CWU alumna Taylor Steele’s path from opera to renewable energy

  • April 10, 2024
  • Robin Burck

When it comes to career trajectories, Taylor Steele knows a thing or two about changing paths to chase her dreams.

The 2013 Central Washington University graduate’s journey from music student to global leader in renewable energy exemplifies the power of exploration, resilience, and passion.

Steele completed her degree in international studies with an emphasis in politics and economics. She also earned minors in Spanish, music, and alternative energies, along with a certification in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

“I started as a music student, focusing on vocal performance,” Steele recalls. “But after my first year, I realized opera was not my destined career path.”

Undeterred by the uncertainty of her future, Steele decided to study abroad in Spain and Germany.

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It was during her time in Germany, immersed in political science studies, that she discovered her passion for renewable energy and sustainability. The concept of distributed energy resources ignited a newfound purpose in her professional development.

“When I came back to the States, I was elated to discover that CWU offered an alternative energies minor and pursued that with vigor and excitement,” Steele said. “I also realized I needed a technical skill if I had any hope of landing a job after graduation—this is what led me to GIS.”

Determined to tailor her education to her evolving interests, she crafted her own degree through Central’s interdisciplinary studies program, focusing on politics, economics, and environmental studies.

Outside the classroom, Steele was also active in the community, serving as a community programmer for the International House and the president of the Geography Club. Her commitment to both academic and extracurricular pursuits laid the foundation for a remarkable journey ahead.

After graduating, Steele began navigating the job market with her unique blend of qualifications. Her proficiency in GIS proved to be her golden ticket to start her career, helping her land a position as a data technician for Google Maps.

This opportunity, though temporary, opened doors to her dream career.

“I told a colleague at Google Maps about my passion for maps and renewable energy and he introduced me to OneEnergy Renewables,” Steele says. “At 24 years old, I landed what I considered my dream job, an associate project manager at a small solar company. I loved it!”

Steele's career trajectory continued to soar as she transitioned to electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer Tesla, where she played a pivotal role in managing Supercharger programs in Southern California.

Over the course of six years, Steele grew in her role at Tesla, becoming a senior leader and managing Supercharger programs across the globe.

Last year, she decided it was time to broaden her horizons and scope of work to more than Superchargers, which led her to join the SEAM Group as global director of renewables.

“I am currently managing a renewables business line including Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) for EV charging, solar PV, and energy storage assets,” Steele says. “I oversee the daily operations and delivery of the work, manage a team of 15-plus, and work close with the executive team on fiscal reporting and business planning. In short, it’s like running my own little business.”

SEAM Group, a leader in reliability, safety, and maintenance services for energized assets, provided Steele with the platform to spearhead the renewables business line.

Reflecting on her first decade as a professional, Steele emphasizes the significance of networking—a principle that has guided her throughout her career.

“Every job I have gotten, I have gotten through my network—somehow, someway,” Steele says, adding that, no matter how little it may seem, providing a referral or putting in a good word with someone goes a long way. “At the end of the day, businesses are run by people, and people hire people that they want to work with. Be the person that people want to work with.”

Steele gained inspiration from the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown, saying that it profoundly influenced her approach to prioritization and focus and helped her understand the value of figuring out what is important and saying no to everything else.

Steele's success story is a reminder that our paths to success are often paved with curiosity, resilience, and a pursuit of passion. From opera halls to renewable energy boardrooms, her journey exemplifies the transformative power of embracing the things you find interest in.

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