Kali Taylor Co-founder Student Energy

Kali Taylor

Co-founder, Student Energy

Kali Taylor developed her passion for community building growing up in a small town where she learned “if you want something to do you are going to have to create it.” Kali got her first job in the energy industry at the young age of 19 and worked for several energy companies while simultaneously studying for her Bachelor of Commerce degree.  In 2011 she co-founded Student Energy after successfully planning and executing two International Student Energy Summit events that collectively brought students from over 50 countries together to learn about energy and the environment.  Student Energy is a global not-for-profit that is creating the next generation of energy leaders dedicated to transitioning the world to a sustainable energy future by providing empowerment and educational initiatives.  Kali is now the full-time Executive Director and is working with her team to build the organization into a far-reaching global movement.

We asked Kali:

The OGM: What does sustainability mean to you?

Kali: To me sustainability means defining the fundamental things that we as human beings strive for – health, happiness, safety, quality of life – and finding ways to achieve those things equitably and within the bounds of what this planet has to offer.  I think our culture has made us believe that growth and ‘having more’ are end goals but that is not an end state; that is not sustainable.

The OGM: Have you had a mentor?

Kali: I have had numerous mentors throughout my life and career but I would say my first boss was particularly important to me.  He said something to me that completely changed my perception of my role in the energy industry. I was trying to reconcile my internal conflict of being an environmentalist working for big oil and I told him I felt I was selling out.  He replied, “do you think you can make a larger impact working within the system or by holding up a picket sign?” That comment ultimately helped shape my belief that real dialogue is absolutely crucial to lasting change in the global energy system.

The OGM: What does success mean to you?

Kali: Success is being part of something bigger than myself.  I think we are on the cusp of massive global change and I will feel I am successful if I am able to empower as many people as possible to realize they are capable of being part of that change.  Along the way I believe success comes from the relationships we share – the feeling of being part of a really amazing team, or inspiring someone to do something they thought they couldn’t, or meeting someone who fundamentally changes the way you see a challenge – I find success in those moments.

The OGM: If you were to describe your career in three words what would they be?

Kali: Organic, Eclectic, Motivated

The OGM: What advice would you give to someone looking for a career in the energy industry?

Kali: Don’t expect to fall into exactly what you love in this industry by chance – it is a journey.  This industry is broad, complex and exciting and the only way to find out what you will love is to be open to trying different things.  Every role you hold will teach you something about yourself and allow you to refine your career until it is what you want it to be.

The OGM: Describe a milestone in your career?

Kali: My most memorable career milestone is the day I pulled the safety net out – the day that I started full time at Student Energy.  We didn’t have money in the bank but we had a mission, vision and I knew the organization needed my full focus and attention.  There were no back up plans; I was all in.  It was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.

The OGM: Describe a challenge you faced in your career?

Kali: I think the biggest challenge I have right now is maintaining balance for my organization.  At Student Energy we believe that the discourse around energy has become polarized and emotional so we strive to bring the discussion back to a balanced place by presenting facts and multiple perspectives.  This is a tough line to ride because everyone wants you to stand for something or be something – left wing, right wing, corporate, an environmentalist, a hippy, an industrialist, whatever it is.  I am all of those things at given points in time and therefore am constantly forcing people to challenge their own entrenched perspectives and see a bigger picture.   I believe that when people have more information they will be able to think critically about issues and come up with great solutions.  My challenge will always be keeping Student Energy as the middle-line, honest broker of information and difficult debates.

The OGM: What impact does technology have on your career?

Kali: Without technology I don’t think Student Energy would be able to exist.  We work with students all over the planet and without the Internet and all it has to offer we would not be able to educate, inspire and connect with them.

The OGM: What do the next five years look like in your career?

Kali: I plan on executing the first three-year plan of Student Energy and then passing the leadership position of the organization over to a new grad who can bring in fresh ideas and vision.  I then plan on going back to grad school to learn more about development and from there I would like to focus my efforts on sustainable energy in the developing world.

The OGM: Were you always interested in a career in Energy?

Kali: Funnily enough, no – I actually had no desire to work in the energy industry.  I truly believe my passion for energy would not have come about had it not been for coming to Calgary.  I fell into the industry because it was the only place I could get a summer job… and I thank my lucky stars every day that life played out that way!

The OGM: What interests you to sustain a career in the Energy industry?

Kali: Energy is the lifeline of society and it ultimately dictates the quality of life we all will have.  I find this incredibly exciting because making a positive impact in the energy industry can literally mean changing the lives of millions of people.

The OGM: Do you have a role model you look up to?

Kali: Jennifer Morgan the Director of Climate and Energy at the World Resource Institute is a huge role model for me.  I have followed the work of WRI for years and have always appreciated that they back up their vision of the future with grounded analysis.  They have no tolerance for status quo but at the same time are realistic about the transition to a sustainable future.  I admire Jennifer because she is a woman with scrupulous principles and is one of the smartest people I have met.  I was lucky enough to be able to speak on a panel with her at Rio +20 in Brazil and when I met her I said, “this may sound strange but I feel like I am your groupie!”

The OGM: What does Energy mean to you?

Kali: Energy is our greatest challenge and opportunity.  It has allowed us as a human population to grow to 7 Billion people, industrialize and literally transform the world we live in.  This is an exciting opportunity but also an incredibly important responsibility and we must recognize this.

The OGM: What is your favorite APP on your phone?

Kali: I am addicted to the Nike Training App on my iPhone.  It has simple 15-minute workouts that target all muscle groups and will even show you how to do all the exercises with proper form.  It is a busy person’s best friend at the gym!

The OGM: What impact will the Millennial Generation have on the Energy industry?

Kali: The Millennial Generation is going to transform the energy industry. Research into the Millennial Generation shows two main trends that I think are very different from other generations that have come into the industry – they switch jobs frequently and require a deep sense of purpose from the work they do.  While many see these as negatives I think they are going to have a very positive impact on innovation in the industry. When you look at who will operationally meet our global 2050 emissions targets, it’s th Millennials and I believe we are well equipped to do so.

The OGM: What’s your take on Social Media and our ever changing digital world?

Kali: I think that social media has fundamentally changed the way we all interact with information – we now have instant access to more information than we could ever comprehend.  While there are challenges with this, I think this will ultimately create generations that are more connected, informed and ready to mobilize change than any of the past.

The OGM: What Social Medium do you use on a daily basis?

Kali: Being a Millennial, I use them all!  But my favourite is Twitter.  I don’t even remember how I got information before Twitter.  I also love that it provides direct lines of communication to thought leaders that used to be much more difficult to access.

The OGM: Do you use Social Media for work?

Kali: Not only do we use social media at Student Energy, it is the main way we communicate with our students globally.  Our job would be nearly impossible without social media. Between two Facebook pages, twitter and our mailing list, we currently reach over 23,000 students from more than 80 countries online!

The OGM: What do you think of Social Recruiting?

Kali: I think social media allows for access to people who you may not normally be able to connect with and with that comes all their ideas and perceptions.  I think Social Recruiting can be powerful in that way.  We each have our own persona on social media and it allows us to connect with others whether that is on an individual basis or for a business finding an employee who is a perfect match.

The OGM: Why do you love what you do?

Kali: On any given day I can look down at the clock on my computer and realize that at 10am I have already spoken to students in 5 or 6 countries.  That is why I love what I do.  I get to connect with incredible young leaders all over the world and support them in making an impact in their own way.  I think what we are doing with Student Energy is so important to the future of our communities and our planet and that means I get to wake up every morning and think, “I am making this world a better place.” There is truly nothing better than that!

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