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Case Study: Lowell Bander
Ex-FAANG Software Engineer Transitions to ClimateTech! We recently placed Lowell Bander as a Software Engineer at Lumen Energy. He will help accelerate the deployment of renewable energy using software!
We classify Lowell as a Persona One candidate, meaning they knew exactly how and where they wanted to be involved in climate solutions.
Their resume explicitly stated “I’m a full-stack, product-minded engineer looking for a remote role on a small, thoughtful team working to directly address climate change. I’m most interested in accelerating the deployment of renewable energy, using software.”
This is not necessarily a challenge for Climate People, more so one for Lowell in their extensive job search. Lowell needed a guide to help navigate their job search to prevent two possible consequences:
Becoming inundated with too many interviews/opportunities
Losing sight of their initial desires and accepting a role that didn’t meet their requirements
Lowell was referred to our founder and CEO, Brendan after they had already begun interviewing. Given Lowell’s impressive background, we knew that urgency was of the essence.
Brendan quickly got Lowell out to interviews with two of our clients. Over the span of one month, Lowell had nearly made it to the offer stage with four separate companies. Lowell had to work with Brendan on some reprioritization to ensure they were not getting burned out from the process.
The Climate People team remained in close contact with Lowell to ensure that we were not only accounting for their requirements but making it a smooth and stress-free process as they were balancing so much.
Lowell has accepted a role as a Software Engineer at Lumen Energy where they will use their niche skillset to address inefficiencies in the energy and grid sector.
Lumen is a pre-seed funded start-up based in the Bay Area that makes it possible for millions of buildings to benefit from clean energy technologies that are both profitable and open society’s door to a sustainable future. Lumen Energy empowers commercial building owners to generate new income from clean energy with precision, speed, and simplicity across their entire portfolio.
Lowell is excited to jump in head first and use their software abilities to drive a direct impact on climate. They hope their story will inspire other like-minded engineers to join the fight!
LOWELL’S ADVICE FOR OTHERS:
Work with a niche recruiter
Join Work on Climate and My Climate Journey and network within their communities.
NATALIE: Hi everyone. My name is Natalie Lavery and I'm the Marketing Lead here at Climate People. I'm joined by Brendan Anderson and Lowell, who we recently placed in a job at Lumen Energy. So thank you so much for joining us. Would you mind starting out by just telling us a little bit about yourself and your journey to get a job in the climate?
LOWELL: Sure. I live in Seattle and I grew up in West Los Angeles. Outta college, I worked five years in a big tech company and that really wasn't like the culture or values fit I was looking for. So, a few months ago I started looking for jobs in climate tech specifically and someone referred me to Brendan because Brendan's the master of getting people into software, climate tech jobs.
NATALIE: Definitely. So what inspired you to wanna switch to climate tech? I know you said you weren't feeling inspired, but what was it about climate that piqued your interest?
LOWELL: Sure. Well in so far as using my software skill to solve problems, climate tech seemed to be one of the few things where software seemed like an appropriate solution, as opposed to being shoehorned in a lot of different industries and that's really exciting. I’m for better or for worse, very picky about what I work on and it's really important for what I do to feel like it's the right thing to be doing and it's meaningful and appropriate. I feel like for climate tech and specifically, what I'm interested in, which is like accelerating the deployment of clean energy, it's really appropriate. It's like the right tool for the job.
NATALIE: Definitely. It's funny you say that. A lot of the software engineers we work with say, “I didn't even know there was a space for software engineers in climate,” so it's awesome that you not only see that but see the direct role that you can play. Did you have that notion before you learned about these types of jobs or did you already kind of see the space for engineers?
LOWELL: I think I probably initially assumed that it was more of like a hard tech, deep tech problem and so that I couldn't be of much help, especially because I like kind of just doing web app stuff. Also, a lot of the stuff that was web apps seemed not as tangible as what I hoped for a lot of either like maybe carbon offset market or like helping policymakers, which seems kinda like very indirect.
So they play a specific role in that this part of deployment is kind of old and crafty and we can use software just moving along. Software does automate things. That's great. I definitely had the sense even broader that there was just nothing I could do meaningful in tech beforehand.
I spent a lot of time looking into social work and stuff like that, but that's not nearly as good as my skill set and not as well compensated, and It's not as flexible as software.
NATALIE: Yeah, that's awesome. I feel like a lot of people have a similar trajectory of like, maybe I need to get out of tech.
Maybe there isn't that good reward in tech, but there is and you're the case and point of that. So that's awesome that you were able to apply that. Did you experience any barriers or hardships when you were looking for this job or was it pretty easy for you?
LOWELL: So I spent the last maybe like a month or two looking for climate tech jobs.
Before that, about six months ago, right as I was quitting my old job, I was also looking around and I think by virtue of not having as wide of an experience and what was out there, I think how it was like settling for a lot of things that didn’t quite check the box for me. Like there were some companies that were more what we do will probably allow other people to have climate impact, like an indirect effect. figured that that was kind of the best that I could do, which was disheartening. The reason that I started my most recent stint is because specifically, someone reached out that was focusing on project management tooling, which seemed like for deploying renewable energy projects, which is both what I want to be doing.
