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Wildcats@Work with Kyle Cherrick

Kyle Cherrick '08 started working in the solar power industry as a student in Eller's McGuire Entrepreneurship Program. He earned a degree in entrepreneurship and marketing and is now the head of business development at Pick My Solar. Read more about Kyle's career path and lessons he's learned along the way.

What is your current job and what are your day-to-day responsibilities?
I lead business development efforts for Pick My Solar, an online marketplace where homeowners can easily review bids from high-quality, local installers for solar power systems, energy storage systems or EV charging stations. 

Most days I am focused on evangelizing our service to utilities across the country as a service they can provide for their customers. To date, we have partnered with ConEdison New York and the Orlando Utilities Commission and have several more utility and Community Choice Aggregator partnerships in the works.

How did your time at the UA prepare you to make networking connections and be successful as a professional?
During my time in the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program, I was able to break into the budding solar power industry. After an internship with First Solar, I began writing a business plan to develop large-scale photovoltaic projects across the Southwest. 

I was awarded a small grant from the McGuire program to attend the Solar Power International Conference in Long Beach, California. There was a follow-up event to the conference in Tucson held by Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. At this event, I met two founders who had a similar business plan to mine and had just closed on their initial investor funding. 

I was able to join their team right out of school. We built the company by winning contracts for large solar projects worth about $400 million before selling the company to a publicly traded competitor in 2011. I would say that I owe a major part of my career to my start in the McGuire program, and specifically to my mentor, Jim Jindrick.

 

What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
While I was in the Eller College, I had the chance to host author Ben Casnocha at a meeting of the Entrepreneurship Students Association. Ben had just written his first book “The Startup of You.” He later went on to co-author another book called “The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age” with Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, before becoming Reid’s chief of staff. 

Ben was one of the first to more widely popularize the idea of a “Tour of Duty.” Similar to the military, many companies in Silicon Valley ask employees to sign on for a three to four-year Tour of Duty, typically with a check-in at 18-24 months to see if both sides are still aligned. 

The idea is to give everything you can to a role or company for that period. At the end, that hiring manager will leverage everything they can to help you do whatever it is you would like to do next. 

We all know the days of staying at one company for a lifetime are likely over. This provides a nice framework for how long one should think about locking in on one opportunity, and then what to expect in support at the end of that journey. 

Finally, I’ll add one more piece of career advice. Having worked in many startups, I’ve found that they are a lot like marathons with sprints scattered through the middle. Sometimes you feel bad if you are lightly jogging for a few weeks — meaning your load is not very heavy. I always try to remind myself to not feel bad about having a lighter load for a few weeks, because I know another sprint is likely coming soon. Burnout is real and must be managed.