Proust Goes Tech With Anne Smart, Chargepoint’s VP Of Public Policy

Anne Smart is currently the VP Of Public Policy at electric vehicle charging company ChargePoint. But her work in clean energy policy has been a lifelong commitment.

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Anne spoke to Crunchbase News about her appreciation of adventure in both her physical and literary travels, as well as her faults and fears when it comes to life. Her dedication and decisiveness is a testament to her passion for building a cleaner world, and her love of animals mirrors her love for the planet.

Read on for Anne’s candor and spirit in our latest interview for Proust Goes Tech.

What would you otherwise be doing right now?

I have a masters degree in energy policy and so far I’ve used it on energy efficiency: data center efficiency, solar, and now electric vehicles. I would probably be working on policy in storage, wind, or the next greatest thing in energy.

But if I get burned out on energy policy, which could happen at some point, I’ve always said my fallback plan would be to open a no-kill animal shelter. I used to work at a shelter at Ohio in college, that’s where I got one of my two spaniels. I would love to take that model from the animal adoption center in Ohio and apply it to some other small town somewhere else in America.

Your main fault?

I’d say main fault is the “four letter words” fault. I think that I tend to be a bit aggressive in my tone and pretty passionate about what I’m working on, particularly when it comes to competing with utilities. Whether it’s net metering in my former life or charging station ownership now. I think the tone can be a bit aggressive sometimes.

The quality you most desire in a tweet?

I’m actually not super active on Twitter. I spend more time on Reddit. I really like to look at the pictures a bit more. So I guess what I desire most in a tweet is pictures!

Your idea of misery?

I’m gluten free so I think my idea of misery, right now, would be a bakery in Paris with baguettes and pain au chocolat around me that I can’t eat.

What do you appreciate the most in your friends?

I definitely appreciate my friends’ sense of adventure. It’s been really fun to have friends willing to go bar-hopping in Cabo with me or road tripping in New Zealand. I also took a friend to the Philippines once. As a single woman, it has been nice to have friends as travel buddies. It’s helped me to see more of other countries and travel more in the U.S. as well.

Your chief characteristic?

I’m decisive. I really hate sitting on a decision, and I like to make decisions in the moment. I think that being decisive has helped me in my career but also in my personal life. I think making decisions quickly, weighing everything fast, and being spur of the moment is important. I like to make sure that we don’t take too long or spend to much time because in the end that can often lead to decisions that aren’t necessarily the right ones because we’ve overthought it too much.

What skill do you wish you possessed?

I really wish I could sing! I play piano and drums. I like to try to sing along as I’m playing Goo Goo Dolls on the piano, but I’m a horrible singer. Also my sister’s fiancé has a Bassett hound that howls along every time I try to sing anything remotely on key! I would love to have that skillset.

Your most impactful book?

I tend to read more for escapism and less for learning or impact. I really like the Mortal Instrument series, Harry Potter, and any fantasy book that has a wizard or mermaid in it. I did recently read The Princess Saves Herself In This One by Amanda Lovelace. I felt that her poetic style was very simple and very raw. I really connected with the idea of a woman coming into her own through simple and emotional poetry.

What defines success?

I think success is defined by what the noticeable impact is on the world. I like to think that the laws I helped write or change have had a long-term impact that has led to more solar panels being deployed or more charging stations being put in the ground. I think impact needs to have a legacy beyond my immediate time working on it. I like to point to things and say that whatever I did definitely had an impact on other people’s abilities to do business or achieve other goals beyond just what I was hoping for in the moment.

When is confidence lost?

I think confidence is lost when it’s unclear what that long term impact of something might be. Working on policy there are often proposals made for new laws that seem to fix a problem right there in the moment, but there’s often technology that’s going to outdate that law in a few months. It’s not really clear what the need for that change is going to be in a year or so.

So I think confidence is lost sometimes for me, on policy specifically, when I know that there are things we’re working on that I can’t announce, or when I know that there are companies in stealth mode out there that are coming up with something that will totally negate the ability to have a law implemented. But a short-sighted lawmaker or someone who has a specific interest in mind can’t see that larger picture, or trust that a certain problem will be addressed with something that we just can’t conceive of right now in the moment.

Which buzzword is exhausted?

I think that “leading edge,” “cutting edge,” “bleeding edge,” those buzzwords are all exhausted. For me, they don’t conjure up innovation. They conjure up an image of a bunch of Silicon Valley companies looking at some sort of edge like that lemming video game where everyone (laugh) is sort of rushing toward the edge. What’s at the edge? Nothing. They sort of just fall into a precipice.

So I think that needs to be replaced with “forward thinking” or “going above and beyond,” something that’s a bit more positive rather than rushing up against a cliff.

What virtues do others have that you don’t?

I think optimism. It’s a virtue that I’d like to have more of. I think working in policy part of my job is to look for all of the worst case scenarios that if a new law passes what are all of the possible ways that its going to hurt our current business or our future business and the interests of EV drivers or, in my previous job, solar customers. While I’d like to say in my personal life I usually see the glass half full, I think professionally I would love to have more of the virtue of optimism in my work.

What impact do you want to leave behind?

I definitely hope to leave behind  a cleaner greener planet. I’ve committed my career to trying to figure out ways to improve our energy policy to save the world one charging station at a time. I would hope to leave something behind that is fixing some of the issues that we have through policy.

What’s the biggest problem tech is failing to solve?

It might not come as a surprise, but I think climate change is a problem that we should focus more technology on. I think that there are products that are out there, but we need to figure out how to make them more affordable and accessible to everyone—whether that’s clean energy or electric vehicles. It’s really important that we get beyond these technologies available to early adopters and expand it to more people in more places, not just California. I think that’s the only way that we’re going to be able to drive climate change is if everyone everywhere has access to cleaner energy.

Editorial Note: Answers edited for brevity and clarity.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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