149: Helping the Earth be Resilient with Kimberlee Centera

Episode 149

Helping the Earth be Resilient


When I think about leadership and creating a new leadership model, I think so much of that is being vulnerable and the fact that it’s not a one-time event. I’m finding it’s something that you have to be able to do over and over.


Paula Shaw Welcome to change it up, radio with Paula Shaw. I am your host, and I am also an author of a couple of books that I’m very anxious to tell you about in just a moment. I’m also a speaker and a life transition coach. What I do in my work with people that are going through life transitions is help them deal with the upheaval of change because, you know, we humans, we have a love hate relationship with change, as we say here every week. We need it to keep life interesting. But oh, we hate the discomfort of the unfamiliar. It’s always so nice when we’re just feeling cozy and familiar with our world, and it just seems so much less threatening that way. But change is going to happen, whether we want it or not. And so, my work is about helping people to just make friends with change, get more comfortable with it and make it smoother and more productive. And that’s what I do in my one-on-one practice with my clients. And you can get information about my work as a speaker and as a life transition coach at PaulaShaw.com. That’s PaulaShaw.com. And my books, which are Chakras, the Magnificent Seven. Which is a kind of a guide to balancing and working with those important parts of the energy system called the chakras. And then I wrote a book for people going through those changes that can produce grief. And this book is called grief. When will this pain ever end? And my most recent book, which is one of my favorites for a lot of reasons, it’s called Saying the right thing when you don’t know what to say, and that is just a really helpful little guidebook for those of us who really want to support our friends or our family, our loved ones when they’re going through difficult times. But sometimes we avoid showing up for them. We avoid that phone call or that visit because we’re so afraid to say the wrong thing and make the situation even worse. So, saying the right thing when you don’t know what to say is a quick read, but I’m telling you it will arm you and make you feel so much more prepared when you need to have a difficult conversation with someone who’s dealing with an emotional issue. It might be an employee or a fellow colleague or a family member or your partner or a child, but we all want to be as prepared as we can be to be as helpful as we can be in those conversations. Speaking of which, I’ve just launched a new website, and if you go to PaulaShaw.com, I have a free gift for you, which is a kind of a cheat sheet. It’s taken from that book saying the right thing when you don’t know what to say, and it’s called 20 things to say and not to say to people in emotional pain. So be sure you get that. Keep it in your glove compartment or in your purse, because it’s a great little quick reference guide when you’re dealing with a situation that might be a little bit tricky because if we feel comfortable going into the situation and our energy is going to be so much more supportive and so much more helpful, so be sure you grab that little guide. All right. So, this fall, our theme has been resiliency and. You know, those of you who follow the show, I’ve spoken about it on many different episodes and in many different ways. But I’m such a believer that resiliency is a key piece in the road, back from loss in the road, back from those changes that have been very disruptive in our life, very difficult to deal with. Resiliency is that part of us that says I won’t be defeated by this. I’m going to just try it this way or I’m going to try it again, or I will not give up. That’s that spirit of resiliency within us. And today I am so excited to share with you a woman who it’s her that she could be the poster girl for resilience because she has been through many situations in her career. And I’m sure in her entire life that really required resiliency. So let me tell you a little bit about Kimberlee Centera. She is a trailblazer in the renewable energy industry. She’s one of the only female CEOs of a utility scale renewable energy consulting practice as a risk management expert for the development and financing of large-scale generator energy projects. She possesses the expertise to identify, manage and mitigate risk. So leading industry stakeholders rely on her to analyze and resolve legal issues and ensure the smooth closing of transactions on complex, high value projects. One of my favorite things about Kimberlee is she’s an enthusiastic champion of women. She was one of the first women in the sustainable energy field. So, she’s got some stories for us, but she believes diversity is essential in meeting the demands of this rapidly growing renewable sector. So, she encourages and mentors’ women from all around the world as an entrepreneur. Oh, my goodness, she’s been recognized as a finalist for the Women in Power Award, the San Diego Business Journal CEO of the Year Award, the National Association of Women Business Owners Green Community Award. And recently she presented a Sioux Talk Sue Standing for Success Unlimited. And you know what? I’m after double check with her about that. I think the second word is unlimited and then E! Is for empower. I heard that talk and she was amazing. We’ll be getting into some discussion about that. But she was nominated to do that. Talk with the connected women of influenced group. So, this woman, if I there’s so much more, but if I keep going on and on, we won’t have any time to interview her. So instead, let’s just have her speak for herself. Kimberlee Centera, please join us. There she is.

