Seattle City (spot)Light: Irina Rasputnis

Irina Rasputnis has worked at City Light for nearly two years as the Executive Director of the Lighting Design Lab which is part of Customer Energy Solutions (CES). “I’ve worked in lighting and energy efficiency for over a decade,” Irina shared. “With my engineering background, I intentionally pursued jobs that were environmentally focused.”

Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, Irina studied chemical engineering at Northeastern University in Boston and urban planning at Tufts University. She lives in Tacoma with her husband Patrick and their three-year old daughter Raya.  “My husband and I met on a layover at the Denver airport when I was on my way to a Department of Energy conference!” Irina said chuckling.

In this week’s (spot)Light, learn about Irina’s cross-country bike ride, passion for community building and finding her niche.

Irina with her family

“When I first entered the job market, green tech was a big buzzword. I secured good jobs, but I wanted to do exciting things right from the get-go. The roles weren’t interesting; it wasn’t the kind of work I wanted to be doing. So, I took a year off and did a cross-country bike ride. During that time, I was supposed to figure out what I wanted to do, but I was more focused on my ride and where I was going to sleep! A lot of people opened their doors to me and shared different resources. It got me thinking about communities and I decided that I wanted to be a community builder.”

“But I didn’t really know how to do that. I started attending different lectures and universities to learn more. I was introduced to an urban planning graduate program at Tufts University. It was fascinating, but I still didn’t see a role for myself. Then I discovered the field of energy efficiency. It had a technical component but also the policy side that’s connected to how people function in society. It felt like the niche I needed to pursue.”

“Being in the industry, I knew about the Lighting Design Lab. I liked the work they were doing and had worked with people there that I respected. But it wasn’t until I met my current manager, Edward Smalley, at a national conference that I really became interested in working there. He painted a picture of the Design Lab that matched up with my hopes for what I wanted to pursue. It got me very excited.”

“I used to be an avid cyclist. I’d do long-distance and multi-day rides, like my cross-country trek. It’s been hard to get back into it since my daughter is still young. She’s not steady on a bike but she’s working on her scooter skills! I also played in bands and really enjoyed that. I wasn’t any good, but I looked like I was having fun and that’s what allows the audience to have fun. So, it didn’t matter to me if I was good! I play the bass clarinet. I like playing goofy music, stuff that’s fun. I’ve been wanting to start a CES band, but it’s been tough working with everyone’s busy schedules. I’m open to starting a City Light band. Reach out if you’re interested, but you have to like goofy music!”