Tag: Employee Spotlight

Employee Spotlight on Sarah Sofia, Software Engineer and Solar Energy Expert

“I remember in high school, people were often surprised that I was interested in STEM and art, but I think they’re super connected and that a lot of engineering is creative.”

Software Engineer Sarah Sofia talks about her career

“I liked math and science but I also danced very seriously growing up, doing ballet, tap, and jazz. I remember in high school, people were often surprised that I was interested in STEM and art, but I think they’re super connected and that a lot of engineering is creative. Whether literally you’re building something or building a structure in your head for how to visualize a model, it’s all very connected to how you think about art and drawing or sculpting. 

“Increasingly it was very clear that physics and engineering was really what I loved to do. And my dad is very into science so he instilled an early interest in that for me. He has a small business that’s at our house and his team makes tools to test reliability, thermal conductivity, and thermal management of electrical components. As I get older, I have realized that being around a lot of circuit boards, working with my dad to build different things, and doing science experiments in the basement, made a lot of science and engineering feel more tractable as an adult. Like when I was little, I would go into the shop and make jewelry out of solder and ribbon cable and then as I got older I wanted to understand what they are and what they do. Participating in that and having someone lead me to see all of the possibilities from a young age was really valuable. I feel like that’s a big barrier for some because you can have so much separation from how things are made or work. So getting that growing up and being like ‘oh I know how to make something’ was special.

“I was very into physics and astronomy in undergrad, then my trajectory sort of slowly changed. After graduating, I wanted something with an impact on the world I was living in, in a more direct way. It felt like a pretty natural transition to engineering from physics and I found solar as a really cool application of physics. I liked being able to go all the way from the fundamental physics of what is happening on a micro level, all the way up to energy going into people’s houses. I was fortunate to work with industry in grad school. I wanted to maintain that and continue working in industry, where it really felt like I was directly connected with renewables getting installed now and less hyper focused on a very small portion of something that’s important in a solar cell. 

“As I have been in this world, I increasingly just think energy is super cool. I’m really interested to see, particularly as new technologies come more online, how they will change and shape the way our grid is evolving. I think getting to a higher and higher percentage of renewables and carbon free energy poses a lot of challenges, but they’re really exciting and interesting challenges. 

“My big hobbies at the moment are baking and quilting. I’ve always loved the transformative process of baking. As I’ve gotten into baking more complicated things and figured out how to optimize recipes and why certain things make certain things happen, I think it is really interesting. And then you get a treat at the end! Then during Covid, I took a remote quilting class through a fabric store in Cambridge. They did Zoom classes and sent materials. It’s slow, but very fun. Whenever there’s some progress that you see day to day it’s very satisfying.”

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Employee Spotlight on Shane Hall, Senior Software Engineer

Shane Hall

“For me engineers were heroes changing the world with pencil and paper.”

Employee Spotlight on Shane Hall, Software Engineer, REsurety

“Middle school science class kicked off my dream to become an engineer. I grew up listening to my dad talk about my great-uncle George Philbrick, who pioneered operational amplifiers in early computers in the 1950s. For me engineers were heroes changing the world with pencil and paper.

“My dad’s mother was an artist, and her brothers were engineers and pilots in WWII and the Cold War. Afterward, her brothers worked in computing, satellites and GPS tracking, which is relevant to what we do at REsurety today, using satellite data to model wind farms and solar farms. Analyzing the natural world through technology is practically a family tradition for the Halls.

“I started undergrad as a pre-med, because everybody tells you that’s the thing to do. Towards the end of my freshman year, I met Professor James Manwell, who ran the wind energy center at UMass Amherst. He was developing practical applications of aerodynamics and statistics and I found that inspiring. I decided I was going to take every class he had to offer. I eventually changed my major and continued on to my master’s in Mechanical Engineering, working with him in the wind energy center.

“In my sophomore year, I got an internship with ISO New England, the regional balancing authority. That gave me a lot of valuable hands-on experience, writing code, looking at real world constraints, and visiting the operator’s room, with 80-foot screens and folks actually operating the power grid in real-time. They took us on tours of a wind farm and other generator types like hydroelectric and nuclear facilities. It really helped me connect the theoretical to the physical.

“For my undergrad final project, I used the wind tunnel. It hadn’t been used much for years, and was in a forgotten back room that no one seemed to have a key for. It was a total mess. I spent many late nights there because it was so loud, and operating it during the day would disturb the lab next door. I’d start my experiments at 10pm. We didn’t have a reliable RPM sensor, so I had a strobe light which I used to catch the RPM of the little blades on 10-inch wind turbines. It was just me in this giant, noisy, dark room with a strobe light going and blades spinning at 10 RPM. I got a chance to learn about ‘wake’ analysis outside of the digital realm.

