Working in Solar today is how I imagine the guys and girls riding the wave of the internet/digital boom must’ve felt a few decades ago. On the cusp of something big. Something fundamentally changing the world…but try to explain your job to people and eyes glaze over. My gorgeous friends are always excited – but often mystified – by what I actually do.
So, welcome to a new section of the SolarGirl blog! I’ll be interviewing some of the industry’s brightest young pros to find out what makes them tick, what led them to what they’re doing now and what they’re most excited about – all in the name of de-mystifying this awesome industry and .
I’m thrilled to kick off with an interview I did recently with Nick Richardson (aka SolarBoy) from Impress Labs. Yes, I’ve found my partner in fighting for solar! In oh-so-modern superhero fashion, Nick and I connected earlier this year using just 140 characters (thanks Twitter).
Nick works for a super cool company called Impress Labs – a full service B2B marketing/comms agency that specialises in brand building and creative strategy execution for companies in the Solar, Semiconductor, Life Science and Digital Tech arenas. (Think cool cat clients like enphase, REC and Panasonic). I’m a big fan of Impress and the work they do. But more on that in a later post. For now it’s over to Nick.
Name: Nick Richardon
Position: Business Development
Company: Impress Labs
SG: Can you tell us a little bit about the company you work for and your current role; what do you love most about what you do?
NR: Yes, Impress Labs is a brand driven PR, marketing, creative and communications agency, specialising in the semiconductor, solar, life science and digital industries.
I am part of our burgeoning solar lab, working on a number of key client accounts and managing our business development by engaging with potential clients across the global solar market.
Additionally, I manage our Solar/Channel app which we launched last year to provide solar professionals with the latest news and developments within the industry in real-time.
SG: Tell us about your background and what path led you to what you are doing now.
NR: I joined the ‘solarcoaster’ immediately out of University. Having graduated from the University of Lancaster (North West England) with a history degree in 2008, I was unsure where my career would begin and what career path I wanted to pursue. I managed to land a sales job at Solar Media in central London, primarily selling subscriptions to the technical journal Photovoltaics International. Over the course of 4 years I progressed up to advertising and sponsorship sales across various platforms including the well know PV-Tech and Solar Power Portal websites.
Jumping into the industry when I did gave me a unique insight into the cyclical nature of the market, witnessing the rapid expansion and then consolidation of many market sectors. The makeup of the industry is substantially different to what it was just 6 years ago!
In 2013 I had the opportunity to join Impress Labs and make the transition from sales to marketing. Having dealt with marketing departments throughout my time at Solar Media, this was something that always interested me.
Impress launched our solar lab in 2012 and we’ve since expanded to become of the most progressive, well respected solar marketing practices in the industry.
SG: The best lessons you’ve learned along the way?
NR: One of the key lessons I’ve learned is developing and most importantly, maintaining great industry relationships. Given the relative immaturity of solar, and the fluid nature of the job market, many people have and will continue to work for multiple companies and sectors across the value chain. Keeping great relationships has allowed me to build a both broad and deep understanding of the industry.
The other big lesson I’ve learned is to always be proactive and strive to improve, both from a business and personal perspective. If you have a great idea, and there are many fantastic ideas in this industry every year, don’t rest on your laurels. Always look to improve, be it a product, concept, business model or your own role within a company. Solar and renewable energy as a solution has improvement at the heart of it, aiming to improve the way we generate and use energy, and I try to apply this to my job on a day-to-day basis.
SG: You work with some pretty fab clients – what are one or two of your favourite projects in recent years and why.
NR: As you say, we work with a number of fantastic companies. A company a really enjoy working with is Panasonic, particularly on their solutions and services for the UK solar market. From a technology perspective, they have a great product (HIT solar panel) and are consistently striving to push the boundaries of efficiency generation and product quality.
I also really enjoy working with Enphase Energy who are at the cutting edge of energy management and are enabling homeowners across the world to control and most importantly feel a part of their energy generation and consumption.
I’d also mention our Solar/Channel app, which I’ve personally seen grow from a concept of improving solar professional’s access to information, to a live product that makes a real difference in the global solar industry.
SG: One of the reasons I started SolarGirl was to profile the coolest industry projects and innovations going on around the globe – can you share a couple of your favourites (either existing or future).
NR: A project I’ve always held in high regard is Ivanpah. I drove past the project on a recent roadtrip to Las Vegas and after reading numerous reports on Ivanpah, it was amazing to see these three towers generating power in the middle of the Nevada desert.
As with most people. I’m also very excited to see the impact of Tesla’s gigafactory in propelling storage closer to a viable, commercial solution.
SG: Who inspires you?
NR: It may seem bias/contrived, but the team at Impress Labs inspire me everyday, from our PR and marketing team, to our fantastic creative department, all the way up to our Managing Partners Dave and Martijn who’s constant strive to deliver beyond expectations, pay attention to detail and get sh*t done underpin everything we do at Impress Labs.
SG: What are you reading?
NR: I’m reading two books at the moment – Jeremy Leggett’s Energy of Nations, which lifts the veil on global energy markets and provides a startling insight into how the fossil fuel industry is combatting the gathering momentum clean energy is generating. I’d recommend it to anyone working in renewable energy.
On a different note, I’m also reading England’s most revered rugby player, Johnny Wilkinson’s autobiography, especially as we build up to the Rugby World Cup. Apologies to all Australian’s for ‘dropping’ that one in!
SG: What is your personal definition of success?
NR: To see a positive, tangible difference I’m making for our clients on a day-to day basis and contributing to the value Impress Labs provides to the solar industry.
SG: What are you most looking forward to in the next 12 months?
NR: I’m really looking forward to seeing the world (hopefully) come together at Paris in December to finally agree to a collective plan of action to tackle climate change. It’s widely recognized that COP21 will be the last chance to stay below the 2C threshold and prevent irreversible damage to our planet.
SG: What dream do you still want to fulfill?
NR: In the not too distant future, I’m going to complete all 6 major marathons in a single year. The ultimate would be the Marathon Des Sables, but I’d have to really ‘go hard or go home’ to try that one.
SG: Your advice for anyone wanting to enter the solar/clean tech industry?
NR: Get out there and talk to the industry. Pick up the phone and call thoughts leaders, visit trade shows, go meet with companies in the industry. There’s nothing better than speaking with people who have years of knowledge to share from this industry. And most importantly, have fun and be proud to be part of a solution that will inevitably become the primary energy source of the future, which you’re helping to make reality!
To connect with me or Nick on Twitter @SolarGirl_ or @SolarBoy2015
You can also learn more about Impress Labs and the great work they do at www.impresslabs.com