I guess also just the broadness of the space is really challenging. Even when it's as narrow as software on climate tech, there are still so many things to do, which is very overwhelming. I found that quickly, my negative emotions shifted from “oh, I hope I do a good job of interviews” to “there are so many things and there are so many good things and so many thoughtful, warm people. It's just like, oh my God, I don't know what to do.” I found myself oftentimes hoping that people would drop me from their interview process, just so I wouldn't have to pick, which, it's a good problem to have, but it's still like it's wide open.
NATALIE: Yeah. It's funny you say that. We always say, If you don't know about climate jobs, they don't really seem like they're out there and you don't know much about them, but then once you dip your toes in the water and kind of start getting some of the resources it quickly becomes overwhelming.
That's honestly, one of the main issues that we are facing is, that there are so many of these people that don't know about these jobs, and then how do we get them involved and show them. So, yeah, it's really interesting that you did that.
LOWELL: It's a lot of piecing together too, there's like, climate people and work on climate and my climate journey and you read like the drawdown review and then there's like Climatebase.
It's not a very straight trajectory. So there's a lot of resources, which is good, But it's not in a super obvious form, which I'd really like a simplistic college understanding of like, oh, go work at a Fang company. And that really limits cautions in kinda a helpful way.
Whereas like climate tech, there are so many possible things you could be doing.
NATALIE: Yeah. So how do we attract those people? And then once we attract them, give them that straight path into a climate job. Yeah. There's a lot of work to be done. So that's exciting. I know you mentioned some of the slack communities and the different organizations, but were there any other key resources that you found really helpful?
LOWELL: Yeah. Um, so yeah, I mentioned Work on Climate and My Climate Journey. I guess specifically within those is not just like obviously the community at large, but people within those communities that are very supportive. Obviously, Brendan's been very supportive of me throughout the search.
There are both partners at My Climate Journey who are very active in getting folks to find a job if they want one.
That's to start! Admittedly, some of those kind of trail out, I worked with Single Sprout a little bit, which is more of like a broad, social impact thing that also has some climate tech, but it's not their specific focus.
NATALIE: Yeah, those are all really great resources. It's one thing to be a part of them and like to have them up but to fully get the benefit of it, you really have to engage, which is kind of similar to the job application process. It's really about putting it in and going in full force to reap the benefits of it.
Could you touch a little bit on the job that you'll be taking and what you'll be doing?
LOWELL: Sure I can try. I don't know that much because I start next week but broadly I'll be a Software Engineer at Lumen Energy, which is accelerating the deployment of renewable energy to commercial properties.
That's pretty much about as much as I know now. I know there are a lot of parts in terms of it's hard to get credit ratings for commercial property owners, which makes it more challenging than getting loans for smaller real estate. There are massive properties and a lot of capital that's put in.
There are different economic incentives. There are a lot of little layers that I'm sure software can help a lot with.
NATALIE: What will your exact role be? Do you know much about that yet? Or should we ask you in a year?
LOWELL: It's just Software Engineer, which is what I prefer the most! At least that's what my prior employer had, no one had an iOS engineer or senior or whatever.
NATALIE: That's awesome. What about that climate solution attracted you to the role?
LOWELL: There was this podcast interview of Emily Kirsch at Powerhouse who had some phrases of just like, get out whatever we have now. I definitely lean more in the deployment rather than the innovation side of things, which just plays to my personality of being very impatient.
Something that's specifically focused on deploying stuff right now, rather than like, oh, if we do research on this, then maybe we can convince policymakers to do something down the line, that’s just like too many steps. My LinkedIn bio description of this role is to put the solar panels on the buildings, which is just nice and pithy rather than like, we are a firm that invests in the innovation of the community license, too many steps.
I appreciated that while working with Brendan. When Brendan shared some opportunities, I was like I don't really know what this one's doing and he said, right now this process is really slow.
NATALIE: That's why the industry of climate communication even exists to translate what people are saying.
LOWELL: I kinda imagine, I dunno, I'm a nerdy software engineer. I imagine there are people who are even more unaware of what's happening.
NATALIE: That's the barrier right there. Might add that one to the list of having to decipher what someone is saying, right?
Absolutely. Yeah. So I know that as you mentioned, you were battling between a few different offers. How was that journey for you? What was the deciding factor to take the job that you did?
LOWELL: Yeah, that was really tough. I think ultimately, the team size for Lumen is right for me right now.
I think there's something like 25 or so, according to LinkedIn, and the other places I was interviewing at were like 10 or fewer with like zero or one engineer. Coming from a place that has thousands of engineers, any number from the single digits will be a lot smaller. I figured this would give me an opportunity, I really enjoy working with at least a few people. I don't really want to be someone who can control everything. I figured that'd be a better fit for me. I generally also like B2B over B2C. I kind of get a gross feeling telling consumers to spend more money because I personally try to not spend money. I've been more comfortable being like, you own a lot of real estate and have a lot of money, you put some of that in solar panels, and then you can get a return on your investment. That feels a lot more comfortable to me. They also just all seemed very warm and thoughtful.
