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Humility and Fearlessness: The Abby Hopper Interview - Scaling Clean Ep. 5

3 min. read

Abby Hopper is in her 5th year as the head of the Solar Energy Industries Association, the U.S.’s main solar trade association widely known as “SEIA.” She’s SEIA’s third CEO, taking over the reins right when the avowedly anti-renewables Trump Administration took power in 2016.  

Abby’s a lawyer by training, and a veteran of several top regulatory posts at the state and federal levels. That including leading the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in the years that followed the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in 2010.  

In short, Abby’s developed an expertise in leading teams within complex organizations facing big, existential challenges. You could call her cleantech’s rafting guide to running Class 5 rapids. And talking with Abby is a bit of a two-fer: She’s a CEO, but she’s also sees a lot of other CEOs in action. 


Here are the highlights from our conversation with Abby:  

  • 5:35 – Why it’s important for young professionals about being someone’s boss to be clear about their strengths and their weaknesses. Then hire people to address those weaknesses.  

  • 11:27 – Why building teams is the most rewarding parts of her job, and the key is giving people the space to do their jobs so you can see how they perform. Careful attention needed! “It’s a lot of gut feelings.”  

  • 12:50 – In assessing employees you inherit, transparency from employees is a good way to assess their fit in a high-performing team. She also asks staff she inherited: “What makes you the most excited about your job, and what do you wish were different?”  

  • 15:27 – Why “fit” isn’t the best criteria for hiring from an increasingly diverse pool of potential employees. It can be too easily conflated with “comfort” or people like me.  
  • 17:24 – Her advice on firing? “Do it. Do it. 100% do it…. Don’t be afraid to make change. You deserve the team you need to get the job done.”  

  • 19:40 – the 2 questions she asks everyone she interviews for a job: 
    What’s the job you’re interviewing for?  
    How do you like to be managed? 

  • 21:00 – Why having failed is an essential criterion for leading an organization – it gives you the humility to remember you’re managing human beings, each with his/her strengths and flaws.  

Listen to the newest episode on Apple, Spotify, Radio Public, Amazon Music, iHeart, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher.

Topics: Scaling Clean Podcast