Twelve brings together team members from many backgrounds in our shared mission of tackling the climate crisis through carbon transformation. As a part of our Employee Highlights series we asked Karla Contreras (she/her), an Electrochemistry Testing Engineer, about her experiences in the cleantech industry and what led her to build a climate-positive career at Twelve.
Karla’s lifelong desire to fight climate change led her to become a Testing Engineer at Twelve, where she optimizes the carbon transformation technology that will enable a fossil-free future.
What is your title? What do you do at Twelve?
I’m an Electrochemistry Testing Engineer in the Operation Conditions team. Here at Twelve, we’re developing a technology that treats carbon dioxide as a valuable compound instead of waste, to create useful products that would otherwise be made with fossil fuels.
Part of my job is to analyze our technology’s performance and then optimize it for a more efficient carbon conversion process. The more efficient the process, the less electricity we need to run it, which improves its long-term environmental impact.
What about Twelve’s work is meaningful to you?
Absolutely everything! From the great people who help us clean, to our amazing technicians, to the multiple area team leads, to the business development side of the company, every single person plays a major role in building a great future — a fossil free future!
Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always been moved by how we treat the planet and those who live on it. Being raised in Mexico — where there was trash everywhere on the streets — instilled in me a hunger for change. I wanted to make a bigger impact on the planet than just picking up trash. When I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to study something that would lead me to “save the world”. I knew I wanted to work with my hands and brain toward a cause that would have a positive impact on the environment. Twelve is doing all of this, and any action to help the environment is already contributing to part of a better future.
I knew I wanted to work with my hands and brain toward a cause that would have a positive impact on the environment.
What’s the one-minute version of your professional story?
I started as a custodian for the athletic facilities at the University of Wyoming (UW), where I majored in Chemical Engineering. My interest in chemistry led me to work with Dr. David Bagley as a research assistant for Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) at this beautiful university. This job gave me some experience in electrochemistry, analysis of experimental data, optimizing this MFC system, and developing a standard operating procedure for the lab. It was a great introduction to what I currently do at Twelve.
Later in college I developed skills in leadership, collaboration, and organization while working as an intern in Project Management. I got the opportunity to lead projects worth millions of dollars.
Once I graduated, I got my first job in corporate sustainability at a sugar refinery factory where I started a project to design a solar panel system for the factory. I wasn’t there long since I was simultaneously pursuing a job at Twelve, which came through that fall after graduation. I’ve been working here at Twelve since October of 2021, and have enjoyed every part of it.
Is there a part of your professional journey that was really important
to your development?
In general, I think that every opportunity we get to expand our knowledge is an opportunity to grow both professionally and personally. Every step of my professional journey, from custodian to researcher to engineer, has helped me realize my strengths, my interests, and areas where I can improve.
One particular experience that helped shape me was working on the winning team, ‘Simple Solutions’, for 9H Energy’s Engineering Senior Design competition. In Fall 2020 we researched, developed, and submitted a proposal detailing our analysis of the most promising energy storage technologies.
This report influenced the design and construction of the Research Foundation’s 0.5 MW solar generation and energy storage facility. I realized through that experience how hard work can have a real life positive environmental impact. That made me even more determined to work in cleantech.
Every step of my professional journey, from custodian to researcher to engineer, has helped me realize my strengths, my interests, and areas where I can improve.
In general, what would you tell a person considering a career change or beginning a career in climate tech?
Do it! Both at Twelve and in the environmental field in general, we need as many hands as possible in this journey to improve the health of the planet and save the world.
I strongly believe that all people, from all different backgrounds, can use their expertise, experiences and passions to be part of this change. Here at Twelve, we have many employees who have never worked on a green tech company before, and decided to make that change for the good of the environment.
Our team is growing. If you want to join us in our mission of creating a world run on air, not oil, browse our job openings.