Lindsey A. Danner

Aquatics and Energy Manager

The below interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

How did you get to where you are today? What was your training or education? 

Throughout high school, college, postgraduate work and even in the early part of my career, I believed there was an expectation to get a college degree and then work in a related industry for the rest of your life. I moved from one biology-related job to the next looking for the perfect fit, and while doing so I felt like I was failing each time when it wasn’t a perfect match. What I didn’t realize at the time is that I was learning, growing and developing transferrable skills that would serve me throughout my career. 

I first joined Grossmont Union High School District (GUHSD) in the 1990s as a swim instructor and lifeguard and was promoted to senior guard/pool manager within a couple of years. After earning my undergraduate degree, I took a position as a naturalist on a whale watching boat, moved to a biology technician in cancer cytogenetics research and diagnostics. I then took a position in environmental consulting while at the same time as enrolling in post graduate courses in biostatistics. My work as an environmental consultant was very much self-directed and investigative, which I greatly enjoyed. Conversely, working in the lab provided me with a different experience entirely. I learned that I like to creatively structure my job and have variety in my work and not be limited by a set schedule or tied to a location. With these learnings, I rejoined GUHSD as the aquatics supervisor, a position that gave me the flexibility I craved and thrived in.  

My scope of work quickly expanded to include project management and I became a member of a utility committee. This quickly turned into a new position created for me specifically–aquatics and energy manager. On paper, the work was split 80% aquatics and 20% energy, but practically speaking was about 20% aquatics, 80% energy management. I’ve held this position since 2015 and supervise 40-50 classified employees. 

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At the beginning of my career, I didn’t imagine ending up where I am today. My career isn’t “normal” in that it was not a traditional, linear pathway from points A to Z. The skills that I developed throughout my career path have led me to where I am today, without any formal training in energy management. Courses in statistics, where I once studied population modeling which improved my analytical thinking, has helped with developing plans to save energy, analyze bills and identify anomalies and patterns in use. Working in the cytogenetics lab helped me learn to be more detail oriented and methodical. My time as a naturalist improved my public speaking skills and the importance of clear and effective communication. In the end, I do feel where I am now is almost full circle and has incorporated my science background with a mixture of all of my professional experiences.  

Describe your job. What does a typical day look like for you? 

While the bulk of my work differs day-to-day, I always begin my day by listening to voicemails and reading emails, as the content of these communications end up driving much of my tasks for the day.  

Some of my typical tasks include managing sales calls and coordinating with designers and contractors. I also work with facilities and maintenance staff to plan and implement various energy-related projects, such as controls for buildings or lighting or bus electrification. Additionally, I work to secure the funding needed to complete some of the work and projects.

It’s important to me that I am working on projects that will save the district the most energy and money. Some recent projects include LED lighting retrofits, installing solar paneling, maintaining battery storage and installing car and bus charging stations on various campus sites. Another project that I worked on is installing a device in refrigerators and freezers to ensure that the motors go on just enough to keep the food cold, and don’t run every time the door is opened. One of my most important tasks occurs monthly when I analyze and monitor the school’s energy bills for anomalies that could signal a bigger problem. 

Lindsey Danner

What is something you find challenging about your job?

I always say that to succeed in this role you need to be comfortable with a level of chaos. Because I work with so many different stakeholders, internal and external, I need to be able to synthesize different perspectives efficiently and pragmatically. I’m often facilitating communication between different groups and making sure that any miscommunications are resolved.   

Another challenge is related to financing projects. It’s most rewarding to find a cool program or project, find funding, implement it and then actually see savings months later. 

What do you love most about your job?

I love the project management component to my work because I get to use my brain in a variety of ways. I really enjoy seeing projects through from implementation to completion.  

It’s an exciting time to be in this industry in California right now. As a state, we are leaders in the nation when it comes to energy conservation, which means there are always new energy conservation projects for me to explore and launch.  

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What advice do you have for others thinking about working in energy, construction and utilities? 

There’s a huge growing market right now in energy management, with many different areas to specialize in like developing electric chargers, management software or battery backup. This is an exciting time for this industry and the opportunities are broad.  

For someone thinking about working in this field, I recommend doing investigative work to learn what is of interest to you and to learn where your strengths are. While in school, I recommend that students build math, statistics and modeling skills. Truly, anything STEM will serve you well. Currently, there are a lot of interesting bachelor’s, master’s and technical programs available that are focused on energy management if someone is interested in higher education. 

Try to get in with a company and get some experience in the field. There is a huge opportunity for work and there are so many different places that need energy managers, lighting and HVAC or charger technicians, designers, the list goes on. For example, most school districts in the area don’t have on-site energy managers. Rather, they hire consultants for energy-related work. This means that consultant work is a booming area but that schools don’t benefit as much as they could with on-site energy managers. Anywhere that has a large building or a campus, like school districts, hospitals or business parks, needs an on-site energy manager who has varied skillsets.  

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Grossmont Union High School Facilities Department
Bachelor's from San Diego State University in Cellular/Molecular Biology