Dan Silver: President, Eco Solutions Division of North America at Panasonic

Dan Silver oversees sales and marketing for residential solar power and storage at Panasonic, along with other product areas such as indoor air quality and factory cordless power tools. He manages around 70 employees, including about eight who work mainly on solar. Dan leads the marketing team for Panasonic’s HIT solar panels, which are designed for high efficiency, maximum output, strong heat coefficient, and longevity. They are currently produced overseas, but manufacturing will soon shift to the Tesla Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo, New York.

A Panasonic employee for 33 years, Dan joined the company after he spent a year in Kyoto during college and became fluent in Japanese. “My first real job was doing sales on the west coast working for the automotive division. We were selling radios, speakers, and some air conditioning to Toyota. Interestingly enough, Toyota also had a joint division with General Motors in Fremont, California (New United Motors Manufacturing, Inc.), and that’s now the Tesla car factory.”

After rising through the ranks and holding a wide variety of management positions, Dan started becoming more involved in the solar business around two years ago. Compared to other products he’s been involved in, such as shavers, large video displays, and microwaves, “Solar seems to move quicker and have more ups and downs, and even the paradigm of how you sell changes quickly,” he says. “But any opportunity I have to make the company move faster, I welcome.”

He’s also noticed that solar attracts people who care deeply about renewable energy and are driven to succeed. “The pace of solar is certainly one thing that makes it unique, as is the dedication of many in the industry to the cause of clean energy,” he says. “Yeah, they want to make money and they want to make sure their margins are good, but at the end of the day they also want to go green and they want to get to net zero [emissions].”

When looking to hire employees, Dan says he values their ability to collaborate and learn from each other. “We look for trustworthy team members who are willing to go beyond their expertise to add value to the whole picture. In my area, that’s really the collaborative effort between the sales, engineering, and marketing people.” That means the sales team needs to have input into the marketing message, he says, and the marketing team should be directly collaborating with sales. “Some sales people will say, ‘just give me the product, I’ll sell it,’ but that’s not who we’re looking for. Some marketing people will say, ‘let me do the marketing, I’m not interested in making sales calls,’ but that’s also not who we’re looking for.”

His advice to those starting out in the solar industry, or the business world in general, is to learn a lot about what one’s colleagues are doing at a broad variety of positions in the company, from sales and marketing to engineering and finance. “To succeed I think it takes flexibility, a high level of collaboration, and willingness to get one’s hands involved in many sides of the business. It also takes, as they say, grit and a sense of adventure.”