Interview of me, Catherine McLean, by Dylan Welch of Going Green
Which clean energy jobs are growing the fastest & where? Although utility scale solar jobs rebounded the quickest after the pandemic hit, specifically project finance roles, wind power & energy storage job openings have picked up in recent months. Dylan Welch of Going Green recently interviewed Catherine McLean about this, how prospective employees can break into the industry, her entrepreneurial drive & her focus on diversity, equity & inclusion.
Dylan: Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of Going Green. We have an awesome guest today who runs an amazing company. Love the name, first and foremost, the name is Dylan Green! And we have the founder and CEO of it, Catherine McLean on the show today. Catherine, thanks so much for being here.
Catherine: Thanks Dylan, it is a great name, it’s my son’s name.
Dylan: It’s a great name, Dylan Green, and it doesn’t get much more personal than that. So, thanks for taking the time out of your day to be here. For those of our audience who aren’t familiar with you and your background, tell us a little bit about what Dylan Green is and how it got started.
Catherine: Yeah, absolutely. So Dylan Green is actually the third recruitment business that I’ve been involved with. I set up a recruitment business in 2011 in London, actually in the U.K. called McLean Ross. And then McLean Ross merged with a company called JDR Energy and we became JD Ross. I was in the U.K. with them for about a decade and then came over to the U.S. a couple of years ago. I decided to part ways with JD Ross and set up again on my own and called the company Dylan Green after my son and after green energy, obviously.
Dylan: Yeah, so where does your passion and that entrepreneurial spirit come from? Because, obviously, starting multiple companies, merging, partnering, buying, selling, that’s not easy stuff. Where does that drive come from, within you?
Catherine: Yeah, it’s funny, I feel like I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I was definitely the kid that had the babysitting company, the dog walking business, you know, just always hustling, working two jobs. So I always knew I wanted to work for myself, I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. And so I think that what just sort of wound up happening, I fell into recruitment, then I fell into green energy. So I graduated from George Mason University, went to work for DHL, I specifically wanted to work for DHL because I wanted to work for a global company because I wanted to live abroad. I was a business development manager there for a number of years. They transferred me over to London and then wound up… just opportunity knocking, from Robert Half. Robert Half, one of their headhunters asked me if I wanted to be a headhunter myself and it was something I had never considered. I joined them; I really enjoyed it. I worked with them in London and Dubai, the recession happened, I took some time out and thought, “I’m going to focus on nutrition,” which had been a passion of mine, and helping others. I wound up doing a Masters in Public Health and got an internship in Rome for the Food and Agriculture Organization, which is a U.N. organization. I realized quite quickly the nonprofit sector wasn’t for me. I missed the business world. I had gotten quite a few people in my class internships as well, so I decided to go back into recruitment but to do something positive. And wound up working for a firm called Acre Resources in London. And fell into clean energy and placing sales professionals in that space. A few months later I quit and set up McLean Ross.
Dylan: That’s amazing. I mean I’m a huge proponent of living abroad, traveling abroad, it opens up your eyes, especially being in America, it’s kind of like “America’s #1!” And then you go out and see there’s some other really great things. America has its pros and cons just like every country. How did that experience of you going international open up your eyes to a bigger picture? And then how did that translate into working in the clean tech, sustainable, renewable energy world?
Catherine: Yeah, I think that it should be mandatory, I think you should be forced to live abroad for a year. They have a gap year in most countries, where in between college and high school you go and you travel and you live abroad. It opened my eyes tremendously, like to what you were saying, that it’s a big world. We’re not the only country in that world. I think it made me a lot more open-minded, a lot kinder, more empathetic. Clean energy, I had seen Acre Resources and some of the work that they were doing, I thought this is such a great way to mesh my business acumen, that recruitment experience and sales experience, but put it towards a more positive work than the banking finance world that I had been in when I was at Robert Half. You’ve said it on your podcast, a few times, that just because you want to earn money and be successful, doesn’t mean it has to be at the expense of something else. You can do it and have a positive impact on society.
Dylan: 100%! I think that’s really why I was happy to get connected with you, like meeting other business owners. When you run a business you have a bottom line, you have to get clients, you have to make better products than your competition. But at the same time it doesn’t mean it can’t be a good product that is good for the planet or helps people. So I’m always drawn to those kinds of people who are like, “I can make money and run a business and also use it for good.” So I think it’s awesome that you’re doing that. What’s kind of the day-to-day life like at Dylan Green right now?
