We are inspired by people who are passionate about technology that solves pressing global challenges. Scaling and commercializing those solutions requires serious knowledge, courage, perseverance, and support systems like those who work in the insurance industry. In this interview series, our chief actuary, Sherry Huang, talks with friends of NER whose work makes a difference, and whose journeys will inspire you, too.

 

A Conversation with Karen Chang, Senior Portfolio Asset Manager, Bloom Energy

By Sherry Huang, Chief Actuary
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity

 

Karen Chang

Karen is the senior portfolio asset manager for our client, Bloom Energy. Her team is responsible for managing a portion of Bloom’s large operating assets and coordinating efforts among multiple departments within the company.

I have been working with her team since I joined NER and have always been extremely impressed by Karen. We often ask detailed questions about the performance of our clients’ assets, and she consistently has well-documented answers for us. We connect at least quarterly for this diligence, and I regularly sense how proud she is of her team’s work, which makes us proud to work with them, too!

 

Karen, I understand you are a mechanical engineer by training. How did you decide to pursue engineering and how did you find your way to Bloom Energy? 

I decided to pursue engineering because I was good at math in high school and thought having a specific skill would lead to more career certainty. My family all had business backgrounds and were initially not very supportive of my decision to pursue engineering in college. I started out studying electrical engineering but switched and graduated with a B.S. from UCLA in mechanical engineering.  

My first job was an internship at NASA, through a partnership they had with CalTech at the time. Over time, I realized I did not want to do pure engineering work and ventured out to more operation strategy roles. A process improvement management consulting job brought me to Silicon Valley, and I ended up getting a job at Bloom Energy, which had the perfect dynamic that I was looking for.  

Bloom Energy has grown so much and became a public company during your tenure there. How has your role changed during this time? 

I’ve gained my experience within the same department since I joined Bloom, so my role hasn’t changed that much. However, the job itself is ever changing, and new projects are always exciting and challenging. I work at the intersection of engineering, process optimization, business operations and finance, so there is always a lot going on.   

Despite being a public company, Bloom still has a flat structure compared to some of the places where I worked before. As a result, I can voice my suggestions and concerns easily, and decisions are made quickly around here.  

Do you have a mentor who inspired you during your career? 

A manager at Realization Technologies showed me what it is like to be a good team leader. Our team spent a lot of time together on the road with our consulting projects, and this manager led the team without being authoritative, and was smart but humble, and very caring and worldly. We all wanted to be on his team regardless of the projects.  

I also really enjoy peer monitoring with my teammates here at Bloom; we are always very eager to share any new knowledge we’ve learned with each other and have a great, open working relationship.  

Since we work in different fields, I’m curious what is your impression of the insurance industry?

Before working at Bloom and interacting with NER, my only exposure to insurance is the standard home, auto and life insurance. I was surprised to find out about the application of performance insurance and have been impressed with NER’s technical knowledge to understand the nuances of our data. You guys ask some of the most detailed questions! 

We’re glad to hear that, Karen!
Any advice for young women pursuing an engineering career?

Avoid having bias against yourself and don’t let other people define your boundaries. Be confident about your choice, whatever that might be, and ignore the statistics of certain fields being male dominated. Do not be afraid to pursue your dream – there are a lot of opportunities out there! 

Finally, please tell us about a passion that you are pursuing, or one that you would like to prioritize more.

If I had more time, I would like to get better at investing, which has always been an intriguing topic for me. I’d like to have financial freedom early so working is an option but not a necessity. My husband and I are also into videography and used to run a business doing corporate and wedding videography! These passions allow me to continue to learn and improve myself in addition to my professional career. 

Thank you, Karen!