12 March 2013

My Year in EY's Global Cleantech Center

What a difference a year makes.

A year ago today I joined Ernst & Young's Global Cleantech Center as its global marketing director. Now, reflecting on the year just passed, I can say with confidence, it was a very good year.

The author testing out the Fisker Karma at EY's
Cleantech CEO Retreat, September 2012
We accomplished a lot -- not the least of which was my adjusting to life in such a large organization.

Prior to joining EY with its 152,000 employees, the largest organizations I'd worked for were The Nature Conservancy, with 4500 employees when I left, and the publisher Penguin USA, which was part of a larger multinational, but still felt at the time like a small house.

Moving from an entrepreneurial shop where I called the shots (and celebrated or suffered the consequences) to being more of an intrapreneur in a large firm brought challenges.

For the most part, these challenges were about having to negotiate or await approvals for public communications, contracts, and sponsorships.

Through it all, I've come to a deeper understanding of the importance of the firm's need to maintain independence, especially as it relates to EY's audit clients, which is the necessity for some of the restrictions.

USS MakinIsland (LHD 8)
Homeport:  NavalBase San Diego
Necessity is the mother of invention, as Plato said, and despite some of the challenges there have been some terrific successes as well. Some invented, some evolved.

Among them, our annual Cleantech CEO Retreat in Napa, California, to which we attracted some great entrepreneurs along with industry leaders and others to help cleantech CEOs wrestle with the pressing issues they face in the current climate.

For the event I scored Thomas Hicks, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, as keynote speaker.

Tom was energizing and inspiring as he shared the Navy plans to build the "Great Green Fleet" and make the transition to advanced biofuels and renewable energy on sea and shore. (And what slides! To see the biofueled aircraft carrier USS Makin Island up on the screen is awe inspiring to say the least.)

A report on our findings and insights from the retreat will be published shortly. Our other thought leadership pieces, white papers, and round table discussions on specific verticals can be found here.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of working at EY is the people, and I couldn't have thrived in (let alone survived) my first year without great colleagues and new friends like Sandra Feldner Vandergriff, Lily Donge, and Chris Walker, along with my team in the Global Cleantech Center.

Where the author spends most days.
People are EY's greatest asset, and the fact that the organization has remained on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list for 15 consecutive years attests to how much the firm values its employees.

In a time of major transition for me over the past year, this has been a great place to work with its trust-based environment allowing for workplace flexibility and providing the technology to keep me connected when out of the office. (Well, some of the technology could use an upgrade...)

My boss, EY's Global Cleantech Leader Gil Forer, has been a very supportive. He helped remove roadblocks where necessary, told me to ignore detours that would throw us off our goal, and always understood when I had to leave New York for Philadelphia to be with my kids.

I could not have been successful this year without the patience, faith, and love of my partner, Samantha Beinhacker, who went through her own powerful transition this year, and still found the energy to be supportive of me in ways both spiritual and material. Our journey together has been remarkable thus far and has only just begun.

As much as I reflect on the year behind me, I look forward to the year ahead, which will bring new opportunities and challenges as I continue to inform, evaluate, and convene on behalf of the cleantech sector.

And, as the sector comes out of the trough of disillusionment onto the slope of enlightenment, I hope we can continue to make a difference for the entrepreneurs, investors, and strategic partners with whom we work.

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