Jun 19, 2018

Thomas Patten
Thomas Patten, Blue Oak Energy
Why lighting?
The mix of art and engineering. In lighting, you’re working to save the world with energy efficiency, but you still care how things look. The goals are not just dollars, like in so many things, and the projects still have a direct impact on the biggest issues facing the planet today.

Favorite project?
DC microgrid. This was a very small demonstration project with just four solar panels, but I love the concept of removing AC-DC converters to improve efficiency (DC power from the solar panels is used natively by the LEDs). I was using lithiumion batteries with DC lighting at a time when there were not many off-the-shelf products, so I learned a lot getting everything to work.

Best part of your job?
Developing a sense of autonomy, mastery and purpose. I have enough freedom to decide how to get things done, which provides a good sense of autonomy. I have enough time to do things right, even if they don’t go right the first try, so I’m able to practice and develop a sense of mastery. And the work I do ultimately makes the world a better place, which gives me a sense of purpose.

Biggest obstacle you’ve encountered?
A sour boss. I guess you just don’t resonate with some people. If one of those people happens to be your boss, you may still get work done, but it’s draining. It makes it hard to stay motivated. I transferred to a different team and things were much better.

Most important thing for the future of the lighting industry?
Tough question. In the short term, regulations like California’s Title 24 would help ensure we’re installing better technologies in new constructions and retrofits. Ultimately, we need education for designers and consumers about the health and efficiency effects of lighting, and the available solutions.

Dream job?
I love to tinker, so my dream job would be to spend all day in the shop building things. I want to design and build amazing things to make life better for people.

The Emerging Professional column explores issues affecting younger lighting professionals and those new to the industry.