Staff Spotlight – Gretchen Calcagni, Consultant

Gretchen Calcagni head shot

How long have you been with Optimal Energy?

 Almost 6 ½ years. Time flies!

Please share your career path before you joined Optimal

My first jobs out of college were focused on non-profit and government program and grants management. I worked for the Vermont Humanities Council, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, and as a federal contractor for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. These positions gave me great experience working with different kinds of people and organizations, as well as an understanding of various challenges and considerations related to program implementation.

I also had some shorter-term positions including an at internship at Rocky Mountain Institute and statistical consulting work for a former professor from Duke University.

My great-grandfather, Deane Davis, was the governor of Vermont in the 1970s. He helped to pass several important environmental protection laws, so it was something I held as a value growing up.

Gretchen calcagni

What are your primary responsibilities at Optimal?

As a consultant at Optimal, I provide research, analytical, and project management support for clients. I cover a range of projects including advisory council technical services, white papers and policy reports, and expert testimony. I often take a lead role in developing client reports, memos, and presentations. My largest project is providing on-going planning and analysis support to the Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Advisory Council.

What led you to a career in energy efficiency?

I was drawn to energy efficiency because it helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while also making sense from an economic standpoint. I spent the summer between my first and second years of graduate school interning with Rocky Mountain Institute in Boulder, Colorado. This was a great place to get a crash course on the energy efficiency industry. As a “think-do tank,” RMI provides both thought leadership and consulting. Interning there got me interested in consulting career opportunities.

What sparks your interest the most about Optimal’s services and / or clients?

Energy efficiency is constantly evolving, so there are always new technologies, program strategies, and policies — things to learn and think about. Also, because we work with clients in different regions, we have to understand their unique challenges and opportunities. It’s interesting to see how differently things can be done between jurisdictions. I‘m able to draw on knowledge gained from working with other clients.

Gretchen Calcagni at the finish of a half-marathon
Gretchen is an avid runner and outdoor enthusiast

Any reflections on being a woman in a male-dominated industry?

Overall, I’ve been fortunate to have very supportive colleagues. But it can be intimidating at first, and there have been times I felt like I had to prove myself more than my male counterparts may have. Ultimately, it forces you to find your voice and learn how to advocate for yourself.  Although I may never be the loudest person in the room, I think people listen more closely when I do speak up.

Are you involved in any organizations outside of work?

When I lived in South Burlington, Vermont, I was a member of the Planning Commission. I’m also part of Duke University’s alumni interview committee, and we interview high school student applicants from Vermont. More recently, I’ve started participating in the University of Virginia (UVA) Club of Vermont. I find participating in alumni organizations is a good way to stay connected to places and people that had a large impact on who I am and what I’m doing.

Any activities or hobbies you want to share?

I like to be active in my free time and enjoy yoga, running, and rock climbing. I also love to travel when I get the chance. On one trip to Germany, I decided to run a half-marathon through Berlin. I was late signing up for the race, and all the running spots were full. But there were slots in the inline skating division. I was determined to participate in the race, so for about a week, I thought I was going to have to inline skate it. I even went to a local roller rink to practice!

Thankfully, I ended up with a running spot and ran the distance. I highly recommend running as a fun way to see a new city.