Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at BlocPower

October 8, 2021
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In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15th to October 15th, BlocPower is highlighting the contributions of our Hispanic American team members. 

Gabriela Ibarra, Building Energy Analyst


How do you describe your job to friends? 

I work for a startup company that provides electrified buildings in order to create healthier and greener communities in New York. As part of the engineering team, I design and size projects for installing heat pumps, working with the sales team to come up with feasibility for clients and with utilities to provide more financial support for our clients to get projects accomplished. 


Would you share a bit about your heritage and what it means to you? 

I’m the daughter of two Mexican immigrants, who immigrated before I was born. I was born in Los Angeles, but my parents are from Guadalajara, Jalisco, where 90% of my family still lives. I like to consider myself Chicana. Caring for my community, my family, is a huge one for me. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, which is majority Latinos, and there is a strong sense of community I want to continue sharing wherever I live. I’m big on food. I really value meal time and sharing a meal with someone is a big deal, especially a plate that really means something special to you. 


Is there a project you’ve worked on you’re particularly proud of or enjoyed?

My favorite thing about working in buildings is they’re all so unique, nothing is normal. Working in the Bronx and Queens, you see the difference in heating needs across communities. 


What should your colleagues know about you that they might not? 

I’m a first generation college student, an engineer. That is something that’s really important in  my life. My mom was a cook at USC, and her dream was for one of her kids to go there, and I did. I want to help any Latinas in engineering or sustainability and create a space for them. I grew up in an environmental justice disadvantaged community, and I didn't learn that until college. Lead poisoning was normalized. I knew I wanted to fight the climate crisis as part of a just transition, and that’s why I was motivated to work here. 

Maria Carrillo, Project Operations

How do you describe your job to friends? 

Operations is the glue that connects all of our departments that work on building retrofits and electrification projects at BlocPower. I work to make our processes more efficient, facilitate cross team communication, and ultimately enable our projects to move from a signed contract through construction..


Would you share a bit about your heritage and what it means to you? 

I’m Mexican-American, Chicana. I was raised in a small agricultural town in Central California. My family was very hardworking, but poor. My father grew up working every summer in the migrant programs alongside his entire family in the fields of California, picking grapes and fruit. He put himself through college and a masters program in order to provide me with opportunities he never had. For me, it never felt like my family was poor. My grandparents were constantly sharing with others when they didn't have much themselves, and it always felt like we had an abundance of everything. Mexican people have a duality of inner strength and fire built over generations of resiliency and hard work, which is complemented with generosity, laughter, and always finding an occasion to celebrate on the toughest of days. It’s all about community, and that’s part of what drew me to BlocPower. The communities that we help are the same communities as I grew up in. My heritage is wrapped around warmth, family, laughter, storytelling, giving—and I am so proud to be a part of such a strong people. 


Any project you’ve worked on that you’re particularly proud of or enjoyed?

All of them feel really important. The ones for me that make the most impact are houses of worship—Memorial UMC, First Presbyterian, St. Bart’s. A lot of these churches operate schools and daycares, and our work is enabling people, children especially, to have a better quality of life. BlocPower will always go the extra mile to ensure people are not stuck in unlivable circumstances. If that means putting in temporary heating  prior to our retrofit on cold days where a building is lacking, leadership will not hesitate. That’s the difference between BlocPower’s work compared to other climate tech; it is life changing.


What should your colleagues know about you that they might not?

I grew up right near Sequoia National in the Central Valley. I love nature, the outdoors, hiking, yoga, meditation and reading.  


Jose Contreras, Technical Lead


How do you describe your job to friends? 

I’m a software engineer trying to democratize access to energy efficiency and electrification. 


Would you share a bit about your heritage and what it means to you?  

Growing up I have always been very proud of being Mexican and identified as Mexican in Los Angeles. I’m technically Mexican-American but always said Mexican growing up and have strong ties to my Mexican roots. Enjoying the music, the culture, dancing—that connects me with my community back home. It is also an integral part of my activism, including walkouts in high school on May Day in protest of immigration laws. Because my parents were undocumented, I was always aware of how (the undocumented community) has been targeted in America. 


Any project you’ve worked on that you’re particularly proud of or enjoyed?

I thought our CBRA (Community Retrofit NYC) effort was pretty cool, leveraging BlocMaps for CBRA. I got to participate in tabling and interact with actual people in the community and see how they reacted to the information we were providing. The street team time! 


What should your colleagues know about you that they might not? 

My culture, Mexican-Catholic culture, is very family oriented. I was raised catholic, and am agnostic now, but still put a huge value on family. Family is super important to me, because it has been my main support system. I am the eldest of five, so I had to help in conflict resolution; I am good at diplomacy in my family. 

Azucena Flores, Business Development Associate

How do you describe your job to friends? 

I help building owners make their buildings energy efficient. 


Would you share a bit about your heritage and what it means to you? 

My parents are from Central America, my mom from Nicaragua and dad from El Salvador. They came to the U.S. almost 40 years ago, because they wanted a better future for their children and found it. I feel connected to my heritage through language. My first language, Spanish, is very important. My language is one of reasons I wanted to come to BlocPower. I wanted to leverage my Spanish speaking skills to help my community. Most of the Brown or Hispanic community tend to be low income, and the fact that BlocPower wants to focus on low income communities is such a motivating factor for being at this company.


What should your colleagues know about you that they might not? 

I teach financial literacy on the side and focus on high school students. I go back to my high school and undergraduate and do presentations for different programs whose focus is minority students. It is important to me to not only feel like I’m helping the environment but also helping my community become more educated around personal finance.


Any project you’ve worked on that you’re particularly proud of or enjoyed? 

The project is 563 Prospect Ave, in Brooklyn. I’m most proud of it because it is the first I closed without any help. I did everything from beginning to end. I built a relationship with the client, I did the site visit myself, did all the negotiations and communicated with contractors. It is three units, the boiler is really old, and we made it work by leveraging community solar and the new ConEd rating plan, where those who have made an upgrade to heat pumps will get a 10-30% discount.


Bryan Ontiveros, Full Stack Software Engineer

How do you describe your job to friends? 

I tell them I work at a clean energy company trying to save the world. 


Would you share a bit about your heritage and what it means to you?  

I’m proud to be a first generation Mexican-American. This is important to me as an engineer because the Hispanic population is quite underrepresented in the tech industry. I grew up in the communities we are helping out, that BlocPower was made for. (BlocPower co-founder and CEO) Donnel talks about heating his house with a stove growing up, I've experienced that and a lot of people in my community still do. It motivates me to help out people who are in those situations, which is why after interning I knew I wanted to become a Software Engineer for BlocPower full time.


Any project you’ve worked on that you’re particularly proud of or enjoyed? 

One of the bigger projects I have worked on was PNA automation and Cost Estimation in Dashboard. It's a critical tool for BlocPower engineers. I also enjoy creating landing pages for the site, as well as edits to the site, because I know that it's customer facing and makes a big impact. Making sure the site looks good, public perception, that matters a lot. BlocPower’s collaboration with the Mexican Coalition meant a lot to me as well. I worked on our WiFi pages, and seeing how that turns into results for the community made me proud.


What should your colleagues know about you that they might not?

I participated in a pop-up for this year's New York Fashion Week. In December 2019, I started my own clothing brand called Boolean—I design and print each piece, and do everything from photography, styling, graphic design, etc. I've been working on this since and it has been steadily growing. Here is the Boolean Instagram and shop.



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