Kimberlee Centera All right, thank you so much

Paula Shaw Kimberlee. I’m so delighted you’re here. Did I blow it on, SUE? What does the SUE stand for? A successful, unstoppable, unstoppable? Oh, OK, I was in the regime row with unlimited

Kimberlee Centera were in there, and I think it’s a very, you know, considering your, you know, resilience and, you know, we just got to be unstoppable, right? We just keep on, keep on pursuing, keep on working.

Paula Shaw And so exactly and unstoppable is a great word to combine with that concept of resilience. I love that that that you made that tie. I got to remember that one. Maybe that’s why I was thinking it was unlimited, because that’s kind of in that same genre. You know, some of us who are in fields that weren’t necessarily designed for women or weren’t occupied by women early on have had that experience of needing to feel unstoppable or unlimited just to keep going and not to get ourselves into a place where we just give up because the goal doesn’t seem reachable. So, you’re one of those women, Kimberlee, but let’s talk a little bit about. Tell us a little bit about your backstory, your family. How does a beautiful young woman decide to go into an industry that’s primarily dominated by hard hat type guys?

Kimberlee Centera Right? Well, you know, I’m a California girl, so, you know, born and raised in California renewables. Interesting. I love law. That was always my first love, and that’s where I started, and I worked many years in law. Commercial real estate title escrow. Oh, really learned everything that I needed to know. And when I ended up making that transition into renewables, it was just it was just the perfect fit. Because renewables is all about land. It’s all about perfecting land rights and understanding land and entitlements. So having that background was a wonderful, you know, entrée into renewables. But you know, we’ve always been there, you know, women, just a few of us. And I think now today it’s 13 percent of the workforce. But back in the day when I first started, it was a much smaller number. And so, you know, it was interesting. I was fortunate to be in a very encouraging environment. I had wonderful mentors and I was in life and working and specializing in law. But the vice president of the project development kept coming into my office and we’re having all the fun on the development side. You’ve got to come and work with us in development, and he kept he kept trying to reel me in. And finally, finally, he was able to real mean and of course, I never looked back. So that’s years ago now.

Paula Shaw And did he really you into actually going into this renewable energy field? Or was he somebody you worked with originally in with law and property?

Kimberlee Centera No, he was part of the company that I was working for a small company, and he was responsible for managing the development side. And there’s, you know, kind of the way that you think about renewables kind of partitioned out and a lot of companies and you kind of have your legal team, which drives a lot of the financings and then you have your development team, which is going to push forward the projects and develop the projects. And so, he wanted me to come over and really work with the development team and really support that development of the projects and really start to learn development and back in the day, building and developing projects. I was all new to me, but I found out right away that I’m definitely a dirt girl. I think, you know, I loved I really loved talking to people, and I was so fortunate early in my career, and I still have that. But early in my career to be having to be able to go out and walk the property and, you know, really be able to, you know, see the property from the perspective of the landowners and their legacies and what they wanted to try to create. And it really touched me very much to be able to see these families that were, you know, they were in, you know, third fourth generation and they wanted to keep their land. But maybe they’re struggling with a lot of different things water and, you know, economy’s challenges with different markets. And so. We were able to come in and provide them with the diversification through renewables, and, you know, and of course, renewables, wind and solar and now its battery storage. But you know, back in those days, it was a lot of wind projects. So, it was really wonderful to have that chance to just go into the heartland of the U.S. and be able to make changes and work with communities.

