Why I choose to change my career to solar

I am Jeff Miller, the newest member of the Ecohouse team. I’d like to share my personal journey on how I arrived to this point. Hopefully it will inspire someone to get in the PV industry.

In the winter of 1986 I received my BS in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University. I did not get hired right away, but instead got an opportunity to chase my childhood dream to be a pro athlete – on the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Tour.

I ended up bowling “on tour” for 3 full years, travelling across the USA many times. I made one ESPN TV show and one ABC TV show, and was the “Rookie of the Year” runner-up in 1987. I saw a great deal of the country and made many friends along the way.

After tour, I landed a job as a commercial printing estimator, putting my schooling to work. This involved designing printed pieces from scratch based on the production equipment, and figuring out the cost.  I gained a lot of good business experience in my 8-year stint there.

In 2002, I got an opportunity to purchase an existing bowling pro shop business. I quit my printing gig and started Jeff Miller’s Bowling Pro Shop in southeast Columbus that May. I was able to grow the business to my liking for the first 10 years, despite league bowling and the industry as a whole declining 5-10% every year. However, around 2013, the trends started catching up, and sales began dropping. A few years of this made me realize I was going to need to find a new full-time gig. I began to do some soul-searching.

I wanted to do something that has a positive impact on the world – not just filling up landfills with old bowling balls. Climate change is probably the biggest physical problem facing humanity currently, and the powers that be are mostly in full denial of the reality. So I started searching the internet for a spark, a seed, a clue. Fortunately, I found Solar Energy International (SEI), possibly the best non-profit PV and renewable energy tech school on the planet.

In summer of 2016, I signed up for their free online course, RE101 (Renewable Energy). It immediately felt right to me. So I began taking one course at a time in their Residential & Commercial PV Systems Certificate program. I believed I had found my new direction in life.

Four of the five courses were online. However, the best class was a hands-on lab course at their location in Paonia, Colorado in June 2017. I packed up my camping gear, bicycle, kayak and guitar, and headed west to the Rockies. The people I met – instructors, fellow students, SEI staff, Paonia locals – were all great! I knew immediately I had found “my kind of people”.

This spring (2018) I completed my coursework, along with the OSHA 10-hour online training course and the NABCEP entry-level exam. I updated the resume and began sending it out to prospective local solar companies. My timing was good – I got an immediate reply from Kevin. We talked on the phone, then met for lunch, and they decided to give me a shot assisting on a ground-mount install as a laborer. They apparently liked my work ethic, and invited me along on a dozen or so projects in the summer. They had enough confidence in me to bring me on board permanently on September 19th!

I am getting groomed for sales, learning all of the details involved, while assisting on projects, or any way I am needed. I hope to make my first solar sale very soon!