Jan 2, 2024

‘I Feel Like a Lieutenant Again’: Transitioning Service Member Launches Career in Solar Industry

LaTisha Phillips never expected to have a career in solar.

“Honestly, I thought I was going to work for the federal government or a defense contractor. It wasn’t until I was approached by solar companies through Hiring Our Heroes that I realized I had an interest,” she said.

A Career in Solar Is a Way to Leave the Earth a Better Place for My Children

Her path to a career in solar started with a simple question, “Which industry do you want to work in?” Phillips faced this question when she applied for a corporate fellowship.

In response, Phillips pointed to her 8-page resume. As an Army intelligence officer with 25 years of service and three deployments to Iraq, the answer seemed obvious. Her future hinted at defense contracting. What other options did she have? Is it possible to work in a different industry after 25 years in the U.S. Army?

Frankly, there isn’t much crossover between military intelligence and renewable energy. But as Phillips revised her resume, she pondered her future. What did she want? As she considered her response, a career in the solar industry overtook any thoughts of working for the federal government.

Likewise, a career in solar supported her newfound appreciation for the outdoors. Before the COVID pandemic, Phillips didn’t spend much time hiking or biking with her kids. She worked inside a windowless facility on an Army post. If she opted for a role in the defense industry, her job would be indoors. Phillips wanted to work outside. At the very least, she wanted a window in her office.

Most importantly, she wanted to contribute to the long-term success of renewable energy.

“I want to leave the Earth better than it is now for my children. A career in the solar industry is a way,” Phillips said.

Transition to a Career in Solar

The solar industry needs to add 800,000 new workers in various roles and locations. Employers need workers with the right combination of technical and soft skills.

Veterans provide a natural solution to the solar industry’s talent recruitment challenges, said Maryann Davit, senior manager at Hiring Our Heroes.

“Solar energy is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States, and transitioning service members make excellent candidates for a wide range of solar jobs,” she said. “With unmatched leadership, teamwork, technical skills, and a mission-completion work ethic, the diverse aptitudes and experiences gained through military service are highly transferable and in demand across the solar workforce.”

Unfortunately, many veterans don’t know how easily their skills translate into a career in solar.

This is where the Solar Ready Vets Network comes in. Through workforce initiatives funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Solar Ready Vets Network provides solar training, credentialing, and employment opportunities for military talent at all levels of the solar industry.

During her 12-week fellowship at Onyx Renewables, Phillips received the technical training to pivot into a career in the solar industry.

Hiring Our Heroes facilitates the Solar Ready Vets Fellowship to help active-duty service members, like Phillips, transition to leadership roles at solar companies. During her 12-week fellowship at Onyx Renewables, a solar developer that builds, owns, and operates commercial and industrial projects in 36 states, Phillips received the technical training to pivot into a new industry.

“This fellowship gave me the ability to jump into a space I have never worked in — one where I have no background or experience,” Phillips said.

Following her fellowship, Onyx hired Phillips. In her current role as manager of policy and corporate affairs, Phillips monitors government policies and regulations to ensure Onyx projects take advantage of available clean energy incentives and meet the highest environmental and quality standards. She also helps lead the development of the company’s annual sustainability reports and manages its DEI initiatives to ensure Onyx is building an inclusive and socially responsible environment.

You can jump into something new even after you had 25 years in the military.

More than 80 fellows have completed a Solar Ready Vets Fellowship since 2020. Davit added that 90% of solar fellows received a post-fellowship job offer with an average starting salary of $106,000.

Solar employers host fellows at no cost to their organizations.

“As part of this initiative, employers can tap into a natural recruitment channel that connects them with exceptional transitioning military professionals, granting them a deeper insight into the veteran labor market,” Davit said.

LaTisha Phillips with other members of Team Onyx at the RE+ Vegas Golf Tournament. The largest and most comprehensive event in North America for the clean energy industry, RE+ is comprised of Solar Power International (its flagship event), Energy Storage International, RE+ Power (including wind, and hydrogen and fuel cells), and RE+ Infrastructure (electric vehicles and microgrids) and brings together an extensive alliance of renewable energy leaders for multiple days of programming and networking opportunities.

Onyx Renewables Chief Executive Officer Mary Beth Mandanas said the company has seen firsthand how veterans bring unmatched skill sets and viewpoints to the workplace. In a short time, Phillips “became a force within the Onyx team and in the clean energy community.”

“She has applied her career experience in policy and project management to focus on the renewable energy space in expert fashion, becoming an invaluable member to the Onyx team and making major contributions to our company vision, which she herself has helped shape along the way,” Mandanas said. “We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for LaTisha as she continues to grow with us.”

‘I Feel Like a Lieutenant Again’

In conclusion, Phillips expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to explore a career in solar while still on active duty. The fellowship provided opportunities for growth. In short, the experience challenged her in an exciting way.

“I feel like a lieutenant again; it’s just the beginning,” Phillips said. “I hope other transitioning service members go for it. I’m a testament to the belief you can jump into something new even after you had 25 years in the military.”

About Onyx Renewable Partners L.P.

Onyx is helping companies create the bridge from today’s clean energy reality to tomorrow’s possibilities.Onyx’s approach to providing clean energy solutions ensures expert guidance at every step for our commercial and industrial customers. From solar energy and storage to electric vehicle charging and beyond, Onyx partners with our clients from the beginning; our team focuses on creating a long-term relationship for the life of the asset. We design, develop, finance, construct, operate and maintain our projects and portfolios. Onyx leverages its wide-ranging industry expertise to transform energy and regulatory complexities into simple clean energy solutions to reduce carbon emissions.For more information, visit or connect with us on LinkedIn.