Catherine: Well, I’m pretty used to working at home so this wasn’t too scary for me. I think if I was maybe a bit earlier in my career, when it used to be that camaraderie and going to the pub every day with my friends, it probably would have hit harder. I think it’s been a little bit easier for me because of where I am with my career. I stay pretty disciplined with the schedule and I think that’s the key, to make sure that my day is very structured. I have goals that I want to achieve everyday, and weekly, monthly, quarterly, probably yearly. The recruiter in me, we’re very data metrics driven. I think that the number one challenge for me is leaving the house, so I forget to leave the house. So a couple of days will go by and I will be like, “I should probably go outside.”
Dylan: For sure! Are you seeing a lot more, kind of thinking bigger picture in the sustainable and clean tech world, more job opportunities coming? What are the trends?
Catherine: Yeah! It’s really awesome. So when March hit and my business completely stopped, and I was in panic mode, I doubled down on the video series I have. And I focused a lot on doing webinars and speaking engagements and helping others navigate the job market. I’d say it was really quiet for a couple of months and then start to pick up. The momentum I saw in the summer was very solar focused, utility-scale, CNI solar, across the board but I will say specifically project finance roles have gone crazy, there’s so much project finance activity at the moment. I think what’s really exciting is the past few months I’ve started to see a range of roles. So I’m starting to see some really cool SAAS clean energy plays where they’re starting to recruit. I’m starting to see some of the utilities start to expand into a bit cooler innovation stuff. So I’ve gotten some wind roles, some storage roles, I’m starting to see like it’s not just a solar party. It’s getting a little bit more varied. An ESG advisory role, for example, I was working on the other day. So it’s been kind of fun to see the transition.
Dylan: That’s awesome! I have like 10 questions that I want to ask, I’m trying to figure out the best one, or what order. What advice do you have for someone who wants to start working in the clean tech space? They may not have an environmental science degree but they want to get a career in that path. What are the first steps they could take to get in that general direction?
Catherine: I think there’s a couple of things. I think one thing that they need to do is actually apply to jobs. You’d be so surprised, when I get on the phone with candidates and they say they can’t find a job. I say, “Okay great, how many jobs have you applied for?” “Well, I’ve applied for a couple.” Well, like recruitment, you have to put the work in, you have to do the numbers. So if you’re going to expect an outcome you have to put in the work. I think, two, you need to make sure that you’re not just applying and then not actually following up. So making sure that your resume winds up in front of an HR manager; just letting them know that you did apply directly for the role. Also, networking. Making sure that any alumni you know or anybody that you think maybe look interesting on LinkedIn, that you’re reaching out to them, asking for help. Our space is a really really friendly space. We need more people, there are too many jobs, so we want new people in. We want some help. We have a big task ahead of us. So I think those would be the two things I would say: following up on the applications and making sure that you’re networking.
Dylan: Perfect answer, honestly. That’s what I’ve seen in my experience. If I see someone I want to work with I just go out and ask them. The worst they can do is say no. Or like, ask my network, “hey, do you know anyone in this space? I really want to talk to someone.” And just having those conversations. What’s a general realistic number of how many job applications you might need to submit to actually expect to see a job? And I know that might sound a little bit crazy and scary but, like you said, it’s a numbers game. If you had a rough estimate, what would you say, realistically speaking?
Catherine: I would say it definitely depends on A) what level that you’re looking at, and I think B) how open-minded that you’re being. So, I think that if you’re an entry level person without any experience, then you’re obviously going to have a much higher number of applications that you have to send in. I think if you have a few years experience and you’re maybe looking to transition into the clean energy space, it may be a few less applications than if you were entry level with no work experience at all. So, I think it really depends on the situation. And also, some of it is luck, you know, it’s just you create your own luck in life, but some of it is luck; it’s just the timing of it.
Dylan: Yeah, you know that’s true. You never know when you reach out to someone, or you apply and you get lucky. Honestly, I’ve hired people where I’m like, “I need someone right now.” And someone emails me, and just great timing! But you said something which brings it back to what you were talking about before, when Covid hit and we’re all locked down, some people kind of bunker down and watch TV and didn’t do much. Other people, like you, got out there and started pivoting and figuring it out. I could even see that going back to those days of you babysitting; you have that experience and can take it to something new. Like, there’s a shift in the market of babysitting, it’s the same thing. You realized we are going more digital now; I need to be embracing webinars, embracing videos, podcasts and things like that. Tell us a little bit about that and what you’ve been working on these past couple of months.
