In this series, we talk with some of the passionate, high-performance team members who are co-creating the Energy Transition Platform: the leading global marketplace for Distributed Energy Systems (DES).
Today we talk with Erin Hunzeker, VECKTA’s Head of Capital Markets.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to join VECKTA.
I’ve straddled the financial services and commodities industries quite a bit over the years having been a power and natural gas trader, a manager of nearly 3,000 MW of generation, and a sales and business development manager on Wall Street. In my previous position, I travelled extensively throughout Canada and Europe meeting with banks and regulators but what interested me in VECKTA is what happened to me this Spring.
I’m based in Houston where it’s usually a gazillion degrees but we had a surprise snow and ice storm that really put pressure on the grid in Texas. There was such a demand for power and with so many plants offline for maintenance, I was without power for a week. It got down to 38 degrees in my house, and while I’m originally from the north and enjoy the cold, I didn’t enjoy having to go out to my car to get any heat. I then researched alternative energy and grid projects, read up on microgrids, and thought it could be a great opportunity to thread what I’ve done with banks and lenders with what VECKTA is aspiring to do in the microgrid/onsite energy systems space.
Sounds like that was a really impactful experience. Is that something you share with potential VECKTA partners?
I do every time the opportunity presents itself. I was on a call with a Capital Partner who asked point blank “What’s a VECKTA and how can this help me?” I told him how I resorted to burning books like in Fahrenheit 451 just to stay warm during that winter storm and that there had to be an alternative to the aging electrical grid that could provide resilience in times of need. I explained how microgrid projects will be constructed and published to our marketplace, and more importantly, I stressed our potential as a deal-flow channel for him to utilize. He got it and has been a friend that I seek feedback from ever since.
What are you working on at VECKTA right now?
I’m building up the Capital Partner community in steps—first, reaching out to lenders in the community to build what I hope to be long and fruitful relationships, and second, showing the Capital Partner what VECKTA can do for them as a pipeline of bankable projects. We’re building the Capital Partners Dashboard which will provide lenders access to projects they might have hunted for or missed out entirely on previously. I’m also trying to figure out ways for a lender to onboard and what that lender as a client journey would look like.
So you work with other team members on creating that user experience?
Much of what has been done to date has been focused on building a compelling product, but we know we need to tailor it to user feedback. Like the old saying “You only have one chance at a first impression”, we often have one shot with clients, and even if our product is compelling but we can’t easily onboard firms or help them navigate the site, they’ll have a bad client experience and possibly never return. It is a firm-wide initiative to detail what onboarding structure needs to be in place for both clients and projects and how we can best optimize those experiences so that a client stays with us throughout the journey. It’s the focus of virtually everyone at VECKTA right now.
What would you say are the most important skills to help you succeed?
I believe perspective and the ability to build relationships are valuable skills. The ability to see the big picture, recognizing the value that others bring to idea generation and execution, and being able to talk to others respectfully helps considerably. Also being able to pick yourself up time and time again after failure whether it’s losing a big client, losing $7 million in a day of trading, or making a mistake—recognize it, own it, and learn from it.
What advice would you give to someone pursuing a career like yours?
Continue to challenge yourself—if you’re passionate about your job, it’s not work. Know what you enjoy, embrace the challenge, and adapt. Develop a broad skillset as that will open doors otherwise closed but focus on the ability to cultivate friendships and professional relationships organically. Problem solving for what a client needs and the ability to accept rejection time and time again are also very important.
What is the biggest challenge this industry is facing, and how is VECKTA overcoming it?
The electric grid is old as are many of the power plants located throughout the country. While there has been investment to maintain much of it, there hasn’t been a ton of innovation to fix it. More affordable innovation is now happening with the leaps in battery technology, solar panel efficiency, and what we’re doing in the renewable energy space. VECKTA is fostering a process and place where projects can be seen, financed, and developed faster than ever before—I believe onsite energy systems are a great way to alleviate the burdens on an old power grid.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I like to exercise, play baseball in an over-40 league in 110-degree weather, play tennis, watch sports (anything St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Rockets, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers related—you can tell I’ve moved a lot), and anything to do with stocks and derivatives.
I love to chase after my 3 kids, but they’re a little older now so it’s more of a challenge to literally catch up to them. I go to a lot of travel baseball games all throughout Texas and Louisiana. Watching my kids grow up has been the greatest pleasure of my life. That and when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl last year as I’m an avid fan—I went through some god-awful seasons where I had to have a bottle of Pepto Bismol nearby just to get through the games but no longer—thank you, Tom Brady!
As a football fan, I completely understand the seasonal rollercoaster!
What VECKTA value resonates most strongly with you? How do you live that out?
Empower co-creation is a great value—it instills openness and teamwork. It’s a challenge to do this during Covid when everyone is remote, but it really feels like we’re a team working toward the same goal. I’ve played and coached a ton of baseball and I find sports to be very similar—while you can be an individual contributor, you’re stronger and more productive when everyone has a unified goal and challenges each other to new heights.
Thanks for sharing your time and insights, Erin!
If you want to work with Erin and the rest of our team in transforming the onsite energy market, check out our current career opportunities.