Paula Shaw Now when are we talking about like around what year?

Kimberlee Centera We’re really talking. The early 90s is when I really came into renewables. So, you know, for a lot of people, renewables is kind of a new concept. Yes. See, I’m one of those green you right? But really the development of renewable projects and wind and solar and we always work in the in the in the utility scale space. And so, a lot of people, when they think about renewables, they might think of residential solar and certainly, you know, rooftop solar is important. You might go to Wal-Mart, you see, they have the solar panels on the car. That’s wonderful. Our space was, you know, projects in the 50 plus megawatts. So more in the large developments for utilities to support, you know, maybe not just, you know, residences or small communities like a target or something. It would be a very large committee. You might be providing homes to several thousands or power to several thousands of homes. Given communities.

Paula Shaw So right now, you know, recently I was driving toward Las Vegas, and there are these vast fields of the windmills and stuff. Is that the kind of a project that Terra Pro your company does today?

Kimberlee Centera Yes. Yes. Most of our projects are of that size.

Paula Shaw I see. And so, let’s back up a little bit. So, you’re working with this gentleman who lured you into the field into the dirt and obviously you’re soaring. You’re doing very well; you’re loving what you’re doing. What prompted you to decide to start your own company because Terra Pro is your own company, correct?

Kimberlee Centera Yes. Yes, it’s my business founded by me. You know, it’s a great question, right? I was working for a very large, independent power producer, very large international company. I was very happy there. But there are cycles, right? We all go. You mentioned change, right? This is when you talk about change and not wanting to accept change. I was a poster girl for that. That’s when they decided to exit renewables back in 2012. You know, my first reaction was, no, that can’t happen right now, but it was inevitable. And so, at the time that they exited renewables, closed their office. I was working on at the time a billion-dollar financing for a solar panel. So, it was probably and might still be one of the largest that was ever financed. And that was my start. And then I, as I was working through that, I was approached by other companies to go work and start, you know, use my connections, build a renewable division right to be able to create business for other entities. It was something that I considered, but when I thought about, you know, kind of rolling the dice and who am I going to bet on? Yeah, I thought, Well, who better than myself? You know, I love that, right? But you know, I mean, certainly I can go do this for someone else. But what would it look like, really if I did this for myself? And, you know, as I was thinking about this, it was funny because I called everyone that I knew that would possibly meet me for either, you know, coffee, breakfast, lunch, whatever it was to be able to say, well, what do you think about this? You know, this is I’m looking at pursuing this, and I really got nothing but encouragement. You know, everyone said, oh, it’s great, we should go for it. And so, I thought, OK, I’m going to try this, I’m going to do it. And so that really was the beginning of my business right there.

Paula Shaw So I have a question, though, because I joked in the beginning about guys in hard hats. But it seems to me when most of us think about energy, especially way back, it seems like it was always about oil or it was about something, you know, that was very masculine both in. Who was doing it and even the thing itself when you began? Were there very many women in this field?

Kimberlee Centera Very few, you know, there really weren’t any role models, if you will. There were very, you know, there was not really any role models for me to look to who I wanted to emulate. And I think that’s why I was fortunate to have, you know, these role models that I that I did. So, it was really a matter, you know, about me really deciding what to create. And I was fortunate in that I always went and said, you know, I want to try this, let me do this. And I was always given that opportunity. But there were very few women. I mean, you know, even today, when I go to conferences and I walk into one of the rooms, it’s not uncommon for it to be, you know, 98 percent male. And yeah, I have a story I love to share with my coaching clients because I coach also in renewables. I love to see women excel, especially we need them in our field. Mm-Hmm. And I was at one conference, and I walked into a room, and it was one of those things was a buffet. And you know, you’ve got to walk in with your plate. And then I was a little late coming. Everyone was already seated. And it was just a sea of men, you know, and I love men. There’s was a sea of men and I’ve got to pick a table. And so, I thought, Okay, I’m going to challenge myself because it was kind of a safe table that had some open chairs. But I saw one table that was just all, you know, dark suits, and I thought, I’m going to wedge, I’m going to go sit at this table and just try to wedge my way in there. Yeah. And I did, and I was really proud of myself later on because I challenged myself. And it seems kind of silly. You would think at my age, I should be comfortable, but even I feel a little, you know, unsure at times. But it ended up being, I’m going to be having a wonderful conversation and getting to know people and I find asking questions. You know, people are happy, you sit down, and you start asking sincere questions, and people are very happy to have a conversation. But I like telling that story because it’s, you know, even me. I get a little nervous, but I felt like I need to challenge myself. Mm-Hmm.

