Cory Arce Gessert

Vice President, Project Development & Engineering


What is your role at your company? What are your responsibilities/focus areas? 

I lead the Project Development & Engineering department at DNV, which within our Renewables & Power Grids practice provides forward-leaning design, engineering, permitting, and technical advisory to the leading wind, solar, and storage developers and utilities in North America. I see my current role leading a department of 75 of the industry’s best-known permitters, scientists, and engineers as an activator, roadblock-remover, and multiplier role to have the greatest possible impact on decarbonizing our power grid by promoting the strength of the experts I am fortunate to work with daily. My responsibilities include engaging with the market to shape the direction of the industry, developing and bringing to life the vision and strategy for how our team will have the greatest impact on improving our performance, reliability, and safety of the renewable energy assets on which we are advising our Customers, and all the operational activities that come along with that.  

 What was your pathway to getting a career in the industry? What did you study in school or what previous job-specific training did you complete?  

I was drawn to interdisciplinary studies in undergraduate – I have a B.A. in Environmental Studies with a minor in botany, a Master of Science in Environmental Policy and Management, and a Project Management certification. I started my career as a Project Coordinator, working on installing fleets of meteorological towers back in the 2007-2009 “land grab” years of wind energy, eventually learning how to leverage project management and leadership skills to multiply my impact with larger teams and larger independent and owner’s engineering projects across the entire development cycle of wind, solar, and storage.  

Why did you choose a job in clean power? What was it about a career in the industry that appealed to you? 

To a fresh college graduate during the Great Recession, the most important factor was finding a job in an industry with long-term upward trajectory. Important, but I wasn’t confident enough to hope for, was a role where I could positively impact society while mitigating climate change on a macro level. While the success of the renewables industry was still very tied to federal policy in 2007, it was clear that the industry was moving towards mainstream when I joined a small Seattle-based wind energy consultancy that was eventually acquired by DNV. I can’t tell you how happy I am to now see DNV and many of our partners working exclusively with developers and utilities who are actively participating in the energy transition.  

Extra Questions

What is the best part of your job? 

Absolutely, it is championing and sponsoring the experts in our renewable energy practice to have a major impact on projects today. My colleagues are fun to work with, hike with, road-trip with, share a laugh with, and solve really technical challenges with. Developing a deeply technical team and fostering a sense of confidence, curiosity, and enthusiasm to make a meaningful impact on the industry across multiple disciplines are my inputs, and watching people bring their full selves to work as industry-leading, enthusiastic, and sough-after experts is the result. 

How do your background and fundamental skill set support your current role? 

I used to see my lack of an engineering degree as a liability – now I see it as a great strength, as I’ve had to creatively leverage skillsets that are different than many of my peers in the industry. Through acting as an independent engineer providing technical due diligence on large solar portfolios to developing the renewable energy strategy and policy for small island nations in the Caribbean, project management is fundamentally about drawing on strong communication and influencing (with and without authority). I find myself combining technical knowledge learned on the job, my interdisciplinary educational background, and communication and influencing skills in equal measure to move projects, visions, and strategies forward.    

What is the best decision you ever made at work or that impacted your career? And the worst? 

Best decision – engaging in opportunities where I could learn and advise simultaneously. It takes courage to teach or facilitate a workshop on a topic on which you are not an expert, but it builds confidence, executive presence and communication, networking, and deep expertise more quickly than any other method. The worst decision? I passed on advocating for myself during the years I was having children and preparing for parental leave. I assumed I needed to put my career “on hold,” instead of seeing the rich diversity of experience I could bring with a different perspective and different life experience than others leaning into leadership roles. And importantly, demonstrate to others in my company and the industry that a strong project manager, an influencer in the energy transition, and a leader in the industry can look like a 28-year-old pregnant woman (or anyone else, for that matter).  

What advice would you give to the next generation of the workforce? What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your career? 

There are a lot of ways to be successful. Focus development time on honing your strengths and be open to feedback on where to shore up your weaknesses. Always answer what someone is asking (not what you know). You can be a bold feminist while still sitting with information, actively listening, and holding your words until they have maximum impact. Choose where you spend your time, based on your own goals and mandates as supported by your sponsors. It’s okay to choose your battles (and which emails to answer, and problems to solve), on this basis. 

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