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    Joining Lumo: From Pit Stop to Career Pivot

    Christina Plumley joins Lumo team to help with smart irrigation
    by Christina Plumley

    Before landing in California, I thought Lumo would just be a pit stop.

    Last May, I sent a cold email to the company asking if an internship was possible. There were no job postings but I figured it didn’t hurt to ask. Two calls later, I was booking my flight from North Carolina with, mind you, no real background in tech, agriculture, water or wine. 

    Finishing up almost 10 years in the military, I wanted to leverage the Army Career Skills Program. CSP allows servicemembers to participate in unpaid private sector internships in their last six months of service. The program helps bridge the gap many have with translatable work experience and ideally, curbs veteran unemployment with internships that lead to full-time jobs. Having a steady income through the Army gave me the confidence to research and pursue seemingly “risky” early-stage startups. I was intentionally looking for a learning opportunity en route to pursuing a full-time MBA.

    I knew sustainability was the area I wanted to focus my studies as I made a career pivot. After a number of informational interviews, I gravitated towards the water sector. During deployments to Southeast Asia coordinating humanitarian projects, I had witnessed the value of water firsthand. 

    While visiting a remote school, I met with a principal who supported educating the local community of ethnic tribes. As we discussed school supplies my team would later donate, he kindly provided me with a glass of water. While this may appear to be an ordinary gesture, his offer spoke volumes. For context, I rode in a helicopter for an hour to access this school because of how remote it was in the mountains. Their primary means to access bottled water was a 14-hour trip via truck and canal boat. The gift of water was extremely precious. 

    Water is the foundation of life and, for a growing percentage of the world, a scarce resource. In the western US, we’re quickly awakening to that reality ourselves. So much government attention and venture capital funding has been focused on carbon and renewable energy that the water crisis has gone relatively overlooked and underfunded. 

    Yet solving water scarcity is nebulous. It’s a wicked problem. It’s not going to be easy to solve and we’re currently not doing enough to try to solve it. 

    There’s a gap. And I knew I wanted to help stand in that gap. Because, if left unchecked, I can see how water scarcity leads to economic downturn, political polarization, and potential global instability. 

    I asked water-focused investors and entrepreneurs for their feedback and quickly realized working in “water” is too vague, as there are many specialties within the sector. Discovering that agriculture accounts for 70% of global water use helped direct my focus. 

    “Where could I have the most impact in an overlooked industry?” Agriculture tech. 

    Fast forward to mid-August in Napa County and I’m holding an irrigation manifold steady as Devon, our CEO, installs a Lumo One valve. I spent two days plumbing and installing with our CEO. This is one of the many things I appreciate about Lumo--everyone rolls up their sleeves, starting with Devon. 

    For lunch we went to the nearest restaurant, Rutherford Grill. Devon led us to the bar where a server laid down pristine white cloth placemats and napkins. Being unkempt with muddy boots, I felt out of place. I went straight to the bathroom to literally wash the dirt off my hands and face. What I quickly discovered, however, was that I was in the exact right place. Frequented by locals working in the Napa County vineyards, most everyone wore varying versions of outdoor workwear. Talk about an immersive introduction to wine country! 

    Another memorable internship experience was learning how to assemble the Lumo One valve with Henry, our chief inventor. He has a number of patents to his name, a testament to his 40+ year career as a successful entrepreneur. Henry is a wealth of knowledge and honestly, I could listen to him share stories for days. Here’s this incredible (and very busy) engineer patiently teaching me one-on-one where to put cables, how to test that the buttons work, and tips to make assembly easy. He gave me some of his own tools and then told me to lead assembly production for the rest of the season. Good thing I took a lot of notes and videos because no pressure!

    But that’s the thrill of a startup! You’re empowered from the beginning because there is so much to do and everyone is wearing multiple hats. It’s dynamic and fast-paced. The upside potential of a startup is exactly what propels industry-disrupting innovation. And our growers have been waiting for what Lumo offers: user-friendly irrigation automation that delivers scalable impact affordably.

    Leaving the military, a mission-oriented organization, I knew my personal values wouldn’t align with a completely profit driven endeavor. Lumo is a company that pursues both purpose and profit. With a mission to address water and food security, our team is set on an ambitious path alongside growers to improve irrigation for lasting generational impact. 

    Four months interning at Lumo changed everything for me. The team, mission, and purpose-driven work transformed a pit stop internship into a full-time Operations Manager role and my next career. Everyone is incredibly welcoming, hardworking, and all-in, and there is something to learn every day. The chance to help grow Lumo from the ground-up (no pun intended) is a welcome challenge and opportunity. I am so excited for all that we will achieve and could not have asked for a better place to land.

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