Solar Success

After two false starts, USMC sergeant major finds his niche in solar energy.

Solar Success

Rick Cunningham

Age: 51
Civilian Job: Operations Manager, Envision Solar International, Inc.
Military Service: Sergeant Major (E-9),
Marine Corps (1983-2012)

MOS: Sergeant Major –
Senior Enlisted Advisor (8999)

Personal Stats

Childhood hero? Clint Eastwood
Hobbies? Archery, landscaping, hiking
What about you would surprise most people? I love cats.
Favorite movie? “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”
Quirkiest inherited trait? Eating peanut butter sandwiches with chili.

Deathly afraid of? Drowning
Dream car? An Old Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep
Childhood nickname? Itchy Ritchy
First job? Milking cows and baling hay

Civilian Crossroads. After rising through the ranks from new boot to sergeant major in the Marine Corps, Rick Cunningham was at a crossroads. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do as a civilian. “I spent a lot of time participating in informational interviews with all different types of occupations, but nothing really jumped out at me,” he says.

Finding His Fit. When Cunningham, now 51, retired in 2012 after a year of preparation, he worked for a nonprofit in San Diego, then as an operations manager for a company that repaired and sold power wheelchairs. Neither were a good fit.

Using the Vet Net. Then the veteran network worked its magic. One of Cunningham’s former commanding officers knew the CEO of Envision Solar, a growing solar technology company in San Diego that seeks out veterans. The CO recommended Cunningham, and he was hired as the operations coordinator and procurement manager.

All Charged Up. In July 2015, Cunningham was promoted to his current position as operations and production manager, where he oversees operations, production and procurement of materials for Envision’s EV ARC™ and HVLC Solar Tree Systems – charging stations for electric vehicles.

Keeping It Moving. Cunningham supervises the fabrication, welding and assembly of the solar systems. He also buys the materials they need to keep production moving, using the organizational management and lifelong learning skills he brought from the Marine Corps. “The biggest challenge is working with vendors to ensure that delivery of materials and components happen in a timely manner in order to keep us on track with the production schedule,” he says.

Can-Do Attitude. Cunningham loves the cohesiveness and dedication of the Envision Solar team. “We have a very small team here at Envision and everybody will come together to ensure we meet our goal,” he says. “Everybody here will drop what they are doing to help each other out.”

Advice for You. “Don’t set your sights on one specific career path or occupation. If you get a job and you don’t particularly care for it – don’t settle, keep looking for your dream job. It’s out there – you just need to plan, prepare and work hard finding it.” It worked for him!


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