2021 Mária Telkes Fellowship Cohort

July 28, 2020

Cleantech Leaders Roundtable (CTLR) and the Clean Energy Business Network (CEBN) are thrilled to announce the inaugural cohort of the Mária Telkes Fellows!

The Mária Telkes Fellowship is intended to help promising cleantech professionals from underrepresented demographics tap into networking connections, positive exposure, and champion-building opportunities to realize their full potential for executive leadership. The program is broad in focus and seeks to encourage diversity in all its forms, including but not limited to race, color, religion, culture, age, national origin, ancestry, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, veteran status, and economic status.

Out of a large volume of highly qualified applicants, an initial 7 Fellows were chosen for the launch of this program. All are either mid-career professionals from larger companies or senior executives at small businesses with the potential to make transformational contributions to the cleantech industry.

The fellowship is named for Mária Telkes (December 12, 1900 – December 2, 1995), a Hungarian-American biophysicist, scientist, and inventor who worked on solar energy technologies. Telkes is considered one of the founders of solar thermal storage systems, earning her the nickname “the Sun Queen.”

Fellows will also be given complimentary membership in CTLR and CEBN’s Executive Circle, providing access to frequent, intimate networking events and opportunities for exposure/leadership within the cleantech community. Fellows will also be profiled in CEBN’s Faces Behind the Facts profile series, which highlights the stories of business leaders transforming the U.S. energy economy. The program will match each Fellow up with an experienced and well-connected senior leader in the cleantech industry, who will serve not only as a mentor but a sponsor who can foster relationship-building and professional growth to help champion their mentee on a path to executive leadership.

Finally, both Fellows and Semifinalists for the program will receive access to Master Classes taught by executive leaders across a broad range of cleantech development, investment, and nonprofit career paths.

Introducing the 2021-2023 Mária Telkes Fellows:

 

Tina Calvin
Head of Research and Innovation
Terran Material Resources
Providence, RI

Tina started her career as a geologist working in mines and witnessed the working conditions of miners. These conditions provided  a stark contrast to her academic interests in geology and the excitement she felt knowing the potential for raw materials in  the electronics’ and cleantech’ supply chains. Her experience seeing the environmental impacts of mining led her to found Terran Material Resources, a company focused on reducing barriers to recycling lithium-ion batteries and increasing the safety of disposal of renewable energy materials at end-of-life. Tina has vision, but looks forward to becoming better prepared to lead as her company grows. She also works to give back to other cleantech entrepreneurs by tapping into networks such as Women in Cleantech and Sustainability (WCS) and Leaders in Energy. She is developing a program to help other professionals transition to cleantech  or secure funding opportunities for their own entrepreneurial endeavors.  She is also working with a financial service company to help refugees navigate the complex U.S. financial system. Her professional interests are focused on batteries, water, waste, and transportation. With the fellowship, she hopes to not only advance her own career trajectory but also become more active in a community working to shape policy initiatives for small businesses, increase funding for underrepresented demographics, and address the challenges faced by entrepreneurs.

Abhishek Dash
Vice President, Engineering Management
BlocPower
Brooklyn, NY

Growing up in India’s emerging economy, Abhishek quickly perceived how technology, markets, and policy must be aligned to meet the world’s growing demands. He has spent the past seven years in the U.S. learning more about the clean energy economy through his technical core-engineering lens. He has supported more than 1,000 energy projects across the Northeast, the Midwest, and California and created software tools to help projects scale in new markets—an experience he hopes to pivot to creating market opportunities in emerging markets like India and Southeast Asia. Abhishek has engaged in numerous professional and community groups His career interests lie in equity and finance, with a particular emphasis on energy efficiency. From the fellowship, he hopes to gain more connections and insights on how to bring together stakeholders from large utilities, transmission regulators, developers, the clean energy markets, and decisionmakers to enable a clean energy transition.

Salina Derichsweiler
CEO
Transitional Energy
Aurora, CO

Salina is no stranger to making waves. She was first in family to graduate from high school and college and the first Native American (Iñupiaq) in her school district to graduate valedictorian. Her experiences overcoming severe cultural, systemic, and socio-economic trauma within her family spurred her interest in making her own way in the world. Today, she is working to create a cleaner energy future through her company, Transitional Energy, a geothermal power company that leverages binary cycle technology to recycle and repurpose oil and gas infrastructure into clean power generators. She hopes to create more opportunities for women in the field as an active participant in numerous professional organizations, including Tech Accelerator for Women (TVX-W). She looks forward to continuing to advance her leadership in the geothermal industry.

