Inside SolarCity's Veteran Hiring Initiative

solar energy jobsI recently sat down with two of the key people in SolarCity's Veteran Hiring Initiative, Otis Collier and Seth Sharp. Otis is a ten year Navy veteran who worked as a electronics technician on submarines and also as a U.S. Navy recruiter. Otis now leads the SolarCity Veteran Hiring Initiative. Seth is a one term Air Force veteran who served as an F16 Attack Control System Specialist. Here is what Otis and Seth had to say.

Sean: Can you tell me a little about SolarCity and it's culture?

Otis: SolarCity is the largest residential solar energy provider in all of North America. When we look across the board at the people who work at SolarCity and why they enjoy SolarCity so much, it is because they want to make a difference. When you think about green energy, this is an industry, the solar industry, that will change the world. This is a major shift in how not only how energy is created, but also how energy is consumed. I think that as we start to see more homes that are converting to solar and more electric cars, we're seeing that a lot of people have interest in this new technology, in this new industry. It's exciting and the industry won't ever be the same. People want to participate in that cutting edge technology that is actually changing the world.

Seth: I agree full well. As far as company culture, SolarCity still has that small company feel because it is an emerging technology. One of the big mottoes of the company is to "Believe in a Better Way." We believe in a better way both on a daily basis in your job and then the big picture in regard to renewable resources.

Sean: Can you tell me about SolarCity's Veteran focused initiatives?

Otis: SolarCity has had a focus on veterans for quite some time. We have done a lot of work on military bases where we are actually installing solar panels on Military Housing. More importantly we want to hire those soldiers who have served and served well, who are coming home and looking for opportunities. I have done a lot of veteran recruiting in the past and I can tell you that with a lot of companies they focus a lot on the JMO's (junior military officers). They focus a lot on officers in general coming out of the military. Many of the previous companies that I have worked for the junior enlisted really didn't have a place. They were not a major focus. One of the nice things about SolarCity is we are a great company not only for military officers and senior talent but very especially for junior enlisted because we have a wide range of opportunities for junior enlisted and we have a lot of opportunities for junior enlisted that are coming out of the military. They can be anywhere from installers to site surveyors, electricians, journeymen, sales people, the list goes on and on. We've got a great range of opportunities for that individual who may be coming off their first 4 year term of service, who may not have a college degree. That is not an issue with us at SolarCity. So we have a lot of opportunities that are available for those junior enlisted coming out of the military without a college degree. I think that is very exciting. We look for those individuals because we know that they are well rounded. We see a lot of individuals who come into our organization. For example we recently hired a navy swimmer into our sales force. It is interesting to see a lot of these people come out of the military with a variety of different backgrounds, and we know that because they are in the military and the training that they received they are just the type of people we are looking for to fill many of our positions. I think the other thing I want to make note of is that our mission for 2015 is to double in growth our veterans that we have today. So we're going to grow hopefully to 350-400 for 2015. We're well on our way, we're starting to see a lot of traffic and activity that is coming in with military candidates looking at SolarCity.

Seth: To add to that, I'm going to quote from an article that was just sent to us today, and in that article it talks about Lyndon Rive, the CEO and co-founder of our company. Something that he talks about is that we have over 168,000 customers currently, and we're on our way to reach a million customer goal in 2018. So in order for us to achieve this, we need to grow our number of employees at a rate of 61% annually. He also says that he's not concerned about us being able to meet that number because we've always grown at 100% per year. That's HUGE! The size team that we're going to need to achieve the 1 million customer goal by mid 2018 is going to need to double every year until we reach that point.

Otis: One other thing I'd like to add. I talked earlier about us working with military housing units. The project is called Solar Strong, and basically this is a plan to provide solar power to up to 120,000 military housing units and to create 300 megawatts of solar generation capacity. It is expected to be the largest residential solar power project in American history. So that is something we are doing with the military currently today and have planned to continued to grow.

Sean: Wow! That is quite impressive! We talked a little about all the jobs you have for junior enlisted. I assume you also have jobs suitable for senior enlisted, junior officers, senior officers do you want to touch on what some of those are?

Otis: Absolutely! It is very hard to break down jobs from a standpoint of saying these jobs are just for junior enlisted or these jobs are just for senior enlisted or officers. When you take a look at a company overall, we have positions that are in operations, we have positions that are in sales, positions in our corporate headquarters, so any type of role that you would typically find. This includes finance, marketing, any type of role that you would find at any other typical company. So for your senior enlisted or officers, those are going to be the typical roles that would expect in corporate America. Those type of roles that may require a college degree or roles that may require a little more seniority in regards to experience, like leading and managing individuals, those are the types of roles we would have at SolarCity. I want to be very careful of not pigeonholing myself down to that these are just specific roles for our officers or these are just for junior enlisted because the number of roles we have are great and each individual and their background and skill set will vary.

You can continue reading the interview at Part 2: How Veterans Get Hired at SolarCity.

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