Q: Tell us about your background
I was born and raised in the USSR, a country that doesn’t exist anymore. I earned a master’s degree in civil engineering before moving to the United States. That was over 25 years ago, and when I first arrived, I was told, if you’re a woman, forget about civil engineering, not gonna happen, especially in San Francisco. I thought to myself maybe I didn’t love civil engineering so much and that it was a good time to change my career and find something I was passionate about. And that’s how I started my career in the software business. I began as an individual contributor as a quality assurance (QA) person and it took off from there.
I’ve been in this field for quite some time now, and I’ve worked with almost every type of software out there – educational technology, safety solutions for the aviation industry, big data, analytics, online advertisement – you name it, I’ve done it.
I’ve been with Stem now for close to six years, it is my longest employment in my career (I really love the company, obviously).
Q: What is your role at Stem?
My title is Senior Director Software Quality Assurance. But I wear multiple hats and play multiple roles. As a quality assurance director, I’m tasked with defining and promoting a quality mindset. Not just in the product organization, but across the entire company. I’m responsible for managing all quality functions and working across department leadership. Basically, I work with all teams, which I really love, finding the best solutions with the goal of improving quality across the board.
I am very passionate about automation; in particular, continuous integration and deployment. That role is usually a function of development operations, but at Stem, it is under my umbrella. I’m tested with improving the development experience at our company – including creating new tools to assist in the delivery of the service with quality checks.
I help out teams to create new templates, workflows, and automate tasks in JIRA – a project management tool that supports any agile methodology from agile boards, backlogs, roadmaps, and reports to integrations and add-ons. You can plan, track, and manage all your agile software development projects from a single tool to make it easier for people to complete their day-to-day work.
Q: What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on recently?
There is an ‘Industrial Revolution’ in the AI space and it’s fascinating to see major disruption in the electricity sector with policy commitments, grid operators, developers, and consumers. All of them are harnessing artificial intelligence to improve energy generation and consumption. Stem’s Athena® AI software can resolve most renewable energy challenges by analyzing the past, optimizing for the present, and predicting the future.
My job is to ensure that new Athena features are deployed as soon as possible. One of the most important projects I’ve worked on at Stem was to overhaul a completely manual QA process to one that is 99% automated.
Something I’m extremely excited about is Stem’s recent acquisition agreement with AlsoEnergy. The combined companies will create an unrivaled clean energy intelligence platform. I’m certain I’ll have an opportunity to create synergy with automated work processes to ensure the two companies merge seamlessly and continue to produce the best-in-class quality products that our partners have come to expect.
Q: Have you seen any industry trends that made an impression on you?
Absolutely. I think society has changed. As a software engineer, I don’t think I ever felt, either personally or professionally, that there was no place for a woman – but I also feel like I might be damn lucky with my experiences.
But now, for young professionals just entering the market and are looking for opportunities, don’t think about gender. Think about what you want. The sky’s the limit. And just go for it.
Q: Why work with Stem?
Before AI, most forecasting techniques relied on individual weather models. Now, with sensor technology, solar, weather forecasting (including wind generation), and an enormous amount of real-time data from the grid, all of that new technology allows AI to predict capacity levels by constantly analyzing the data and learning from it.
Today, Stem can provide different solutions, from operations and maintenance of asset management to opportunities to purchase electricity from the grid when prices are low and then sell back to the market when prices are high. We were able to move from Demand and LCR management to new markets at lightning speed.
There are a lot of people working on AI in a lot of different fields. However, if you are passionate about renewable energy and modernizing the grid then Stem makes a good fit. Working here, Stem has a very unique combination of people with so much domain knowledge; and without domain expertise, you won’t develop a product. And we have domain expertise in both energy and AI. It is fascinating to work with so many knowledgeable, passionate people who are dedicated to a specific field for many years.
Q: Why has Stem been your longest employment?
It all started with Larsh Johnson, Stem’s Chief Technology Officer. We used to work together, and he approached me and told me about this opportunity at Stem. And he mentioned there would also be a hardware piece involved. I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I never dealt with hardware before. I didn’t know if I wanted to do it. But, he convinced me, because I knew Larsh, and I have huge respect for him as a person and as a professional – and as a person who knows this industry specifically.
When I joined about six years ago, it was a real adventure because it was really a startup company that struggled through a lot of years trying to catch up with the market and find its niche. There were technical challenges to starting a new position at a young company, and that brought personal challenges as well – learning what drives me personally and finding what I love to do.
What I found was that I enjoyed coming into a young startup with not much in place with the goal of setting up operations that run so smoothly that I wasn’t needed anymore. With Stem, though, we continue to expand and grow, and so there are more and more things we want to do, and that brings in new challenges every day.
I really love that at Stem, the professional development is definitely present, and that is due to the people who help make work fun and keep a balance. It is a really fun, open environment with absolutely amazing people who are smart, intelligent, and down to earth where you can go and talk to anybody.
Q: Anything else we should know about Irina Elent?
I recently became a grandma! That’s my best hobby right now. My grandson lives 15 minutes away from me. He has turned out to be the best adventure ever.