“I took a break between undergrad and grad school and worked on a cattle farm for a while. It had nothing to do with what I was going to do with my education or experience. I feel the work ethic I learned and the appreciation for being able to get up really early, and do something really hard, was formative. Despite the poor pay and the long hours, I would still look forward to it the next day for whatever reason – mucking through cow dung was a really beautiful break from my data-intensive day-to-day through graduate school.

“I still take and value those breaks from the code, but now it’s going backpacking or snowboarding, not shoveling cow poop.

“After a summer of farming, I began my graduate thesis project on ice accretion on wind turbine blades. I developed a program that would model ice growth under various inputs and variable weather conditions. I coupled that with other modeling tools to answer questions like: How much does that affect power output, and are the blades at risk of breaking from the added weight and force? It led me to embrace software and use programming to solve problems.

“My first job was in market research on startups, which I quickly decided was not for me. Then I took a job at a commercial-industrial energy consulting firm, where I cut my teeth as a software engineer. I gained experience both in building production software and client interaction.

“In the U.S., everything is an open market, you have to incentivize money to flow into this industry in order to accelerate it. And I think that’s what REsurety does really well: we’re lowering the barrier for capital to make it into the renewable energy market.

“We make granular information and data accessible and digestible for anybody in the finance industry. They can surface valuable insights and make a safer or educated investment. Ultimately this means that we are building more wind farms and solar farms, faster and more cost-effectively than we would otherwise.

“There are two sides to that coin, because just as it’s difficult for the finance industry to fully understand the investment risk, it’s difficult for developers to efficiently gather that much capital at once. So if we can better partner financiers with developers, we can make faster strides in reducing our dependence on carbon-based power.

“Now, I’m really focused not just on solving the problem, but solving the problem at scale. The last year I’ve been working not just as an individual contributor modeling wind, solar and power markets, but also taking on an architecture role and working with our product team to define how we’re going to build massive scale services for our customers.”

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Employee Spotlight on Lizzy Kalikasingh, Associate, Risk Analytics

Lizzy Kalikasingh

“I was very science and math oriented. And my favorite time of the year was the science fair.”

Employee Spotlight on Lizzy Kalikasingh, Associate, Risk Analytics, REsurety

“The first memories I have of wanting to pursue a degree in engineering are from third grade. They gave us a huge book of career opportunities, and I was like, ‘Oh, chemical engineering sounds like a cool thing!’

“I was very science and math oriented. And my favorite time of the year was the science fair. One of my favorite projects was hot and cold pressure systems, that was in second grade. Buoyancy was third grade. Then in fourth grade I did molecules, how ionic bonds work, with the styrofoam balls and pipe cleaner diagrams of organic compounds. Yes, that was my favorite time.

“A tour across my county in Ohio was a pretty big influence on me wanting to go into renewable energy. My dad and I went and visited five or six farms to see how they installed solar panels on their barn sheds, and how it helps these very rural communities. I thought if my county could do it, anybody can do it.

“I did an internship during high school with an agricultural facility in my hometown that does biochemistry sorts of things. I assisted a professor in synthesizing bio fertilizer based on an algae component. In Ohio, there’s a lot of agriculture with chemical runoff that harms wildlife and the environment, so having something like an algae compound in the fertilizer gives a new perspective – you can take something natural and reproduce it to help the environment as well.

“After I graduated high school, I did a gap year in Taiwan. I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I knew for some friends the experience contributed to them recentering themselves, and learning a new skill. I told the program they could put me anywhere, since I had already been to Europe and South America, where most other students choose to go. I wanted to go to someplace I had never been.

“When you’re in a country where you don’t know the language, you really have to rely on other people. So it was all about building connections and gaining independence. Taiwan is a very homogeneous country and I always felt like a foreigner everywhere I went. No matter how well I learned the language and how well I could navigate the train systems, it was still hard to assimilate completely, but everyone in the country was really friendly.

“I went to Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, and pursued a degree in Materials Science and Engineering. There is a lot of focus on renewables, with a campus wind turbine and solar farm. I had never thought a wind turbine was related to material science, but along with being electrical and mechanical, materials do play a big part of that construction. So, it was kind of a case study on degradation over time for certain types of materials, polymers and some rare earth metals. It’s something I definitely wanted to contribute to, so I did a lot of research in those facilities during my undergraduate career.

“Through a Great Lakes Energy Institute program, I became an operations intern at EverPower, a company that monitored and maintained a fleet of wind farms across the U.S. For them, I designed a tool that visualizes operational performance over time. It was like an app – you choose the month or time you want to inspect, and it’ll go through all the turbines and see if there’s anything that was meaningfully different from the selected look-back period. So you can see if a temperature sensor could be broken, if speed sensors are misreading, things like that. It would send a plot after it finished running, that with the resource report, was produced to the operations team. So that was very useful in determining how I wanted to go into data analytics based on operations rather than a research role.