Daniel Handal
Project Director
NextEra Energy
San Francisco, CA

Growing up a Hispanic gay male watching Lost in Space and Battlestar Galactica, Daniel developed a passion for science that, when coupled with his hope for a more inclusive and accepting society, led him to work toward creating more diverse workplaces in the consulting and cleantech industries. Now working on renewable energy development for NextEra while pursuing a part-time MBA at Berkeley University’s Haas School of Business, he previously held positions at Waypoint Building Group and Navigant Consulting focused on energy efficiency and smart grids. Daniel has prioritized expanding opportunities for low-income communities through his volunteer work for Citizen Schools, a nonprofit organization that partners with schools to expand the learning day for children in these communities. He is excited to share his passion for clean energy with students by teaching them how to design and build solar-powered cars. His professional interests span the renewable energy, storage, and energy efficiency industries and he is interested in gaining advice through the fellowship on how to grow his career in cleantech, whether through renewable energy development, ESG investing, or venture capital.

Mustafa Homsi
Founder
rivieh
Los Angeles, CA

Mustafa immigrated to the U.S. from Syria in 2003 in search of a top-tier electrical engineering education. Post-graduation, he worked for Lutron Electronics, a leader in lighting control, where he learned of the worldwide need for clean technologies. While overcoming language and cultural barriers, Mustafa steadily progressed from entry-level to senior roles, eventually heading west to join innovative, fast-paced Silicon Valley startups. He recently founded rivieh, a cleantech startup working to streamline the deployment of smart building technologies within residential buildings. Mustafa is a proud recipient of the National Science Foundation SBIR Award for his innovative and impactful research at rivieh. He is a mentor at the Cleantech Open (CTO) and an active member of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI). Mustafa’s professional interests are focused on energy management, and he hopes to leverage the fellowship for guidance on his new startup and improve energy efficiency within the buildings sector.

Tasha McCarter
Vice President, Solar Engineering
RWE Renewables
Austin, TX

Tasha has always felt drawn to executive leadership, and has channeled that passion toward climate solutions. Her recent experience living through the Texas Blackouts during the winter of 2021 reinforced her commitment to addressing climate change as a leader in cleantech. Tasha has been deeply involved with the solar industry for more than a decade. She recently took a new position as a Vice President at RWE Renewables after previous positions leading the Utility Scale Solar Plant Design team at Silicon Ranch Corporation and serving as a Development Manager at SunPower Corporation. Tasha works to support other cleantech leaders through her engagement as a Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI) Fellow, as a Steering Committee member of DistribuTECH International, and as a member of both Women in Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE) and Clean TX.  She hopes the fellowship will help to further advance her leadership potential in renewable energy, storage, and energy efficiency.

Sonam Velani
Founder
Klima Ventures
New York, NY

Sonam’s passion for sustainable development is rooted in her lived experience. Her family left Mumbai, India for Chicago, USA when Sonam was a child. As an undocumented immigrant, she learned first-hand how inadequate housing, limited transportation, and environmental risks create structural barriers to upward mobility and has committed herself to address these inequities. The first in her family to attend college, Sonam earned a full scholarship to Harvard University and went on to a career spanning the public and private sectors at Goldman Sachs, The World Bank, the New York City Mayor’s Office, and Zipline. She is now helping launch the Climate Solutions Center in New York City, transforming the former army base on Governor’s Island into a cross-disciplinary center for climate research, innovation, and policymaking. As part of that effort, Sonam is building Klima Ventures, a climate venture studio to invest in diverse founders, with the goal of helping entrepreneurs test and iterate climate adaptation and mitigation technologies in a real-world urban environment, and in partnership with policymakers, business leaders, and frontline communities. Sonam is interested in a broad spectrum of cleantech sectors as they relate to urban development – including building materials, transportation, water, waste management, and local food systems – and hopes the fellowship will help her learn more about public-private partnerships to scale climate solutions.

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Cleantech Leaders Roundtable (CTLR) is a fellowship among peers of leading cleantech CEOs, investors, and influencers. This community facilitates trusted exchange of information, collective problem-solving through partnerships, and amplification of individual business and communications efforts. Clean Energy Business Network (CEBN) is the small business voice for the clean energy economy. CEBN’s mission is to enhance opportunities for small- and midsize clean energy companies through policy engagement, market and technology education, and business development assistance. CEBN administers CTLR programming and the two organizations partner regularly on events and industry collaboration.