Changing Industries to Smart Grid
Many of you have expressed an interest to follow your passion and change industries. This post is about the story of Daniel Elizalde. Daniel has never been a client of mine, but he has followed many of my methods.
About ten years ago, Daniel realized he wanted to be in cleantech. He believed it was one of the biggest challenges of this century, and he wanted to be part of it!
As with most of us, he did not do much about it for five years. It wasn’t until his product manager job at VI Technologies was coming to an end that he started to pursue his dream.
However, he had a problem. He applied to a couple of companies, and he did not get a job. He was not clear what he wanted or how his skills applied.
Key Point – When changing industries, you have to be able to clearly map your current skills to the new industry. This has to be abundantly clear to get anyone in order for you to be taken seriously.
What is Cleantech?
Cleantech is one of nebulous umbrella terms that relate to many technologies. He had to start by learning what cleantech encompasses before he could focus on companies or roles to target. Was it wind, solar, smart grid, fuel cells, electric vehicles, batteries, or something else that he should focus on?
Daniel did a lot of research online. He also started to network more and found a number of local groups to join. He was out asking for AIR (Advice, Insights and Recommendations). The magic is he asked for advice.
When changing industries, you really need to niche yourself. Find the area within an industry where your skills map the best. Daniel is a Software Product Manager. He learned that Smart Grid was the area of cleantech that could leverage his skills the best.
Daniel got very specific on the niche he would pursue.
He continued to research the area with a passion. He read everything he could get his hands on and talked to anyone he could, asking for AIR.
As he talked to companies, he realized his skills were not an exact fit. By asking for AIR, he discovered that some of the main trends in Smart Grid are UX and Cloud, where he fit the best (again, moving down into a smaller niche).
He also learned that energy companies usually require domain knowledge, which he didn’t have.
Key Point – You need to ask for a lot of AIR (Advice, Insights and Recommendations).
Daniel then made a career pivot. He first took a job in the UX arena and then took another job in the Software As A Service(SaaS), or Cloud industry. He gained experience in both areas. Taking these jobs was part of the plan to get the skills that Daniel needed to join the energy industry. They were great jobs, but he approached them as stepping-stones towards his dream job.
Now he needed some Smart Grid experience. This is where Daniel did something that was brilliant.
Daniel started interviewing key Smart Grid thought leaders and other key professionals with great industry connections on his blog TechProductManagement.com. During the interviews, he focused on the skills that he had and the problem he could solve for them, as opposed to his lack of domain knowledge in the energy industry. This was key.
Through the blog, he met many of the key players and became a known player.
Key Point – Through his blog, Daniel demonstrated enough expertise in the new domain world and in Product Management as a whole, that people started talking with him.
All of the companies that Daniel was interested in working for were in California. Daniel lived in Austin, Texas. He could get interviews but they went nowhere.
He finally decided to move to the San Francisco Bay area. In preparation for his move, he made a couple of trips to San Francisco to network and ask for AIR in person. Once companies knew he was serious about moving, they started taking him seriously. Within a month of his move, he was hired.
Daniel is now a Senior Product Manager for Stem Inc. He will tell you that changing industries was a marathon and not a sprint. Daniel showed an amazing amount of determination and stamina.
What about you?
Have you changed industries? Tell us your story!Marc Miller
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