Catherine: Yeah, I just want to say quickly, about that, I think one of the lessons I have learned is that having a plan is great but it can also be to your detriment. I’ve never had a business plan. Anyone that knows me, that’s worked with me in the past- it used to drive them crazy, but I always thought I’ll get on the phone instead of sit there and draft up a business plan or talk about strategy. Anyway, my point is that I never in a million years thought that I would be where I am now. I didn’t get into this space, or recruitment, until I was almost 30. I think that you have to have a plan, of course, but you also have to be prepared for life to happen, and life is what happens when you’re making plans for it. It’s super unexpected so you can’t just cry about it, you have to pivot, this where millenials are like, “pivot, pivot, pivot.” But anyways, what I have been doing is I have this video series I started called the Green Light. It’s focusing specifically around, not solely but probably a big chunk of it is Diversity Equity & Inclusion within clean energy. This is something I’ve gotten super passionate about the past couple of years. So making sure that not only are we helping women get into more leadership positions within organizations but also allowing new people in. Allowing diverse talent into our space from oil and gas or banking and finance or from the military, so really using our industry, and the growth in our industry, in this clean energy transition, to get diversity into our space. So it’s not such a thing where we’re having to be deliberate about but it’s something that is happening organically.
Dylan: How has it been just doing that, the video creation stuff?
Catherine: Hard! The video thing has been super hard because it’s not my natural thing like “this is what you want to do.” I’m a recruiter; I’m not a video interviewer. So it was super nerve wracking. I’ve gotten a bit more calm and chilled out about it but I never find it easy.
Dylan: Well, honestly, going back to what you’re saying, it’s about taking action, providing value. As a sales person, that’s what it’s all about. Being proactive and find someone who can use your service or you can help figure out the most value you can provide. And that goes to even applying for jobs. Like, how can you provide value to this company you’re applying for. Where do you see the future for you, for Dylan Green, and for the clean energy space as a whole?
Catherine: Yeah, as much as the DEI work is hard, I am really enjoying it. It’s that: “people, planet, profit.” So I feel like before I had been doing the planet piece, and the profit piece but I hadn’t necessarily the people piece. I mean, I was definitely placing people but I wasn’t focusing specifically on something as important as DEI. So I think the fact that I’ve also included that in my work gives me that double mission, which it’s so important and meaningful to me. And having people reach out to Dylan Green specifically because they know that we do that work with both clients and candidates, saying, “I know that you can help.” I definitely want to keep doing that work. I think that there’s definitely enough work to keep focused on the U.S. and the North American and European markets that I’ve been doing. And to keep doing the video series. I think that’s enough to keep me busy for a while.
Dylan: First off, Catherine, thank you for taking time out of your day to be here. What you’re doing is super important, connecting people with their dream jobs and connecting businesses with people who can help them grow and scale. It’s really important. And, as these companies continue to grow, and the industries as a whole grow, I feel like we will see more and more people getting into that space. So it’s exciting to follow your journey and follow Dylan Green. Where can people follow you? Where can people support you? And get in contact if they want to?
Catherine: Yeah, I’m really active on LinkedIn, you can easily find me on LinkedIn. I talk a lot about the roles that I’m working on there. Then, obviously, share the video series content. I also have something called candidate of the week where I shout about a couple of candidates that I’m working on that week that I’m really passionate about. My website is dylan-green.com. I have Twitter, some marketing managers are really into. And that’s it really. Oh! We have a YouTube channel as well now.
Dylan: So for those listening and watching: Dylan Green, Catherine McLean. Go subscribe, follow, reach out, support. If you have any questions, reach out. Seriously, Catherine, thank you so much. I want to just say thanks again for taking time out of your day. I look forward to staying in touch. I want to have you on the show again in the future and just see where things pivot to next. And just follow your journey and have you on again to continue this conversation. It’s been great chatting with you.
Catherine: Yeah, thanks so much Dylan. I really appreciate it and I think I’ll just say one last thing before we finish. Just going back to that piece you were talking about earlier with that people, planet, profit- companies that embrace diversity do become more profitable. It’s an absolute fact. So, embrace diversity, be deliberate about it and make sure that you’re having an equitable and inclusive work environment.
Dylan: On the next episode that I have you on, we are going to dive really deep into that exact topic because it’s really important stuff. And, as always, thank you the viewers, the listeners, the supporters of the show. We appreciate it. Our goal here is to bring on leaders, influencers, people like Catherine, business owners, scientists, experts in their space, to educate everybody a little bit more about clean energy, sustainability, and building a business, making money but also having a positive impact on the planet. So we appreciate you for taking the time and tuning in. We’ll see you on another episode of Going Green, very soon. Thank you.