October 2023: Danielle Zahoran

Q: Danielle, at Florida’s Women in Energy Leadership Forum, we have the opportunity to high-light the many different workforce opportunities in the energy industry. As Director of Creative for Red Ventures, describe what you do and how it fits into the energy industry?
A Creative team’s role in any industry group is to understand the business’s product to display clear and approachable visuals and messages about the product. As Creative Director, I guide designers and writers to execute the goal of the business while keeping the needs of customers as a priority. Energy is one of the most complex utilities for consumers to understand—especially in deregulated areas with numerous provider and plan options. My team evolves the interface of energy marketplace experiences to help customers navigate important details and make informed decisions that meet their home’s needs.

Q: Your work benefits the energy companies you partner with but most directly the customers they serve. How do you use your digital platform and your experience in communications to best serve those customers?
Energy is a necessary utility, and the process of getting connected is no different than an e-commerce shopping experience. In my career, I have been a digital designer for retailers such as Steve Madden and Bloomingdale’s. While Energy is a different type of product, customers are consistently seeking quality service, savings or deals to help reduce their cost, and to remain satisfied with their purchase after it’s been received. At Red Ventures, we build our experiences with these customer patterns top-of-mind. We’ve also built proprietary programs that help us display the information differently depending on the intent of the customer interacting with our sites. We understand the people searching for our products or services are not one-size-fits-all. We are constantly shifting our best practices and finding new ways to curate helpful information and visuals to meet the needs of those we serve.

Q: This year’s theme for our annual forum in Tampa on October 21-23, 2024, is The Power of Collaboration. Can you provide an example of collaboration with the energy industry that you personally worked on?
Our team has cultivated long-standing partnerships with large energy providers and other well-known brands. This year, we were fortunate to collaborate on redesigning our partners’ e-commerce experiences and helping increase their value for customers. Energy is a public service, but the process of retaining it should be focused and frictionless for the consumer. I like to approach these types of projects in three phases. First, we aggregate first-hand feedback from our partners’ customers via surveys or interviews. Some of the best ideas can come from the users who have organically and unbiasedly interacted with their site. Next, we knowledge-share data across our digital ecosystems (where customers are clicking, what type of products they are purchasing, etc.) before synthesizing down to key focus areas of the transformation. Lastly, after reimagining their site, we return to their customer base and validate the newly designed experiences by testing in real time. Luckily, we’ve shown success in our collaboration with increased energy sign-ups, retention of customers, and positive reviews that will help influence future inquiries.

Q: Can you tell us one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career and how you over-came it?
It’s hard not to recognize that the biggest challenge I’ve faced is becoming a mom and, almost concurrently, elevating to a more time-consuming leadership position. My daughter recently turned two, and I have been reflecting on my experience returning to work after she was born. Before my leave, I was independent and steadfast—putting in the extra evening hours to meet a deadline, arriving early to prepare for a meeting, or simply taking a day of rest when needed. When I returned to work as a mom, I quickly learned that independence was no longer afforded to me. Prioritizing my time and being mentally present became critical because I could no longer alter my schedule to fit the needs of my work. The shift also taught me to be gentle on myself. I was very, if not the most, critical of my performance. I think the self-administered pressure helped propel me forward in my career. But after becoming a mom to this delicate little human, I learned that perfection can be debilitating when your responsibilities stretch beyond your career. Before, being five minutes late would have crushed me, but now, as long as my daughter arrives at school safely and healthy, I’ll take the ego-hit of walking in a few minutes behind. She has given me perspective on what’s truly important.

Q: What advice would you give to a second-year college student looking to start a career in the energy industry?
Seek a program at your school that prioritizes innovation, multi-disciplinary collaboration, or community involvement. In my final year at Arizona State University, I was accepted into a program called InnovationSpace. What appealed to me when I applied was that it partnered students from the Design, Business, and Engineering schools with prominent industry sponsors such as Disney, Dow Corning, and The Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU. Our objective was to find a critical need for the people of our community and design a product that would change their lives. My group spent most of the year interviewing medical professionals, hearing their pain points, and intently observing their operations. That research informed our product Cor—an IV saline bag holster that utilizes nanotechnology coating to cool its temperature at an accelerated rate critical to cardiac-arrest patients being treated by first responders and hospital staff. Designing this product stretched my imagination, but the hands-on experience of InnovationSpace was invaluable. When I started my career in energy, I could immediately translate the skills and techniques I learned from my academic program. One example that comes to mind is how my team helps consumers learn about and retain renewable energy products like rooftop solar panels. We know alternative energy is critical to sustaining our future, but the solar buying process is complex, confusing, and expensive. To help solve this problem, we continually engage with communities experiencing outrageous electricity bills, collaborate with the right providers, and research innovative ways for green energy to become more accessible and affordable.

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