Career Profiles

Iris Zhao

Career Profile

Safari Energy analyst thrives on department’s startup mentality.

Growing up in Tianjin, China, Iris Zhao never imagined that the technology of harvesting energy from the sun could be so prevalent. Today, as an analyst with Safari Energy, her job revolves around the sun.

“I always dreamed of starting my career in an emerging industry rather than a traditional one,” said Zhao, who studied business administration and accounting for her undergraduate degree. She added two master’s degrees in finance and in business analytics and was increasingly inspired to direct her skills into an industry that “held the potential to change the future of our planet, and, well, solar was just the coolest.”

Equipped with general business knowledge as well as technical analytical and programming skills, Zhao began looking for opportunities to apply her unique blend of talents to solve business challenges.

“When I first saw the job description for a portfolio analyst role at Safari Energy, I was so thrilled because the skill set and background requirements matched me so well,” said Zhao, who uses statistics and programming at Safari Energy to extract insights from a large volume of unstructured data, in order to improve efficiency and forecasting.

Using regression analyses and decision trees, Zhao looks beyond the financial performance of Safari Energy’s solar projects to address fleet performance, compliance, invoicing, maintenance and contract management. Her daily work also involves writing scripts to improve efficiency through automation – be it utility bill analysis, recurring emails or drafting contracts.

“I get a lot of satisfaction from the problem-solving aspects of my job,” Zhao said. “Whether it’s asset-management-related tasks or testing out a script for a new automation project – I’m getting exposed to a wide range of the business and I’m learning that my skills often apply in ways I didn’t anticipate. The Asset Management team works like a startup within Safari Energy, and we approach challenges with a brainstorm and discussion mode, and we work together to create solutions.”

One of the biggest challenges in her role is simultaneously being a programmer and a project manager. Both of the roles require a high level of focus and attention, but they fulfill Zhao’s drive to learn the process and scope of diverse practices.

At the end of the day, Zhao never gets bored of learning something new.

“I participated in the development of a new artificial intelligence tool we’re using and had a chance to present to Safari Energy’s senior leadership team,” she said. “I was so glad that people recognized our efforts and I’m excited about the next puzzle to solve. My colleagues are hard-working, professional and full of positivity, which gives me confidence that we have the right team to find solutions.”

At Aspen Power, our team is united by a shared mission to accelerate the transition to a green economy.