Gregg Rotenberg: Leading from the front — by Stephanie Cooper & Shari Sanders

To lead from the front – you have to trust your team,” says Gregg Rotenberg, President and CEO of Smart Wires Inc. Rotenberg believes that a strong team thrives on a combination of freedom and responsibility. “It’s a bit of a risk, but the rewards pay off,” he says. For Rotenberg, a good leader is visibly engaged at the front lines in order to generate the momentum needed to focus on the big picture: a mission to save the planet. Smart Wires has developed an innovative technology that meaningfully improves the efficiency of today’s power grids around the globe. The company deploys a revolutionary technology to “re-route power” on overloaded lines and address the most serious problems challenging our transmission system.

Rotenberg finds that a culture based in freedom and responsibility guarantees rapid innovation combined with systematic execution. Smart Wires doesn’t track hours worked per day or per week. Following Rotenberg’s lead, the focus is on what you can get done for the people who are counting on you to succeed. Smart Wires’ highest performers thrive on the freedom to do their jobs without tight supervision. Designated as “Superstars,” these contributors grow their roles to fit their passions, while always balancing the needs of the organization and their teammates.

Consequently, Smart Wires spares no effort to identify superstars during the application and interview process. The unique application process tests an applicant’s ability to have a keen sense of detail, be forward with their accomplishments but also express an ego-less attitude. Every candidate is offered the same experience when applying for any position at Smart Wires because the bar is set extremely high and only the true Superstars who are willing to go the extra mile truly shine. Part of the application process requires the candidate to create a deck presentation answering five questions. There are no rules other than to answer the questions, but it is encouraged that everyone who make it to this step to be as creative and analytical as they want. This assignment not only challenges candidates to think outside the box but also introduces them to Smart Wires very special culture and gives them another way to engage with several members of the leadership team.

Headquartered at the Jim Davis Global Research Center in Silicon Valley, Smart Wires actively cultivates the kind of mentorship Rotenberg most values. It all starts with the Guiding Principles that make up the basis of Smart Wires culture. Rotenberg encourages his team to actively include Smart Wires’s Guiding Principles in everyday conversation. “If you ever want to discuss our GPs with me, send me an email with the subject line GPs, and I promise you I will engage.” Rotenberg not only lives by these Guiding Principles, he ensures that all candidates looking to join the team read and understand them, before continuing conversations in the hiring process. The 11 Guiding Principles are: Safety, Judgment, Communication, Impact, Curiosity, Innovation, Selflessness, Passion, Integrity, Courage and Do No Harm to the Grid. Rotenberg and the entire team believes these practices give Smart Wires the best chance at changing the world.

Rotenberg’s mission-oriented focus, backed by a culture that gives a high level of responsibility coupled with trust, empowers Smart Wires’ contributors to act like true owners. It gives the person owning the task or project the responsibility to take it across the finish line but also strive for the good of the organization’ s mission as a whole. “By hiring Superstars we are consistently securing incredible additions to our team who bring new ideas and help drive our mission forward.”

About the Leader  

Gregg Rotenberg is the President and CEO at Smart Wires Inc., a Silicon Valley company dedicated to providing grid optimization solutions for electric utilities worldwide. This unique product essentially acts as a “valve” on the transmission line, allowing the manager of the grid to route power to where it is needed most. Prior to joining Smart Wires, Gregg led the Strategic Alliances Group at Chevron Energy Solutions (and Chevron’s Renewable Power Group). His Strategic Alliances team carefully reviewed over 1000 companies in clean-tech over that time period and they identified only three companies that they believed were truly game changing to the clean technology industry. One of those three game changing companies was Smart Wires. “We believe that Smart Wires will ultimately change how power grids are managed at nearly every utility in the world. Smart Wires solutions allow utilities to “route” power to where it is needed, ending the days where electricity just flows to the path of least resistance inherent in the grid. The result will be higher reliability in our power grids, with considerably lower cost of power and significantly expanded use of renewable energy,” said Rotenberg. He is passionate about developing strategy and building a remarkable team committed to making the world a better place.

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