NextGen Collective recently spotlighted Nextracker senior sales analyst Melina Acevedo. Read about who inspired her the most growing up, the causes she’s passionate about, and more.
Where are you from?
I am currently based in Oakland, California. I was born in Lima, Peru and moved to the US with my family when I was seven years old. I have lived in the Bay Area for the majority of my life but did a short stint in the East Coast when I attended Princeton University.
What do you do today and where do you want to go in your career?
I currently work in the clean energy industry as a senior sales analyst at Nextracker, the global leader of smart solar tracking systems for utility-scale solar power plants. My role entails project managing solar projects across the US and Canada through the bidding and contracting process.
My long-term career goal is to help launch renewable energy projects and technologies in Peru. In the more immediate term, I hope to gain experience in the development of solar projects and eventually work in business development at a solar development company.
Who inspired you the most in your life growing up?
My mother has been my greatest inspiration. She left her family in Peru and immigrated with my sister and me to the US in search of a better life. As a single mother with basic English skills and a high school education, she worked tirelessly to advocate for my education and ensure I would have more opportunities than she did growing up.
What do you wish you had known at the start of your career?
I wish I had known to ask for help and seek out mentors with similar interests and backgrounds as myself. As the first in my family to graduate from college, I faced a lot of firsts on my own: creating a resume, searching for my first internship and full-time job, interviewing, negotiating, and networking. Realizing that I needed to take advantage of all the resources at my disposal, from the university career center and alumni network to professional organizations and everything in between, was a powerful moment that allowed me to level the uneven playing field I had been dealt.
What are some of the biggest challenges you see for Latinx professionals early in their careers?
The lack of representation, particularly at senior levels, can be discouraging and isolating. Working in a white-male dominated industry such as clean energy, I am often one of a handful of women at a meeting and usually the only woman of color in attendance. It can be difficult to connect with senior leadership when you do not share many commonalities and unconscious bias is real.
As I have progressed in my career, I have come to realize the importance of mentors, sponsors, and advocates. Forming your own community and building a support system of like-minded individuals is an invaluable lesson that I carry with me and instill in others.
How can Latinx professionals better advocate for themselves?
Know your worth and ask for help. When I began my career, I was embarrassed to open up about my struggles and ask others for help. As I have gotten older, I have leaned into my identity as an immigrant, Latina, and low-income first-generation college graduate, realizing that these differences are my strengths. You may be surprised how often others are willing to lend a hand and create a community of peers with similar lived experiences along the way.
What causes are you passionate about?
I am passionate about giving back to my community and uplifting others. My main work has been through Young Professionals in Energy SF Bay Area, where, as a board member, I launched a scholarship program in 2021 for underrepresented students seeking careers in climate/energy. I am excited to continue the scholarship again this year and raise more funds to hopefully impact even more students this time around! I also act as a mentor to various first-generation college students seeking careers in clean energy.
What behavior or personality traits do you attribute to your success?
My tenacity, strategic thinking, and willingness to get out of my comfort zone. In both my personal and professional endeavors, I value making informed decisions and listening to feedback. I also believe in taking on new challenges and viewing failure as an opportunity for growth.
Whose career really inspires you?
I am very inspired by the career of Rose McKinney-James. McKinney-James is a renowned expert in environmental business and technology policy, clean energy advocacy, and sustainable development. Her 2019 book, The Energy Within Us: An Illuminating Perspective from Five Trailblazers, deeply shaped my career ambitions and inspired me to pursue the highest realms of corporate leadership.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that I am playing a direct role in the global transition to clean energy. To date, I have personally contributed to 5.6 GW of solar deployment during my three-year tenure at Nextracker – that’s enough to power one million homes, on average, in the US.