in the pipeline were women to begin with. 

At Voltus, we know we need to proactively recruit female candidates . . . the male candidates come to us easily. This is because, not surprisingly, our professional networks represent the existing industry bias - sitting at just 23% female, so we need to actively manage against this in order to avoid perpetuating the problem.  We have done dramatically more direct outreach to female candidates, recruited directly through university networks (which have closer to even ratios), and posted and networked within female-based industry groups. We've done a decent job of improving the number of female candidates we attract, but we need to do much, much better.  

We seek creative new ways to build out our pipeline of female candidates . . . this post itself is written to raise this issue and attract female candidates. Please share your stories, feedback, and advice with us, send this around to your female friends and colleagues, and come talk to us! 

Dana Guernsey - Vice President of Market and Business Operations, Voltus, Inc.

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The Search for "Good"

Gregg Dixon

Credit: Boston Red Sox, Facebook

Credit: Boston Red Sox, Facebook

(Hint: It's Easy to Find Bright and Gritty)

We’re off and running (or, in our case, saving our customers money) at Voltus, having just been awarded an opportunity to provide 50 MWs of demand response in connection with Pennsylvania Act 129. As such, we’re hiring. Hiring is the ultimate on-the-job training; you can’t learn how to hire in school. Gregg and I have directly hired hundreds of people over the last decade. Most succeeded. Many started their own company. Many more became CEOs, Chief Commercial Officers, VPs of Sales or Engineering, CMO's, and product leaders at other successful companies. Of course, we made plenty of mistakes along the way, too, which has helped us refine our criteria for picking teammates. This post will explain who we look to hire, and why, with an emphasis on the element most difficult to spot: good. We know that if we follow our formula of hiring well, and provide a winning vision to the team, Voltus is guaranteed to be successful.

In short, we hire people who are bright, gritty, and good. We hire bright because energy markets are complicated and because you just can't train for raw intelligence. We hire gritty because there’s no substitute for hard work, for passionate perseverance, for self-initiative, for commitment, for a need to finish the job. We hire good because we want to be surrounded by human beings who make us better people. Bright + gritty, without good, is a bad combination (think Enron, for example) and, what's more, our culture loves to celebrate winning. Nobody likes celebrating with a jerk.

But what exactly is “good”? We provide the Voltus definition below. In addition, and importantly, we recognize that “good” people sometimes work for bad companies. We feel a deep responsibility to ensure that our “good” people at Voltus are supported, challenged, respected, and rewarded. We’ll explain how we’re doing our best to ensure that Voltus personifies good.

Defining Good

Future Hall of Famer Theo Epstein brought a World Series to Boston (after an 86 year drought) and may just do the same in Chicago (the Cubs’ drought extends back to 1908). Theo believes in “scouting the person more than the player.” We agree. Bright and gritty give us the player; good gives us the person. Think Big Papi vs. Manny.

Now, bright and gritty are objective. They’re easy to measure. They reveal themselves on resumes, they show up in interviews. But good? Good is subjective. My “good” can be different than your “good.” Said another way, if you’re not good, you’re not necessarily bad. You’re just not right for Voltus.

Compassionate, honest, respectful, customer-centric, fun, mission-driven, humble, followers of the Golden Rule, don’t-take-yourself-too-serious, team players. Those are all must-haves in our good, and they’re likely to be uncontroversial. Our good also includes direct, opinionated, evangelical, impatient, intense, loving people. That’s one special person. Which is exactly why it’s so important that we live up to the standard we seek in others.

Personifying Good

As leaders, we aim to help our teammates to be productive, to be happy, and to grow continually. That’s our charge to the Voltus team. To make that a reality, we commit to the following:

  • We make our values, strategy, and progress toward our goals crystal clear to everyone on the team - no hidden agendas
  • We ground everything in a business case, especially hiring. We will not over hire. Growth unsupported by long-term business prospects results in painful layoffs
  • We are inclusive and give every teammate an opportunity to bring solutions to the table every day - if you have a better way of doing things, bring it!
  • We prioritize the long-term, recognizing that this is sometimes easier said than done
  • We trust, since “trust leads to happy days,” per the Dalai Lama
  • We believe that people should live and work in a place they love. In other words, work from home with your dog by your side if you like
  • We encourage personal and professional development. A small, but symbolic, reward is that every teammate has an unlimited budget for reading material so long as it makes them a better person
  • We don't ask our employees to sign non-competes. If you want to leave Voltus, we’re failing you, and you should leave
  • We allow unlimited paid time off. Go away for the month of August with your family to Hungary. But figure out how we're going to hit goals - those won't change
  • We encourage out-of-the-office passions and we highlight teammate achievements
  • We do what we say we’re going to do

I love the team we’ve built and we're just getting warmed up. Our product is in demand, and we’re hiring. Come create some good with us.