Solar stories: CertainTeed’s Kate Collardson on her solar installer career, advice for other women

Even from a young age, Kate Collardson was dedicated to saving the planet.

“When people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said I wanted to be a naturalist,” Collardson said. “To me, that meant someone who cares about the environment and works to keep the planet livable.”

Originally from Corsicana, Texas, her passion for the environment never faded, though she developed a love for the German language, as well as literature and history. Kate attended Colorado College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in German. While attending college, she discovered a passion for working with her hands and woodworking, leading to a career in carpentry. While working on a job in Arizona, Collardson inadvertently made a turn into the solar industry.

Kate Collardson Headshot“I said out loud that I wanted a job that combined my love of working with my hands with my love for the environment,” said Collardson. “I then opened the newspaper to see a job listing that read, ‘Wanted: Carpenter/Solar Installer.’ The listing even noted that they would train in solar installation, so I applied and was hired.”

The job was the beginning of a three-and-a-half year career as a solar installer, which eventually led to being hired by CertainTeed as a Solar Technical Support Representative. In her 12 years since joining the solar industry, Collardson has earned several certifications, including NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) certification, a Technical Certificate in Sustainable Technology and Management, as well as an MBA from Arizona State University.

She has also received several promotions since joining CertainTeed, coming into her current role as a Solar Services Manager in 2015. Although she has worn many different hats in her career, Collardson is still passionate about her work and the influence it has—both on people and the planet.

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“I love that the work I do has an impact on climate change,” said Collardson. “However, my favorite activity I do in my job is training. I love helping people understand new things. It’s great to see a person’s face light up as they understand a new concept. I have the privilege of being able to hold in-person trainings at industry events, and I get to join installation crews on the roof to train them on our products.”

Though there have been steady increases of women in the trades, Collardson still represents a minority in the solar workforce. According to the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census, only 27 percent of solar employees were women in 2017.

“It’s difficult being a women in the solar field, just like it is in every other industry,” said Collardson. “It’s not all smooth sailing, but from my perspective, it can be easier than it is in other trades. My personal experience, even as an installer, is that most of the people I work with don’t care about my gender.”

Her advice for women interested in getting into the solar industry? Be brave.

“Bravery is doing something even though you are afraid,” said Collardson. “It’s important to know that it’s common to be scared. Many of us have a voice in our head that tells us we are not good enough or not smart enough or that we should be afraid. Even though it’s scary, it’s important to be brave in the face of these fears. When we do this, we open the door to new possibilities.”

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