Paula Shaw No, I think that’s such an important point. We all need to challenge ourselves in in any part of life, right? You know, to do something that’s new or different or a little harder. That’s how we stretch. You know, what is that line? All growth happens outside of our comfort zones. So, there’s a perfect example of that. But, you know, Kimberlee, I don’t want to put you on the spot, but something that has struck me about you since I first met you and in listening to these stories you’re telling now about your experiences. It feels like a lot of what you’ve done has required inner strength. Required this, you know, somehow a belief in yourself when you didn’t necessarily have an archetype already or even the that support. Where does that come from for you?

Kimberlee Centera You know, that’s a that’s a great question. I think it probably comes from a lot of sources. I think faith being one. I think also my mother was a wonderful role model. My mother specialized in residential real estate, and she was what the president of the Big Board of Realtors up in the Bay Area. So, I think for me, maybe some of those barriers that might have existed, you know, she broke a lot of those, and I watched him do that. I watched her take a very front, you know, very visible seat in terms of in a lot of areas. So, I think seeing that, you know, and you know, and just having that encouragement, I think also too, there’s maybe a part of me that’s a little ornery. You know, you need many, many years ago, I was interviewing for jobs, for legal jobs, and I had this. I had this mindset that I was going to get this certain job. And I just made up my mind that that’s what I wanted. I was interviewing and I had one person in one place tell me, oh, no one’s going to hire you. You don’t have any experience. You know you’re not, you know, and I thought, just watch me, you know? And I did. I ended up it took me. I persevered, you know, but I did end up getting the job that I wanted, and it led me down this wonderful path. So, you know, there was that part of me that said, No, I’m going to show you that I do this. And so, I think there’s always been, you know, that little part of me that, you know, is said, I’m going to show up when even doing my SUE Talk, which you mentioned. Thank you. You know, that was a challenge. I really had to move outside of my comfort zone. I’m so happy I did it because it really was transformative for me. So, I love that you mentioned, you know, change. It’s got to happen outside of that comfort zone.

Paula Shaw Oh yes. And you know what? We need to take a quick break, but when we come back, let’s explore that, SUE Talk a little bit more. We’ll be right back. Welcome back to change it up radio. Paula Shaw here, your host, and I’m here with Kimberlee Centera of TerraPro. She is one amazing woman. If you’re just joining us. You want to go back when we’re done and listen to the beginning so you can learn about Kimberlee Centera, who is one of the trailblazers in the field of renewable energy. So, Kimberlee, before the break, we were talking about your SUE Talk. Sue standing for Successful, Unstoppable and Empowered. Do I get it right this time?

Kimberlee Centera Yes, absolutely.

Paula Shaw And so what I find interesting about SUE Talks, unlike TED talks, these are not as intellectually focused as they are coming from the heart, you know, coming from that part of us, that’s just our real self. What we feel. You know who we are. So tell us a little bit about that experience for you, because I’m sure many people have only seen you as this powerful CEO who is amazing at her job, who, you know, walks out there with all these men hanging on her every word, finding out if their project is going to work and if all the legalities are handled and all the other things that you do in your line of expertise. So, what drew you to SUE? And what exactly was that experience like for you?