“I then got an internship at REsurety, and never left! We have jerseys with our employee number on them. When I joined I was in the 20’s but I bet I’m 8 or 9 in seniority now. So it’s like I’m almost up to CEO-level seniority!

“I joined the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee, and it has really put me in a position of learning and accountability, helping people in the company with promotion transparency or having a safe space to talk about social stressors and mental health. There is a lot of social justice fatigue, and sometimes it’s hard to bring the mindset into the workplace where people tend to compartmentalize. But when we add that perspective to our work community, it makes it feel like other perspectives are welcome and you are heard.

”Creating interpersonal connections is one of my stronger skills. Right now, I’m deep in data, more of a machine runner. So I look forward to being a manager, contributing to company culture, facilitating teams, and guiding younger generations as a mentor.”

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Employee Spotlight on Matt Livingston, Senior Associate, Risk Analytics

Matt Livingston

“I used to get home from school and instead of turning on cartoons, I’d watch the Weather Channel.”

Matt Livingston, senior associate, risk analytics, REsurety

“I think it’s pretty typical in the meteorology community to have a weather event when you’re very young that was either very memorable, like a big snowstorm, or very scary, like a hurricane or a tornado. And I had a bunch of those when I was a little kid. 

“I was only two at the time, but I have memories of the blizzard of ‘96, when we got 30 inches of snow in New Jersey. I walked out on my back deck, and there was a layer of ice on top of the snow. So I didn’t have to use the stairs. I stood on top of the ice because I was so small, and just walked around. 

“Then there were a couple of tornado warnings, and a couple of big thunderstorms that knocked some big trees down toward our house and on cars in our driveway. So I basically became fixated on the weather as a really young kid, following all these violent weather events. 

“I used to get home from school and instead of turning on cartoons, I’d watch the Weather Channel. And if there was interesting stuff going on, the TV just sat on the Weather Channel for six or eight hours. So that’s where it started. And then I knew I wanted to go to Penn State to study meteorology because they have a pretty laudable program for that.

“There should be a sign when you get off Exit 161 in State College: ‘You have reached the middle of nowhere.’ So yeah, it was a different environment for sure. But a lot of great people in meteorology come through Penn State, and they’ve got some cool weather out there. A lot of my professors were frankly the same people who write the textbooks for forecasting severe weather. And then, ‘Oh, there’s a severe weather outbreak today, let’s all talk about what’s going on.’ That’s just an awesome experience that was totally worth going to the middle of Pennsylvania for.

“When I was in my freshman year, Hurricane Sandy was a huge event. In my part of New Jersey, the National Guard was deployed and power was out for a month. Some of the towns in my school district are essentially a barrier island, and it was a reminder to everyone there that, you know, these islands are probably not going to be here very long. But there’s a lot of smart people trying to work on solutions, and I’m happy to be part of that.

“There are a lot of different disciplines within meteorology. There are the ones I think everyone is most familiar with, your baseline physics and fluid dynamics. You go through a couple of 400-level classes, and then you train to go on TV. And there are people who just do cloud physics, how different particles stick to each other in the air and become raindrops or ice, or how they interact with pollutants and particulates. 

“But Penn State offered a major called ‘weather risk management’ which felt more up my alley. I liked the idea that weather could have a tangible impact on the world. I wanted to say, as a result of storm XYZ or whatever extra rainfall, we expect some tangible impact that people might care about. We all live in the atmosphere every day, so this should be applicable to a wide range of industries. And I identified energy as one that I would like to get into. 

“So when the REsurety opening was posted on the Penn State jobs board, there wasn’t anything as interesting as this. With the people I interviewed with, there was a lot of excitement. I liked the idea of applied meteorology, rather than just forecasting. And I thought, ‘Oh, this is a new industry and it’s growing fast. It’ll be a fun one to be a part of.’ I don’t think that assessment was off. 

“One thing we focus on is building an effective portfolio of risks, finding risks that cancel each other out, and how storage can help offset those risks. An easy one for most people is that solar and wind in Texas have a relatively complimentary profile, so you should have both, not just one. But trying to communicate that to people is hard. We try to find visualizations that are useful. And a lot of that shows up in our software. 

“You can think of risk transfer like an insurance product. A wind farm needs capital investment to get built, just like you would get a loan to build a house, but they need to prove to the bank that they’re going to be able to repay that loan. Usually they’ve measured wind speed for a while, and essentially what I do is take that information and synthesize an idea not just of energy production but of what we think the long-term revenue production of this plant is going to be. Then we go to a hedge provider and say, ‘given this expected risk profile of future revenues, what premium would you charge to mitigate that revenue risk for the project’. And if both parties agree, everybody shakes hands, the wind farm gets their construction loan, and gets built. The hedge provider gets a premium as well as upside if the wind farm over-performs.

“When we’re doing risk transfer transactions, it’s nice to see my work turn into a wind farm, and that wind farm will displace coal, and hopefully be a greener path forward for the energy economy.”

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