The interview process was pretty smooth. Sometimes I go through an interview process and I felt like I wasn't evaluated for what I have to offer and it certainly wasn't the case with Lumen.
NATALIE: That's awesome. Those are all great things to look for in a job. So that's super exciting.
Do you have any advice for a similar software engineer or just a software engineer that's in a similar boat when they're going through a process like this?
LOWELL: Yeah, I guess if you're in my position, which is most of the people not in climate tech, all your friends are software engineers who hate their software engineering jobs, which isn't really a good environment to have. I think the best thing would be to find people. That's both specific relationships, like what I've had with Brendan, but also the folks that are really open to helping out with those aforementioned slack communities of My Climate Journey and Work on Climate and joining whatever events feel appropriate either virtually or in person. I've found that to be really helpful for ramping up into a space that I was pretty ignorant of like only a few months ago.
People are open to help, like totally outside of their job. Sometimes it makes more sense, like if you're a venture capital partner and want people to join your thing. Then there are some people like, oh, I'm just like VP of marketing at this totally other company, but they'll just tag me in roles that are a good fit.
They're just a really strong helping vibe. I feel like leading on that makes sense. Especially if you don't already have those kinds of connections.
BRENDAN: Yeah. Would you give different advice to people who weren't necessarily in your position, where you obviously spent a lot of time on this. And so for the engineer who might be in a job and, you know, they're working 40 to 50 hours a week and they've got a family at home and they don't have the time to connect in these communities and put that time in, do you have any advice or recommendations for those folks that maybe don't have the extra time that you did to spend that on the research and the networking and the community?
LOWELL: Yeah, I think probably the best bang for your buck in that situation is first if you're a software engineer looking for climate tech would be like working with Climate People so that you're distilled down. Like these are people that are hiring and I can put you directly in touch with the team.
That sounds like a good fit based on what you've told me, and that’s the most effective. You save a lot of time by not looking through job postings and trying to understand if they're a good fit and stuff like that. I think that's the most efficient, it's a lot more like a white glove of service of like, I don't have that much time. Can you find me a good fit? It's a lot better than spending a bunch of time pouring through even the useful community stuff, it just takes a lot of time.
BRENDAN: I think that's part of what makes finding a climate job so hard because these jobs span across all sectors of the global economy and yet if you wanna do a good job with it, you really need to know what you're looking for, which means you have to go and do the research. You have to spend time understanding the landscape and then being able to compare and contrast. First of all, understand also what your value proposition is and like, what are the solutions that really ultimately speak to you?
Like you had very strong opinions about the kind of solutions that you want to be involved in solving, and therefore you really have to do that research versus if it, if you're the type of person who's just generally open to different kinds of climate jobs, and it's a little less important about what the exact solution is, you could probably get away with just applying to some jobs on climate base.
But If you have strong opinions about what you want to do, that's not necessarily gonna be the way that you're ultimately gonna find your way into the sector.
LOWELL: Absolutely. Right. I think that at least in like, generally in my experience, in like big tech, there's a lot of folks who really do not care. I think you have to kind of have a self-preservation mentality and you can’t care too much about what you're actually doing.
That doesn't feel good. It's a lot more emphasis on just, I wanna work with big data machine learning and kind of agnostic to like the actual impact of the work. When you're in climate tech, it matters a lot more because there's a substantial difference between working with agriculture or renewable energy or carbon capture or something like that.
NATALIE: We can talk about our 1% For The Planet Program. So I know you already sent us the email, but we want to say it live. So our 1% for the planet program is essentially we donate 1% of every placement fee to an environmental nonprofit in your name.
We sent over a few. Did you have a chance to look at them and see which one you wanna send your donation to?
LOWEL: Yeah, I would. I'd like the one that — surprise surprise — is accelerating the deployment of renewable energy. I don't remember the name. Yeah. I mean, they all seemed really cool. So, you know, yet another tough decision to make.
NATALIE: Yeah, we like to give you all the tough decisions in the span of a few weeks. Well, yeah, thank you so much for doing that. And yeah, the Honnold Foundation is a great organization, so yep. We see a lot of ties between people who take jobs in the energy sector and tend to donate to the Honnold Foundation. So it makes sense for sure.
LOWELL: Yeah. Not diversifying at all. Just all the eggs and one basket.
NATALIE: So, yeah, I think that was all the questions we had for you. Unless Brendan, did you have anything else that you wanted to touch on before we wrapped up?
BRENDAN: No, I'm good. I'm excited for you Lowell. I know the Lumen team is really excited for you to come on board.
LOWELL: It's been amazing and awesome working with you.
BRENDAN: I suspect that you and I will be having lots of conversations in the future, so yeah, absolutely. It's great to get to meet you and consider you a friend.
LOWELL: The world needs more of y'all. This is extremely important work.
I feel like even more important than the nitty gritty engineering work is like getting shuffling all these human folks out of like soul socking careers into like very important meaningful careers it is really, really good stuff.