Danielle, you have had a number of roles at Florida Power & Light prior to your current position as Manager of Economic Development, 35 Mules, can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got involved in the energy industry?
I knew of FPL as a Palm Beach County native. As a Fortune 200 company, I knew that it is a great place to work, and I was fortunate to have an internship in the marketing department more than 16 years ago. My career there has taken many different shapes from marketing & communications to an electric vehicle analyst and then economic development and now startups/tech. My passion to learn new things and grow business in my home state, and now startups in new up-and-coming areas, has kept me excited to remain in the energy industry.
Recently, we were able to highlight some of the graduates of the 35 Mules Program at the FWELF Forum. They’re so impressive and clearly articulated the benefits from the incubator program. What do you hope the long term impacts can be from such a partnership?
The goal is for the companies that graduate from 35 Mules continue to grow into larger companies that create jobs and invest in Florida first. We also select companies to join 35 Mules due in part to the innovative technology they have developed. The innovative technology can help FPL think differently and develop better solutions for customers, in addition to hopefully creating the jobs of tomorrow right here in Florida. Successful startups and businesses have choices on where to go and we want Florida to be the number one choice for these companies.
Do you think there is more to be done to encourage women to enter STEM related careers? If so, provide your thoughts.
There is always more work to be done to encourage women to enter careers where they are a minority. Encouraging women to enter STEM must start at the earliest age to allow for curiosity and excitement to develop. For example, I love how many tech organizations are focusing on girls coding classes and camps. In addition, the women in STEM today can help recruit the next generation seeing tangible examples as potential career paths shows that it is possible and can help inspire the next generation of women to do that and more.
Can you tell us one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career and how you overcame it?
I believe in the importance of knowing when to pivot, knowing what is required to make that happen and remaining resilient during challenging times. I have now worked at FPL during the Great Recession and the pandemic, which taught me that you must be able to be flexible and adjust plans to serve new goals or changing conditions. During the pandemic, I was in a lead generation role but was not able to travel, I leaned into different methods of lead generation, focusing on leads from my network and heavily leveraging channels like LinkedIn to build relationships virtually. And today, while business is being done in-person again, I still leverage those virtual and digital channels and skills that I honed during the pandemic to spread the word about the 35 Mules innovation hub.
What advice would you give to a second-year college student looking to start a career in the energy industry?
Follow companies and people that are leading in areas of the energy that you are interested in on social media. The energy industry holds tremendous opportunities for young people and new areas of energy are being developed every day. It is no longer just a career for engineers, though we certainly need more of those. LinkedIn is a great place to start following leaders to see what they are sharing and doing. It also allows you to see what other positions they have held or other industries they worked in before their current roles. Also, do your own research on what areas interest you and then work to build relationships with people who are doing that. There are many industry organizations that offer newsletters with information and free webinars to learn about the latest in that space before pursuing an internship or future career.