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Moving Up the Ladder at Trinity: An Interview with Kristen Drigon, Director, Business Planning & Implementation

In our new series of interviews with key members of the Trinity team, we spoke with Kristen Drigon. Kristen started at Trinity Solar with a summer job as a filing clerk while at high school in 2001, and she worked her way up to become Trinity’s Director, Business Planning & Implementation. Along the way, she’s learned a lot about Trinity Solar’s unique company culture, as well as the importance of financing solar in order to reach the mass market.
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Kristen Drigon, Director, Business Planning & Implementation

Kristen Drigon, Director, Business Planning & Implementation

I’ve definitely grown by leaps and bounds. . . a big part of that is also the leadership here, which has shown the trust and faith in me to be able to handle all myself. So it’s been really interactive.

How did you start working at Trinity, and how have you moved through the company since then?
I started in 2001, when I came to work over the summer during school as a file clerk. In 2003, I started coming in after school as well, working part-time during the school year and then coming in full-time during any school breaks. And even when I went off to college I came home and worked during breaks at home. Then, during my senior year of college, [Trinity CEO] Tom Pollock asked me in for an interview. At the time, I was fairly certain after I’d gone off to college and gotten my degree, that Trinity was my high school job, and now it was time for me to go out and find my career. But when I got to hear his vision of where Trinity was going, it was just something I couldn’t refuse. Getting in at the ground floor with a burgeoning solar company where I already knew the people and already knew that the culture was so good, and then to hear about the success they were going to work towards – I just thought it was an incredible opportunity.

What was the position you interviewed for at that point?
For marketing manager. I worked under Ed Merrick, who was VP of marketing at the time, and we did a lot of work. We helped implement and oversee the wrapping of our trucks, which I would still say is one of our most impactful branding moves to date. We developed our first corporate website, we executed direct mail campaigns, and even got the corporate sponsorship of the New York Giants. So there was a lot of very different, hands-on experiences, and there was a lot of on-the-job learning, which was incredible.

But along the way, I feel like every step of my career here I’ve had to wear multiple hats. So even when we had all of that marketing work to do, I was also helping out in our commercial division, writing contracts and developing proposals and pro formas. And then when we adopted a new way of selling through our direct team, and then again just within the past year when our outreach team came onboard, I was very involved in developing those processes – I think because I’ve been here from the beginning and have seen so many changes.

How has that process of learning on the job and going through the organization helped you to develop as a professional yourself and as a person?
I’ve definitely grown by leaps and bounds. I came here literally just to file, and then I got to fill out paperwork, then I got to answer phones, then all of a sudden I was scheduling service calls for customers… Part of it has been that I just jump in wholeheartedly and take initiative and get my hands into different projects and ventures, but a big part of that is also the leadership here, which has shown the trust and faith in me to be able to handle all of that stuff. So it’s been really interactive.

On that note, how has Trinity changed since you’ve started? You’ve seen it grow from an HVAC company to the largest solar installer in the northeast.
I would say that the brand has remained pretty steadfast through all the growth and changes, other than the literal re-brand from Trinity Heating and Air to Trinity Solar. The Trinity name itself has stayed the same, which is infused with the strong moral principles of our owners – God is first in everything in life, and that is felt here. In fact, we often come together as a group to pray for members of our Trinity family and lift them up. So that’s just something that has always been felt throughout the company.

And we’re still a private, family-held company, and you can feel that, it’s an approachable company – this is family, literally and figuratively. Three of my siblings and my mother work here, the Pollocks have a lot of family that work here, there are several other families that have multiple members who work here! Now that there are so many people working here, sometimes it gets hard – it’s a little disheartening when you see someone and you don’t immediately know their name. But even with that, everyone is so friendly and so welcoming, it’s just such an incredible group of people – I don’t know how we found so many good people to bring here!

The solar industry itself has also grown a lot during this time. As someone on the marketing side, how has the conversation around home solar changed over the past 5 years?
Solar has definitely exploded in the last few years – the popularization of the PPA (Power Purchasing Agreement) or lease model helped expand solar beyond the early adopters and to the mass market, and that’s really helped change the conversation. I think we still fight the perception that solar is expensive, but the fact of the matter is that a homeowner can have solar installed on their roof for zero dollars out of pocket, and the money that they pay for the energy those solar panels produce will be less than they pay today to their utility company. So that has opened up the possibility of solar to people who couldn’t have necessarily done it under a solely cash purchase model. And on top of the obvious financial benefits of solar, I think people are becoming more educated about the global importance of solar, the environmental impacts. So I think that’s also been more front-of-mind now than it used to be.

What’s your favorite part about working in the solar industry and at Trinity?
First and foremost, I know we are doing good work. We’re helping families and businesses save money, and they’re able to take that money that they used to just send to their utility company and now they can spend it in more meaningful ways or save it for their future, and I think that’s important. I also know that every system that we install helps our planet, so when we’re installing systems – and we have 20,000 systems installed – knowing the environmental impact that we’re making is a good feeling to have at the end of the day.

And at Trinity, we have not stopped improving our processes since the day I got here. It’s one of those things where we’re always looking at every single thing we do with a critical eye. Even when we have people telling us “You guys are best in class, you guys are the best in the industry, you’re the fastest,” that doesn’t stop us from looking at our processes and spending time trying to shave off every day that we can from the time that a customer says “Yes, I want to go solar,” to the moment we can get out there on their roof to get the panels installed, to the moment they can get the system turned on. And that’s also really invigorating, knowing that we’re always going to take a closer look at ourselves.

What’s next for you in your career at Trinity and what’s next for Trinity?
For me, it’s always been about continuing to improve our processes, and those are driven more than ever before by the technology that we can develop. What can we do for our sales teams to help make them more efficient so we can sell more systems, what can we do for our installation teams to make them more accurate so that they can spend less time on each installation, what can we do for our customers to keep them more informed and help them feel more engaged with the process?

So we’re developing our CRM so that the interface that the salespeople interact with is more intuitive, and can walk them through the process. We’re developing new training modules and we’re exploring VR, and we can track the views of videos for new training processes so that we can measure trainee performance as they’re hitting new milestones. And our design and engineering software has really come a long way in terms of automating what we can design, and the way that we’re able to assess a site and the site conditions.

Do you have any major interests or projects happening outside of Trinity?
Well, I got married in November, and we bought our first house last week. I was up til 10 o’clock last night painting a living room, so I think that’s going to be my life for a little bit!

So, as a new homeowner – are you going to get solar panels?
I am! As soon as I have enough electric bills to figure out what my usage is going to be, that’s my absolute first step. Having been at Trinity for so long I’ve been asked that question so many times, and my answer was always “Step one to owning solar is owning a house!” So now that I’ve finally taken step one… I haven’t even paid an electric bill, but I’m dreading it.

Finally, do you have a major role model or hero that you look to for inspiration?
There are a few that come to mind. First and foremost is my mother, she’s raised nine kids and I think we’ve all turned out pretty OK! And the grace and good humor that she exhibits every step of the way is something that always I look to in my own life – what would my mom do here? On a more global scale there are women like Oprah, who came from hardship and built herself up – and part of how she measures her success is whether her team is also finding success. I also admire her dedication to philanthropy, which is also important here at Trinity. I also admire Malala [Yousifazi], someone who also went through unspeakable hardship, and she doesn’t let that stop her, she doesn’t let her age stop her – she doesn’t let any of that get in the way and she speaks out for what is right, for the educational needs of young girls. It’s inspirational, and again she does it all with humor and grace and holds her own. SaveSaveSaveSave

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