Raina Russo: Solar Mom, Solar Woman, Solar Professional
I am sitting on a plane, off to Dallas, thinking about what’s ahead and at the same time what’s behind. The Solar Power International conference is something I look forward to every year. This is my third year attending and I know it’s going to be huge, to say the least. I have three days worth of back-to-back and overlapping meetings scheduled (last count was 30!), a Women in Solar breakfast, an opening session with Magic Johnson, a TweetUp, and on and on.
I love the solar industry, I love what EcoOutfitters.net represents, and I am super psyched to meet new people, learn new things, build constructive business relationships, and figure out innovative ways we can assist with the growth of solar.
So, why am I teary-eyed?! As my husband and kids pulled up to the Delta terminal at JFK Airport earlier this evening, I had a very hard time holding back my tears. My kids clenched my hands and my husband gave me that very proud look I love. I know I am unbelievably fortunate to have such passion and love in all aspects of my life. I am blessed with a ridiculously supportive and loving husband and two amazing children that inspire me to want to make the world better. I want to do it not only for them but also to set an example so that they may want to do the same (perhaps even in a bigger and better way!). I am also proud to have a career that makes me feel good day in and day out, interacting with others who are passionate about solar and are taking part in an industry that is reshaping our planet. Could it get any better?!
Reality is, however, that a business trip for me means a disruptance of our home routine. It means my children and husband need to sacrifice to back me up and make things work when I’m not around. It means, the pressure is on so I better make my every moment count! This is what I believe sets us women apart from the men. I know plenty of you are good fathers and husbands and I’m sure things are different when you aren’t home but… when a mother leaves home, it’s just different. I’m on a mission, I’m driven by a force, I’m exploding with emotions, I have a purpose. These next few days must be amazing.
While I grew up in a home of all girls, my career has been male dominated. I spent two years in the Israeli army in a unit with mostly men and went on to study civil engineering where I was among a small minority of women. Following that I worked for many years as a project engineer on a various construction sites, building roads, bridges, and tunnels. Wearing my construction boots and hard hat and getting down and dirty, I was (needless to say) almost always the only woman on site and in sight. So surviving and succeeding in a male-dominated environment isn’t new to me.
I used to believe that to suceed I needed to “man up” and hide my inner woman so I could look tough and fit in with the crowd. While I sit on the plane now though, I feel like I am starting to “get it.” It’s a revolution of sorts… I’m embracing being a mother and wife and a professional woman and it is all falling into place.
The solar industry is about success but it’s goes much deeper than that. It’s about making a difference, being a leader, living responsibly, and doing what’s right for your family, your community, your nation, and your planet. It’s about being truthful and strong and passionate. The very same values that drive me to be a better wife and mother are what drive me to be an active solar professional.
So while it was not easy saying goodbye tonight, I think it may have been a blessing in disguise. I am approaching Dallas with excitement and with a renewed purpose and I am proud to stand among the women in solar because we have something special and inherent in us that we bring to the table — it is simply nature’s way and it can help us to succeed.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and feelings either here, on Twitter, or on Facebook. Let’s figure out how to help encourage more women to enter this industry. Jobs are to be had — the industry is growing by leaps and bounds. Let’s make sure more women know what you may already know and what I am learning.
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