Degrees Episode 01: Steph Speirs

Transforming energy, unlocking change... and Bubba Gump Shrimp

Steph is a CEO who’s right in the mix with engaging customers

Steph Speirs is right in the middle of one of the most critical challenges of our time: the quest to move our energy economy away from fossil fuels and into systems that are clean, equitable, and renewable. Steph is the CEO and co-founder of Solstice, a dynamic startup that is bringing solar energy to the 80% of Americans who are unable to install solar panels on their roofs.

Our conversation with Steph goes way beyond solar energy. Her remarkable career path, from Bubba Gump Shrimp company waitress, to serving as the youngest Middle East policy director in the Obama White House, to CEO has given her great insight on everything from engaging audiences to making the business case for diversity, inclusion and social justice.

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Show notes

Doesn’t everyone have a photo like this? Steph and former CIA Director John Brennan brief President Obama in the oval office. Photo: Pete Souza, White House Photographer.

  • 03:33 – Steph talks about her “aha” moment that something was wrong with the solar energy business model.

  • 07:09 – The nuts & bolts of how she and her Solstice team re-invented who can access solar.
  • 08:04 – Steph discusses how she got excited about righting the wrongs of inequities in solar accessibility.
  • 10:00 – The importance (and challenge) of speaking to both solar developers and customers… and breaking down divisions between social justice and capitalism.
  • 13:09 – The details of how FICO scores are both inaccurate and discriminatory… and what Steph did to right that wrong.
  • 15:20 – Steph talks about the challenges of running a start-up, and changing the focus from “failure” to “learning as fast as you can”.
  • 18:49 – The obstacles–and opportunities–of being a non-white, woman CEO.
  • 22:14 – Steph talks about the importance of finding community–whereever you’re working.
  • 24:58 – “Delusional optimism” and how realism is what unlocks actual change.
  • 27:53 – Steph’s pathway to the Obama Whitehouse… and briefing rooms full of generals as a 25-year old
  • 30:55 – What Steph learned as a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company waitress!
  • 32:17 – On leaving your dream job for horizons unknown.
  • 35:37 – Steph talks about combining passion with a paycheck… and why it’s always been worth the risk.

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Want to learn more about Steph and Solstice? Follow these links:

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About Degrees

Produced by Environmental Defense Fund and hosted by Yesh Pavlik Slenk, Degrees is part club, part roadmap, part therapy session, Degrees is where you can hear in-depth, up-close conversations with changemakers who are actively using their careers to make a meaningful impact.

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