Sara Rafalson speaks to TWIST members about her work in the solar industry and prior school experience


Katherine Du

Sara Rafalson speaks to TWIST members about her experience working in the solar industry and gives members advice for the near future. On Jan. 20 during 8th period, Rafalson presented her advice to Jefferson students in the Einstein commons.

Katherine Du, Team Leader

Working in solar energy is a career option that is currently expanding, due to increasing financial promise from extracting the renewable energy source. On Jan. 20, senior associate Sara Rafalson from solar energy firm Sol Systems spoke to members of Jefferson’s Tomorrow’s Women in Science and Technology (TWIST) club.

About five years ago Rafalson chose a job in the solar industry because she believes that, as opposed to other renewable energy sources, solar has the most potential. In addition to being able to install solar projects almost everywhere, policy toward it is supportive.

“We wanted her as a speaker because we wanted to introduce our club members to a woman who worked in a professional STEM field, especially in a field as innovative and promising as solar energy,” sophomore Lydia You, speaker coordinator of TWIST, said.

The solar industry offers a wide variety of career options, including jobs in manufacturing, residential solar (resi), developer, software, finance, and engineering, procurement, construction (EPC). Some of Rafalson’s specific duties at Sol Systems are solar affairs, by developing business relationships, and keeping up with policies. She believes that working in solar energy is the equivalent to saving the world.

“[The solar industry presentation by Rafalson] is a great way for our girls to get a chance to know about which careers you could pursue in the future,” junior Jenny Zhang, co-president of TWIST, said.

Following the introduction on Sol Systems, Rafalson provided her personalized high school and career advice to the girls at TWIST. From her experience, being a woman in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) poses its challenges. Since jobs in STEM are often dominated by men, Rafalson believes that having clubs like TWIST helps to change that, to “encourage the tide to shift.”

“I think what she said about what it’s like to be a woman in the STEM field is really interesting,” junior Tiffany Sun, publicist of TWIST, said. “And I think that’s really interesting because, obviously, we’re high schoolers so we don’t know what it’s like to have a job in STEM.”

In addition, Rafalson’s tips included improving oneself to be a well-rounded student, to build a network of relationships as they may lead to valuable opportunities in the future, and to learn key job skills such as computer science. She also stated that for college, internships and involvement are vital, but that a college major may not matter very much in determining one’s career path. In fact, Rafalson had “fallen into” her job at Sol Systems.

“She told us how to begin pursuing a STEM career, but most importantly, she advised us to enjoy high school and not stress too much about the future, which I think is really important,” You said.

When TWIST used their database to contact STEM organizations for contributions of money or speakers toward their annual science fair, Techstravaganza, Rafalson reached out and offered to speak at one of their meetings.

“We sent out some sponsor letters to various STEM organizations in the area, including one called Women in Wind Energy,” You said. “Some of the people at Women of Wind Energy passed on information regarding TWIST to other organizations in the area, and one happened to be an organization called Women in Solar Energy. They reached out to us via email and offered a speaker, Sara Rafalson.”

TWIST is looking to contact more guest speakers to give club members and other Jefferson students additional opportunities to learn about STEM careers for women.

“In the future, we’re thinking about contacting some people from the American Medical Women’s Association, as they’ve expressed some interest in having a speaker at TJ,” You said. “Other than that, we’re just super interested in finding anybody who can speak about their careers and projects in STEM.”