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Green collar jobs: Julia Gold – growing up green

Julia Gold grew up green, inspired by her environmental campaigner parents. Now she’s carrying on the cause, with her career working to decarbonise transport and her eco-friendly home life.

Our ‘green collar jobs’ series is all about showing just how varied the environmentally-focused careers we offer are and the pathways that led different employees into their work.

In the latest in the series, we talk to Julia Gold, Principal Strategy and Policy Analyst – Clean Transportation, covering Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island.

My green collar job…

I help to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and prepare the grid for our evolving transportation system. This includes designing programs for our customers, collaborating with stakeholders, developing public policy priorities and coordinating with state regulators.

Superficially, my job might look like it’s just about getting electric vehicles on the road, but it’s truly about climate change and decarbonization. The transportation sector, which is responsible for almost 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the Northeast, is an essential part of shaping our path forward. My role is to help accelerate this transition.

From eco-kid to eco-career

I grew up in a family of environmental activists, so environmental issues were a part of my childhood from an early age. Whether it was gardening with my parents, hiking the White Mountains every summer, or raising awareness for the Cape Wind project (the first offshore wind project proposed for the US) as a teen, sustainability has always been a big part of my life.

…sustainability has always been a big part of my life.

My passion for environmental issues has remained one of the key influences throughout my career. Over the past 15 years, I’ve worked for non-profits, government and the private sector, on issues related to climate change, energy efficiency, urban planning, public health and transportation. Although I’ve held a wide variety of positions, the environmental thread is what has tied each of these career experiences together.

Getting smarter, more sustainable vehicles on the road

Before joining National Grid, I was the Chief of Sustainability and Innovation at the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. In that role, I focused broadly on issues related to climate change, sustainability and new technologies.
 

One of the most interesting opportunities I had there was managing the Little Roady autonomous shuttle. The project was one of the first and most extensive public autonomous shuttle services in the country and it was an amazing learning opportunity – not only for studying autonomy, but also the potential for electric mobility services in urban communities.

Collaborating to overcome challenges

I’m a highly collaborative person and throughout my career I’ve had few experiences of working as part of a formal team. Many of my past positions have been starting something new and often solo. I feel so fortunate to now be on a team with colleagues who are passionate talented, and motivated by the same challenges I am.

I’m most proud when I see my work make a real impact on our customers’ experiences. I often get to speak with stakeholders in our communities and it’s so rewarding to hear their positive feedback and support for our programs.

Transport decarbonisation is as important as ever

When I first starting working in this field, there were hardly any electric vehicles on the road, let alone autonomous electric vehicles! We’ve come a long way, but still have a way to go.

Given the economic and public health struggles our communities face today, it can often be difficult to justify to our customers the importance of this transition now. However, transportation electrification is a part of the multifaceted solutions that will help revitalize and improve the public health of our communities. This can be a difficult message to frame, when so many of our customers are facing day-to-day struggles. Ensuring our programs provide equitable access and shared benefits is therefore critical.

Green collar careers advice

I advise anyone interested in a green collar career to take a holistic view of the issues you’re working on. Being able to step back and frame the work more broadly can be really helpful in providing perspective.
 

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My green life

My husband and I teach our sons to love the earth and nature, and we try to spend as much time as possible outside as a family. We have two sets of solar panels on our house, we’re on our second electric car and we have a very large garden, which provides a lot of our food in the spring and summer (fertilized with our compost). In the photo, I’m holding up a lettuce I grew. My pet project during COVID has been growing shiitake and oyster mushrooms.

My eco heroes are…

…my mom and dad – hippies from the ‘70s. They instilled a love of nature in me from an early age and taught me so much about our relationship to the natural world. My mom is an activist for many causes and she has always encouraged me to speak up about the things I care most about.