Clean Hydrogen

The Inside Perspective from an HR Director on How to Get into CleanTech

An interview with Luisa Chew, Director of Human Resources at Modern Hydrogen

Q: What is the clean technology industry?

Clean energy technology revolves around solutions that either reduce carbon emissions or harness green energy sources to combat climate change. Companies in this industry focus on cost-effective decarbonization efforts through technological breakthroughs.

Modern Hydrogen operates within the cleantech sector and is part of the broader category of “green jobs” or “clean energy jobs” because our mission aligns with decarbonization efforts and environmental responsibility.

At Modern Hydrogen, our primary goal is to dramatically reduce emissions from industrial operations. By doing so, we help companies meet their decarbonization targets while enhancing the reliability of clean energy generation. This approach also contributes to job creation, economic growth, and energy stability. When companies prioritize clean and stable energy solutions, it resonates with people who are passionate about environmental responsibility and combating climate change.

Q: Can you describe the technology behind Modern Hydrogen?

Natural gas is used by many different industries, both at the commercial and residential levels. Many houses are hooked up to natural gas, making it an integral part of everyday life.

Our technology focuses specifically on the methane in natural gas, which consists of carbon and hydrogen. Hydrogen serves as a clean energy source, but the carbon in methane contributes to CO2 emissions and global warming.

What we do is remove the carbon from natural gas before it's combusted, leaving behind clean energy in the form of hydrogen. The carbon we remove is sequestered, preventing it from entering the atmosphere. This process, known as methane pyrolysis, decomposes methane into clean-burning hydrogen and carbon.

We partner with major U.S. utilities, installing our technology right at their points of use, allowing them to utilize clean-burning hydrogen. This has a significant impact, given how many customers are connected to utilities.

We not only sequester carbon but also find innovative ways to use it, such as blending it with asphalt to create more affordable and durable roads. Essentially, we’re running two significant businesses right now.

Q: What are the typical backgrounds of employees at Modern Hydrogen, and what advice would you give to individuals looking to get into cleantech?

Our team is incredibly multidisciplinary, which means I get to learn something new from every person I chat with regularly.

In terms of backgrounds, the technology team makes up the majority of our company right now. They come from various fields, including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and process engineering. We also have chemists and scientists. The diversity of expertise is quite impressive.

Then, we're fortunate to have highly skilled technicians, machinists, and welders who are great at fabricating. They can take a design and bring it to life, which is always fascinating to watch.

Outside of the technology team, we have people with a variety of backgrounds, from accounting, finance, and procurement to business development, communications, PR, and commercialization product management. It really takes the entire company, and it has taken the entire company to get us where we are today.

While the vast majority of our team has technical roles, that doesn't necessarily mean that you have to go to a certain school or you have to get a certain degree in order to get into cleantech. Cleantech companies need individuals who can design, develop, and get technology out into the world.

If you're interested in a career in clean energy, start by figuring out what you like to do as a human, what brings you that energy, and what you're interested in learning and developing as a skillset. Then, search for companies that are looking for that skillset.

Q: What has been your experience as the Director of HR in recruiting and hiring people at Modern Hydrogen?

When I started, Modern Electron (that’s what it was called back then) wasn't widely known. Sometimes, people had heard of us, but not many. Explaining our technology took time, as did helping them understand its value proposition.

Fast forward to today. We've grown in terms of recognition and people hearing about our mission. Now, we get many resumes. Sometimes, people even come to our lobby and bring their resumes. These days, when I chat with people on an HR call or if people have questions, I don't even have to tell them what we're working on. Instead, people approach me, expressing their enthusiasm for our mission and asking how they can help. They want to work with us, and that feels amazing.

Q: How can candidates better stand out when applying for jobs today?

I can speak to Modern Hydrogen, but it’s general advice, too. To stand out, the first step is to thoroughly understand the job description and what we're seeking in a candidate. Sometimes, I come across applications where there's minimal alignment between the candidate's interests or educational background and the role.

What really catches my attention is when it's clear that the individual has done their homework. They've explored our website and LinkedIn, and they're connecting their coursework, passions, or hobbies to our mission and what we're working on.

We provide substantial information on our website about our technology and markets, as well as our commitment to fighting climate change. So, when a candidate has taken that extra 10-15 minutes to research us and can demonstrate how their background aligns with our work, it makes me pause and think, “This person is really interested.”

They don’t necessarily have to do it in a traditional cover letter. They can tailor their resume by examining the job description and connecting it with their own experiences and strengths. We see many impressive resumes, but what distinguishes individuals is the effort they put into connecting their background and passions with our mission.

Q: Are you hiring generally? Do you have entry-level positions? Are you taking recent college graduates, or do you prefer candidates with years of experience?

Our hiring approach is quite diverse. If you visit our website, you'll notice that we're actively seeking individuals at various levels, including director-level positions. We also have a general application open for those who may not find an exact match for their interests and background but still want to get in touch with us.

We've had a phenomenal experience with our interns. We have interns on staff right now, and they're so talented and so driven. Some of them are going to school at the same time as they're interning with us. Their impact has been remarkable, and their manager has expressed how valuable they are to our company.

We definitely plan to continue recruiting interns. It's often the initial step for individuals early in their careers, especially while they're still in school. Internships or co-op opportunities can be fantastic. Sometimes, we'll work with an intern for more than six months because of a mutual need, fit, and interest.

We're hiring across the board at different experience levels. Modern Hydrogen prides itself on being a meritocracy. We believe that bringing together people from diverse educational backgrounds, whether they hold PhDs, bachelor's degrees, vocational certificates, or none of the above, leads to creative problem-solving.

Our strategy is simple: find really talented people regardless of their background. Get them in a room and have them solve a problem. No matter what the person's tenure, background, title, or experience, we let the best answer win.

Q: What challenges is your industry facing today?

From an HR recruitment perspective, one challenge that extends not only to cleantech but also across STEM roles is diversifying the employee population.

When we consider the applicant pool for engineering, technician roles, and other typical technology positions, there is often an imbalance in the gender ratio.

At Modern Hydrogen, innovation is at our core. We achieve this by bringing together individuals with diverse experiences, thoughts, and ideas. This approach aligns with our meritocratic values, where different backgrounds can offer unique perspectives.

In cleantech, our goal is to have the most significant positive impact possible. Achieving this means approaching design and development from multiple perspectives, ensuring our solutions are robust and reliable.

Q: What are the different career paths at Modern Hydrogen, and what educational backgrounds are applicable to each of them?

There are many different paths at Modern Hydrogen. Here are two examples:

  • Engineering: For example, electrical and mechanical engineers
  • Skilled Technical Tradespeople: This includes fabricators, technicians, machinists, and individuals who do hands-on work that requires a high level of expertise.

The backgrounds of individuals in the second category vary significantly. Some have bachelor's degrees, not necessarily in engineering, while others hold certificates or associate degrees in fields like machining or welding. Trade schools also provide relevant education for these roles.

Q: What qualities do you prioritize when hiring at Modern Hydrogen?

We value different experiences and different journeys that people have taken. There's no one-size-fits-all approach. It's about what a person has done, learned, and experienced, not just where they went to school or their GPA.

Education is extremely important, but we also recognize the value of learning through various paths, like formal education, apprenticeships, or mentorships. Our employees reflect this diversity of experiences and backgrounds, which ultimately drives our innovation in developing groundbreaking technology.

Q: What internship opportunities are available at Modern Hydrogen?

We offer a variety of internship opportunities, with a strong focus on technical roles. However, we also provide opportunities in business development and commercialization. These non-technical internships involve working with our business development team on tasks such as market research and customer engagement.

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