This month Emily Reichert, Ph.D. – The CEO & Executive Director for Greentown Labs has been chosen as the August 2014 recipient for the SOLIDWORKS Women in Engineering Recognition Program! She was chosen based on her commitment to the Green Technology Engineering Community! Get to know more about her amazing accomplishments below.
Educational Background: While Emily currently holds the esteemed title of CEO & Executive Director at Greentown Labs, she started off in this industry by receiving her PhD in Physical Chemistry from The University of Wisconsin-Madison and her MBA from MIT. Her PhD focused on building instrumentation which enabled imaging of reactions. She spent a lot of time in the machine shop and a lot of time programming to be able to understand what information could be derived from the experiment. “One of the values of getting my PhD was in the way it teaches you to think; this has benefited me throughout my career.”
Getting into Green Technology: Emily first started out in a technical consulting position for the company Arthur D. Little, located in Boston, MA. Her role was focused in the lab doing a lot of hands-on projects to solve issues for large corporate entities. Over her five years at the company, she worked her way from being a member of a project team to leading around a quarter of the company in terms of revenue and people. Feeling as if she wasn’t having a big enough impact in terms of what she was doing, Emily introduced a new business unit/area in green chemistry to the company.
Emily then moved on to help build a company with John Warner, the founder of green chemistry, at Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry. Over the next two and a half years she focused on helping large corporations make their products and processes more environmentally friendly. “We worked with everything from nail polish, to coating for pipes, processes to make inks, and all sorts of technical problems. All of those things were a good use of my background but now I was actually applying my experience, which was going to help make the world a better place and have an impact that was more clearly defined for me.”
Her entrepreneurial experience at Warner Babcock Institute led to a desire to lead her own company. Looking for her next challenge, Emily went back to school to attain her MBA from MIT. During her time there, she was also looking to work with another green/clean startup and found the business incubator Greentown Labs, a company that is a collection of green startups all trying to save the world. “Rather than working with just one, I decided to help a whole bunch at once and create a multiplier effect on my personal impact again, and this is what got me started with the company.” She was approved by the board of directors to be the first Executive Director and employee of Greentown Labs.
Greentown Labs: One of the major accomplishments Emily has achieved since arriving at Greentown Labs in February of 2013 is that she helped to build a stronger foundation and platform to support additional companies to come on board. This has allowed the growth from 15 member companies to the current 46 and from one employee to eight. (Not including the board) Because of their successful growth, Greentown Labs is thinking about expansion plans to go further, potentially internationally.
Greentown Labs provides shared tools and equipment, software, a machine shop, and most importantly a supportive community. There is a lot of peer mentoring offered on funding, investments, and technical problems. Greentown Labs also provides educational seminars, access to experts, and tools to help companies can get off the ground.
Working with SOLIDWORKS: “Greentown Labs has a sponsorship that allows us to provide software for our member companies. We have 46 startups, most are building physical products. I can’t tell you how important this tool is, we have internally battled over the licenses we have it is just so valuable to the entrepreneur to use that resource; they need to build the things they need built. This, in turn, makes their companies grow faster, because instead of investing in software at this stage in their company’s life, they can invest in people and in building prototypes.
Have there been hurdles that you had to go through being a woman in this field/any advice? The biggest hurdle for women in general is timing and risk-taking. From an early age I think that we are not programed to be risk takers, were programed to care for people and make things go smoothly. In order to become an entrepreneur, you really have to take a lot of risks, of course there are exceptions, but generally speaking that is not how women are programmed. Timing is another issue, if you’re planning to have a family there are some critical years to consider, and that can be a challenging thing to juggle for some.
There are a fair number of females currently leading green/clean tech organizations at the executive level, but in the startup positions, at least at Greentown Labs, out of the 46 companies only 3 are female founded. It’s all about having the confidence to know you can solve the problems at hand, you don’t have to be a genius to do it, you just need to work hard and not be afraid of math – you can do it!
What is the best dish you have ever had? A series of dishes really – when I was in the Amazon basin rainforest in Ecuador, our ecolodge served a pitcher of homemade melted chocolate with every meal – breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is surprising just how many things taste better when covered with rich, gooey, warm chocolate sauce.
Have someone in mind? You can nominate the next recipient for the SOLIDWORKS Women in Engineering Program, honoring the outstanding achievements that women are accomplishing day to day in the engineering community. Find out more information or get started today!