Kimberlee Centera You know, it was I didn’t even realize how deep I was really going to have to go to really share, you know, my thoughts around this situation. And so, I think the first challenge was, you know, what am I going to talk about? And I right away this idea of this, you know, this letter and everything that happened to me last year. It just felt like it had to be something that had to be talked about. The challenge for me was, you know, when you speak for business and typically it feels like the boundaries for business and leaders are, you know, there’s a certain level that you go to, but then there’s a point that you don’t go beyond. Right? And so, I had to really kind of bust through that barrier of, OK, this you wouldn’t really talk about that, you know, you wouldn’t to get really vulnerable. And so, as I was working to formulate my script and really try to capture the essence of this experience, I realized that I had to really share a lot of my doubts and my challenges and questions that came up that I, you know, I asked myself, Do I belong here? You know, there’s a whole series of things that I go through as I try to figure out and sort out where I am. And so, I think that was what was so transformative for me is really getting vulnerable. And when I when I think about leadership and kind of creating a new leadership model for me, I think much of that is that being vulnerable and the fact that it’s not a one-time event. And you know, I write that I’m finding it’s something that you have to be able to do over and over. But I love how people respond to that, and I think that’s the interesting thing that I found is the reaction, the response from people when you really are willing to open up and share a little bit more that, you know, it is a challenge, it’s a huge challenge, right, to have your own businesses and navigate through all of that.

Paula Shaw So, you know, years ago, there was an author named Robert Bly. I don’t know if you remember that name, but he wrote several books, but one that everybody knew was something called everything I needed to know. I learned in kindergarten, and one of the things Bly said that I always remembered is we bond through our woundedness. If you really think about that, it’s that woundedness, that vulnerability. When we’re willing to share it, that’s what others can connect to because we all know we’re imperfect. We all are very focused on the places where we’ve screwed up. But when someone presents themselves just in that perfect self, like so much of what we see on social media or the perfectly dressed CEO who does the perfect presentation, they may learn something. There may be intellectual gain, but connection doesn’t really happen the same way. And I think what I saw from you, I mean, I was almost moved to tears listening to you that night. And I don’t know exactly what the circumstances were. I know you talked about getting this 13-page letter and somebody was obviously unhappy with you or your services. And just to even own that in a room filled with so many people, I’m sure wasn’t easy. But it was so important and effective. And it sounds like you did learn a powerful lesson from that, because I know growing up so much of what I learned, especially as a female, was just let them see your best self. Don’t let them see you or don’t own up to screwing up. Just keep doing your best. And I mean, and I’ve been driving for perfection all my life, you know? And that is so exhausting. And I shared in another podcast an experience I had when I was in Al-Anon, where I went months, and I would share these things that I thought were really helpful and nobody talked to me afterwards. And then finally, one week at the encouragement of my therapist, I shared my screw up. I shared something that I’d really blown, and 11 people, 11 women came over to talk to me when the meeting was over. And what a powerful lesson for me. You know, I gave them something to hook into, and that’s what I hear you saying, too, and especially in your position as CEO that I’m sure felt very risky initially. I mean, not just to be doing it in this speech, but to be doing what you were doing, being vulnerable.

Kimberlee Centera Very uncomfortable. I was very uncomfortable. You know, once I got all the words the way that I wanted them. Mm-Hmm. Then I realized that I had to really encompass those words. I had to really own those and those are part of me. And that was a very important part of that talk and that message. And I told someone, I said, you know, all of these words are true for me. These words are all through. And so, I think from that standpoint, really conveying that was very important that, you know, and I think you’re right that people do respond to this idea that, you know, we don’t have all the answers, you know, I don’t have all the answers. I think especially young women, you know, I really want to encourage young women that are coming up. And I spent a lot of time trying to inspire them and work with them. And so, I think sharing a lot of that, you know, we don’t always have all the answers, but I do think we need to know what our truth is. And for me, you know, those values and really understanding my values, getting clear on that. Mm-Hmm. And then, you know, there’s only so much that we can control, and that was through that experience. I was wrong what we had to. I had to let the rest of it go. So, I have to be clear on my part and what I could control. Mm-Hmm. And there wasn’t much, but there was the part that I could control. I would stand secure and firm on that. Yes, and let the rest of that go. And it was interesting because really the ending of that script only happened just as I was writing my SUE talk. And I talk about this person kind of coming back. And it was so poetic for me that it was startling that after all that into, I thought, this is the end of my story, you know, I wasn’t sure how I was going to end it. Yes, it’s a perfect ending. But I think that was the essence of, and I think you mentioned strength and what really what I think I lean on. And I think that really that knowledge of, you know, letting go, you know, we can’t control it all. But that’s so true, right?

