Sonita Lontoh is a Silicon Valley-based executive with almost two decades of experience spanning the technology sector and the smart, connected, and green energy industry. She is currently the Head of Global Corporate Marketing at Trilliant, a venture-backed Smart Energy Platform company. Ms. Lontoh is a frequent speaker and contributor on “smart” technology, green tech, and global leadership topics for publications such as FORBES, FORTUNE/CNN Money, the Huffington Post, BBC Capital, and the MIT Entrepreneurship Review. Outside of work, she is a professional mentor and selection committee member for TechWomen, a U.S. Department of State’s technology initiative spearheaded by former Secretary Hillary Clinton to implement President Barack Obama’s vision for greater collaboration between the United States and the emerging technology leaders in the global communities. She was named Global Emerging Leader under 40 by the National Association of MBAs and has been invited to the White House for a celebration honoring Women Champions of Change. Ms. Lontoh earned her Master of Engineering degree from MIT, holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and did her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley.
What environmental issues are of most concern to you?
Emissions and waste resulting from our outdated and somewhat-inefficient energy infrastructure. For some context, our electric grid has been deemed one of the greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century by the National Academy of Engineering. Yet, this greatest 20th century engineering achievement has not been modernized in almost 100 years in order to be able to handle the challenges of the 21st century, where energy will become greener and more distributed. Our traditional, centralized, one-way energy infrastructure does not allow for the visibility and control of the system, which results in a lot of waste and inefficiencies. The smart grid or smart energy can help us modernize this infrastructure by layering two-way communications and intelligence across our whole energy value chain, giving us more visibility and control, and result in a more efficient, cleaner and balanced system of supply and demand. I would like more people to be educated about this.
What difficulties do you see facing women who are interested in becoming more involved in the environmental sector?
In general, the energy sector requires some competency in a technical field, which some women may or may not have. And many of the top leaders come from the predominantly-male oil & gas or utility industry. Instead of viewing this as a challenge, however, I actually see this as a great opportunity. It’s a great opportunity for women who have the combination of passion, skills and purpose to thrive. Smart Energy is an area where technology, business and policy intersect and where you contribute something greater to society rather than just selling a product/solution. Studies have shown that women tend to thrive in areas where they feel their work is contributing something more to society.
Any recommendations on how women can become involved in advocating for a sustainable environment?
Women are such great communicators in general. Instead of building superficial networks, women tend to build lasting, meaningful relationships. As such, it should be natural for women to get involved in advocating for a more sustainable future. She can start from her closest circles of friends and family. Then she can expand it through local relevant organizations or events. Then, should she have the time and capacity, she can advocate on the national and global levels by writing articles for or speaking at national and international conferences.