Managing Principal & CEO
What is your role at your company? What are your responsibilities/focus areas?
I am both the CEO and Principal of Karp Strategies. As CEO, my role is focused on staff development, business development, and setting Karp Strategies up for long-term financial success by carefully managing and expanding our team and portfolio. As Principal, I oversee significant client initiatives and apply my expertise more directly to planning and strategy.
I consider mentoring and coaching staff, and generally creating a healthy work environment that fosters growth and collaboration, core to my job. As I’ve grown Karp Strategies, I’ve been thoughtful about adding people to my team who are talented and passionate about the work our clients need. I’m proud I’ve been able to expand our executive leadership team and grow the firm as a whole from a staff of one in 2015 to more than 30 people today to meet the demand for our work.
As CEO, I am also responsible for and constantly working to generate more mission-aligned work for our team. I am always thinking about where our firm will bring the best value in the world through our content and client services, and where our team excels.
As Principal, I lead select client projects, and with my team, get to be in the guts of the work, working on strategy and helping our clients make informed decisions. This is where I’m directly using my formal training as an urban planner and my experience working for government agencies at the center of planning and economic development to support equitable and inclusive projects.
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 a sociology major in college and later completed MIT’s urban planning program. Early on I understood where I wanted to have an impact—I just didn’t know how or in what way.
After undergrad, I worked at a community development corporation up in Maine where I did service that was local, direct, and rural. Then I moved to NYC and worked at a socially responsible investment fund company, launching a new fund focused on Asia, which was the total opposite end of the spectrum—big picture, double Bloomberg terminals, international, and totally removed from people.
Ultimately, I found a middle ground working at municipal agencies including the NYC Department of Small Business Services and the NYC Economic Development Corporation on workforce development initiatives. In these roles I was working at the intersection of where people, program, and policy come together, thinking about how we execute large-scale development across sectors, and strategizing how to get those projects done in a way that’s equitable and fair for communities and provides some level of certainty for developers. I realized that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to think about government and real estate, economic development and communities, and consensus building and power dynamics—the intersection of people, policy, and the operating systems that are the backbone of our economy. That was what spurred me to go to MIT, where I focused on community benefits agreements, economic development, and negotiation
After graduate school, I worked in a rotational program at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PA) that gave me insight into various logistical pieces of our region’s transportation and port systems. An incredibly valuable operations role at the ports in Brooklyn and Staten Island gave me the opportunity to appreciate up close what it takes for our ports to run effectively. At the other end of the spectrum, I learned a lot as the policy advisor to the PA’s executive team, often receiving direction from the Governor’s office, on a variety of initiatives including community investments. I worked on transformative projects modernizing our regional port infrastructure like the Bayonne Bridge Navigational Clearance Project, which finally enabled the post-Panamax container ships to access the ports of Newark and Elizabeth in New Jersey. During my tenure at the Port Authority, I also saw firsthand the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, which was a crash course on the vulnerabilities of our ports to climate change and the importance of investing in resilient infrastructure.
When I left the Port Authority I joined a global engineering firm where I got my first taste of professional consultant work. During this time, I also participated in a cross-sector leadership program, which was essential preparation for starting my own business as it demanded that I reflect on the purpose of my work.
While I was at the engineering firm, my amazing graduate school advisor invited me to work on a project with him to develop the economic development strategy of South Portland, Maine. It felt full circle – I went to undergrad in Maine and my first job was there too. The project also felt much more aligned with my skills and values. To take it on, I had to quit the firm I was at, and so I did. I decided to bet on myself and started my own urban planning consulting firm. And after years of dedicated client work, I received a cold call from Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind to support them on a significant project, which led to the launch of Karp Strategies’ offshore wind and clean power practice area.
Why did you choose a job in clean power? What was it about a career in the industry that appealed to you?
Emerging clean energy sectors like offshore wind and solar promise not only a more sustainable approach for our environment, but significant economic opportunities for communities. That double win is impossible to ignore if you are invested in the future of the nation’s energy economy. And what’s exciting is we have the opportunity to write the rules from the beginning—building these industries up with a commitment to inclusion and justice, and reversing the historic marginalization of primarily lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color in the development of green and blue infrastructure. At Karp Strategies, this is the work we do on behalf of our clients, whether it’s analysis supporting equitable economic development or strategizing stakeholder engagement that is inclusive and positioned as a project priority.
What appeals to me the most is that we are on the forefront of change to the economy, helping address climate change — and there is the chance to meaningfully include people and communities who are too often excluded from decisions that impact their lives. I also love working with a wide variety of disciplines, and across our energy portfolio, I work with energy analysts, engineers (lots of engineers!), permit experts, environmental scientists, communications specialists, developers, financial modelers, and more. I am always learning and always feel like I have something to contribute.