[How We Hire] The power behind a renewable energy revolution

Published on: Mar 14, 2019


At GRID Alternatives, a community service organization providing solar power and job training, Talent Acquisition Manager Wanda Lee-Stevens helps put together and oversee a far-flung team encompassing some 375 employees across ten regional and affiliate offices – including Illinois, their most recent addition, and an international program serving Nicaragua and Nepal. Coming from a 25-year stint in the for-profit sector, Lee-Stevens said the nonprofit has been “a delight from day one,” which happened to be in June of last year. “I couldn’t have landed in a better spot.”

My pitch for potential hires: We’re on the front lines of historical shifts in renewable and sustainable energy in the world. We’re a leader in providing energy for people – rather than for corporations – and our work transforms the lives of those we serve. Typically, we save families hundreds or thousands of dollars each year, but in some extreme cases we make the difference between having and not having power.

What people love about working here: In our office culture you are listened to and your work is highly valued, by everyone from the CEOs to the founders to the board. Ours is a collaborative, sharing environment – not a rigidly hierarchical one – where you don’t have to change who you are to thrive.

Something I look for in a candidate: Passion that jumps out at me, both on paper and in the interview. Of course we’re also looking for relevant experience, but everything else can be solved with a certain amount of on-the-job experience, education, and training.

Traits essential to employee success at GRID: Passion, alignment with the vision, and openness.

My favorite interview question: In the interest of fairness, I’m pretty methodical in my interviews. But one of my favorite ways to discover where someone falls in terms of vision and value alignment is asking the question, “Why are people poor?” Serving low-income communities and communities historically underserved is at the heart of what we do. We’re providing access and opportunity to communities that don’t always benefit from technological advances.

How an interviewee knocked my socks off: The stories people tell me when I ask them about a project they’re proud of, nine times out of 10 those answers really make an impression.

How we advance and capitalize on staff diversity: We’re tackling diversity with 100 percent support from our executive team and founders, which ensures people have the space, security, and resources needed. In October we hired our first Officer of Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity; we’ve held and planned a lot of relevant trainings since then. We stay “woke” by listening to each other, sharing challenges broadly, not staying in silos, and engaging each other conscientiously. Regional teams have even started book clubs and movie club events to explore the topic, so we can take our cultural discussions beyond work.

Why our office is great: Our headquarters is funky, homey, cheerful, serious, creative, and playful. We are in a friendly residential area on the border of two very hip towns, Berkeley and Oakland, and close to the San Pablo Avenue thoroughfare with quite a few restaurants and a grocery nearby.

GRID Alternatives is a national leader in helping low-income communities and communities of color nationwide get clean, affordable solar power and solar jobs. As the nation’s largest nonprofit solar installer, GRID is committed to putting money back into families’ pockets, reducing the energy cost burden for housing providers, and jumpstarting solar careers. Find out more on their website, or by following them on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.