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Dana S., at Shoreline Community College
Dana Shaphren is an alumni of the Clean Energy Technology & Entrepreneurship program at Shoreline Community College. Although Shaphren is relatively new to the solar industry, she has roots in construction with Americorps and Habitat For Humanity.
"I've always been interested in green building, tiny houses, solar, and all kinds of alternative energy," she says. And so a Google search later, Shaphren found the Clean Energy Technology & Entrepreneurship program at SCC. In the program, she learned how to design residential solar systems on paper and in SketchUp, as well as which parts of the National Electric Code were relevant to whatever she was building.
Shaphren says the program opened the door to many vital networking opportunities and was able to snag an internship at A&R Solar through one of her professors. If it sounds familiar, it should. She's now A&R Solar's Commercial Bid Manager. Shaphren shadowed designers as part of her internship, which meant getting to use the skills she learned through the CET program.
"I was an intern while I was in school, and I was actually able to do my SketchUp class like nobody's business," she says.
But her journey in the solar industry doesn't stop there. Through her internship, Shaphren was able to secure a paid position at A&R Solar in....accounting?
Believe it or not, Shaphren has some experience in accounting from her days working in the construction industry, and though it wasn't her be all end all opportunity, she wants to stress how important it is to get your foot in the door.
"Be humble enough to take any position — within reason," Shaphren says as advice to other students. Just getting into the company means you can work your way up to wherever you want to be. Further, Shaphren wants students to know that it's not just okay to come from a different background. Be empowered by it.
"I'm a woman. And I'm queer. And so I'm different. The construction industry has a lot of men. And so when I look back, I feel really good that I'm in the industry and that I made it in the industry," she says, "Focus on what you find most interesting and delve into it. Become good at it and [don't] be discouraged by [your] background."
Since graduating, she still keeps in touch with Louise Petruzzella, the lead faculty and Director of the CET program, and even had some of her current students visit A&R Solar to job shadow. Even the textbooks Shaphren used in school are the same ones they have around the office. If that in itself doesn't speak to the quality and relativity of the program, then the fact that Shaphren is successful and thriving in the solar industry should. She accredits a lot of her success to the training and opportunities she received at Shoreline's CET program.
"I think what's cool about the solar industry is, in a way, it's a visionary's industry. It's a space for leaders. People who can dream things up. The sky's the limit."
NSF • ATE • CREATE • Renewable Energy Center
Madison Area Technical College
1701 Wright Street
Madison, WI 53704
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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