Q & A with Kelly Mulder!

Posted November 6, 2019

What is your role at ILLUME?
One of the things I love about working at ILLUME is that I get to take on many roles. As a Managing Director at ILLUME, my mission is to balance my responsibilities as a senior leader in the company—overseeing successful execution of large projects, providing thought leadership, and supporting the overall growth and development of ILLUME and our team—with my life outside of work. Depending on the project, I could be overseeing the whole contract, providing technical or marketing expertise, doing the day-to-day project management, or learning how to support as an Analyst might. When you love what you do at work, it is especially important to set boundaries and balance. Balance is my North Star, however I’m still a work in progress.

Where are you from and where do you live now?
I grew up in East Lansing, near Michigan State University. (Seriously, my high school was next to a sorority and my friends’ families lived next to college housing). This gave me a love of academia, collegiate competition, and life in a small town with big opportunities. This led me to a small city with big opportunities when I moved to Madison, Wisconsin to attend the University of Wisconsin. I haven’t strayed far since then. After graduation I stayed in Madison and spent a few years in the print manufacturing field as a marketer, and then landed (by quite a happy accident) in the energy efficiency and renewable energy world. My career, and youthful ambitions of being a big city person, led me to living a few years in Chicago which was exciting and exhausting. Life has recently taken me back to the Madison area to raise my three-year-old with my husband.

Who or what inspires you in your work?
My background is in marketing, management, and communications—so people are what gets me excited to come to work each day. At home those people are my family and friends that, because they don’t always love me talking about energy, inspire me to find better ways to connect what I do (energy nerd) with the people we serve (people who are NOT energy nerds). At work and in our industry, I’m inspired by those who are doing more. Those that set an example by truly living what they talk about. Those who walk/bike/take public transit instead of drive, (drive instead of fly) drive EVs, have solar on their rooftops; folks who practice energy efficiency and strive for the smallest carbon footprint possible. Because of these people that I’ve met throughout my career I’ve owned a Prius, have biked to work on occasion, taken public transportation as my primary mode, and I take a bus that offsets carbon emissions to downtown Chicago for meetings instead of driving. I never would have been inspired to do these things without those in this industry that have introduced me to how we can all be better. I’m still a work in progress but continue to grow because of those around me. My colleagues at ILLUME do all this, as well as inspire me to always be learning, set the benchmark for high quality consulting work for our clients, and maintain balance.

Do you have any pets?
We have a small 7 lb. dog with a big name, Brutus. He is still trying to win our daughter over, and I have faith he’ll do it one day!

What are your favorite hobbies?
I used to devour books but now that my commute is in a car as opposed to public transit, I devour audio books (love my library app). Other hobbies I love the most are cooking, camping, biking, going to the Madison Forward Football Club Flamingos games, and watching my daughter enjoy life.

What’s your favorite quote or motto?
“Always assume people are coming from a place of good intentions” and “Communication is always a two-way street”. I have heard these from leadership at ILLUME as well as throughout my life, so I’m not sure if there is someone to credit for it, but I think they are incredibly powerful to remember and live by.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
One summer in college I thought I’d learn about sales since I was majoring in marketing and management. This began at a sales training in North Carolina that allowed me to connect with other students throughout the country and learn about B2B in-person selling. At the end of that week, the main speaker concluded that we all will learn a valuable lesson by the end of the summer: whether we love to sell or not, and either way, it is just as valuable of a lesson as it will help guide our future. I left loving that experience. By mid-summer I knew this would be the worst job I’ve ever had—selling university directory print ads to businesses near the UW Campus in the early aughts.

What is the best concert you ever attended?
Bob Dylan, twice. First at the Kohl Center in Madison with my then boyfriend and again at Ravinia in Highland Park, Illinois with the same guy and our newborn three years ago. His lyrics are something I’ve always loved and to be able to share them with both of my true loves was incredible.

If you could have chosen another career path, what would you be doing?
The same thing, but headquartered in Aruba.