Paula Shaw You know, there’s a there’s a process that I encourage my clients to do. And I think what you said actually embodies this without you even knowing the process. But it’s called conscious completion, and it works on the principle that everything happened the only way it could considering who everybody was and what they knew, and that that all things are forgivable, right? Because it, like you said, there’s only so much we can control. And so, when you do conscious completion, like in a situation like yours, you would just come to a point where you would say, I call this, you can do it with the day, with a meeting with the situation. I called this situation complete. Everything happened the only way it could, and everyone was doing the best they could for who they were and what they knew. And so, I forgive everyone, including myself. I call this complete. And in essence, that’s what you did. And I love that, I just love it, and I think it is a beautiful message to pass on to those women that you mentor. And before we end this talk, let’s talk a little bit about that. Who are you mentoring? What are you? What are your hopes and dreams for them? Or what are their hopes and dreams?

Kimberlee Centera Well, we talked about, you know, renewables is now it’s only 13 percent women, and so one of my one of my goals is to really build that, that workforce right, to be able to create that environment where women, you know, ask me, you know, my story and how did I succeed? And what did I do? And I’m so happy to share that to encourage and inspire younger women. And I realized as I work with women and I spent a lot of time talking and, you know, having them share with me what their concerns are, and I’m just understanding, you know, keying into these things about leadership, about vulnerability, being clear on who they are. You know, I try to really help them be clear on who they are and especially their value, because I think it’s working a lot with our value being women and how we can articulate that in different ways because it comes up so often. So, I think these conversations, you know, having these conversations are so important and the conversations that we have, I want to make sure that they have tools and I try to encourage them. And I didn’t understand the significance of a network and stakeholders. But also having that really close team of advisors, I think that was one of the other pieces that really helped me last year was having a group of people that I could really trust that I could rely upon. And I think today, for a lot of reasons, a lot of us are struggling with that. But yes, taking the time now. And it’s hard. It’s hard, especially if you’re a young woman and you, you’re growing your family and you’re working on your career and so many different things, it’s hard to carve out that time to build that network. But I would say we can’t neglect that. It’s so important. And reaching out and embracing that because it will all come back to you. It will also support, you know, helping women just appreciate all that and learn from maybe some of the things that I didn’t do as well in my years that I can see I could have done better.

Paula Shaw Oh, Kimberlee, I think anybody who gets to be mentored by you is really blessed because not only do you have the years of experience and the expertise, you really are a very beautiful human. And I think to get that, you know, you can help them develop that inner strength that was such an important aspect of your own success, your success in your career. And as a human, I think you’ve done amazingly well, and I am so honored to know you and to have had you share some of yourself with my listeners on this show. So please come back again. We have so much more we can talk about, and I’ve just thank you with all my heart for sharing yourself with us today.

Kimberlee Centera Thank you. Thank you, Paula. It’s been lovely, appreciate it.

Paula Shaw Thanks. And to my listeners, you know, you can hear us on all major podcast platforms, including Parap Below and iHeartRadio. And please remember if you liked what you heard today, if you know some young woman who might be encouraged by Kimberlee’s words, please share this show and like us and subscribe. All right, we will see you next week with another amazing guest like our guest today, Kimberlee Centera. Thanks for being here. Bye-Bye. Thanks, Kimberlee.

Post: 149: Helping the Earth be Resilient with Kimberlee Centera

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