Conversation with Katherine McQuade

Marketing Manager/NRG Systems


Tell us how you came to join NRG Systems.

My husband and I are committed to environmental stewardship and sustainability. We wanted to start an organic farm, but we were living in New Hampshire where it’s difficult to find nice, flat ground and tillable soil. We found exactly what we were looking for in Vermont, and we purchased 28 acres where we’re now growing organic apples, pears, blueberries, grapes, currants, and gooseberries. Our tagline is “Farming for the Future,” and we’re even using glass panes from old structures instead of plastic in the greenhouse we’re building. My husband started working on the farm full-time, and I continued to commute to my job in New Hampshire for as long as I could but it was just too far away, so I began the process of finding employment in the Vermont area.

I had a great job, though, so when I started looking around I didn’t want to transition from a really great position into something that was less than inspirational and challenging. As I’ve progressed through my career the alignment of my employer’s values with my own has become increasingly important to me. I’m currently working on my doctorate, and my dissertation focus is on the leadership of sustainable companies, which is how I became familiar with NRG Systems. This company is completely self-sufficient, very focused on the environment, and it practices what it preaches. Not everyone does that.

I understand that you’ve worked for some real market leaders along the way.

That’s right, I’ve been extremely lucky in that regard. I studied education at Boston University, but I soon found that teaching three year-olds wasn’t for me, so I took a typing test and went to work for a computer company. Then I joined Hewlett Packard, starting as a technical writer and working my way up to a manager in the marketing department. During that time I earned my MBA from Rivier College in New Hampshire, and even took a side job teaching in the MBA program at the University of Massachusetts in the evenings. When Hewlett Packard was split into two companies I decided to go with Agilent Technologies, helping develop new channels to market their wireless cell phone test equipment.

From there I went to work for Hypertherm for six years as a marketing manager, helping to identify international marketing opportunities for their mechanized business line. I’ve been in marketing for a long time, and one of my core strengths is that I have primarily worked on the development side, being involved in launching new products. I enjoy being out there in the world talking with customers, and then translating their needs into specifications that engineers can use to develop new products.

What do you hope to achieve in your new position with NRG Systems?

I come from a strong background of educators, and even though I’m involved in business I see the key role of marketing as educational outreach. Just as marketers are the liaison between customers and engineers, we’re also taking knowledge from engineering and translating it into tangible, meaningful material for the sales staff and, ultimately, the end user. I’ve always viewed those of us in marketing as the “go-betweens,” and I believe that it’s our job to translate and educate.

Another thing I bring to the table is my experience working with big companies like Hewlett Packard that employ hundreds of thousands of people and have robust structures. This experience can benefit smaller companies that are experiencing tremendous bursts of growth, such as NRG Systems. As you’ve mentioned, I’ve always tended to work for market leaders. Now, working for a leader in the wind industry, part of my role is to educate the market. We are an important resource for the wind industry at large, and thought leaders in helping the market to grow and evolve.

Sounds like you’ve achieved that work/life balance you mentioned.

I’m just working toward it like everybody else, but I feel like I’m closer than I’ve ever been. I’m surrounded by people who share my concerns about protecting the environment, and I’m involved in a market that will lead to a cleaner, more-sustainable future. I’m really looking forward to merging my professional background and personal interests into supporting the important work that NRG Systems is doing.

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