Jay Fiske gave his mother a start when she found him, at eight years old, tinkering with a 120-volt outlet. He was rigging an alarm system for his bedroom, using a dissected alarm clock. “I was curious about how things worked,” says Fiske, who is now vice president of operations for Wakonda Technologies in Massachusetts.
Fiske’s passion for mechanics has remained central to his work. While earning a 1993 undergraduate degree at Yale University, he worked at Solectria, an MIT spinoff that manufactured electric vehicles. After Yale, he went to Coopers and Lybrand Consulting as an associate in the Center for Operations Technology, where he designed and implemented lean manufacturing systems for clients in many industries. He executed a just-in-time system for a large sheet-metal fabrication facility, cutting assembly time by 75 percent and halving labor costs. “This work taught me what it takes to be a competitive U.S. manufacturer,” he says.
At MIT, Fiske earned both an MBA and an SM as a fellow in the Leaders for Manufacturing program. After working at Teradyne, he became general partner with the Massachusetts Green Energy Fund, a privately held venture capital group focused on renewable-energy startups, in 2005. He led the due-diligence process for Wakonda, among other businesses, and in 2008 he joined the Woburn-based company, which is developing innovative and cost-effective solar photovoltaic products that will be integrated into construction basics such as roofing tiles.
Fiske often returns to MIT to fuel his enthusiasm for innovation. “I love talking with professors in areas like engineering and materials science,” he says. “The enormous amount of clean-energy-related research coming out of MIT is very exciting.”
Looking at the national scene, Fiske says he believes that President Barack Obama will provide more support for clean energy. “I also feel optimistic about the U.S. as a manufacturing center,” he says. “Traditional energy is all about extracting and refining. So much of renewable energy is about manufacturing cutting-edge technologies at extremely competitive costs.”
Fiske lives in Winchester, MA, with his wife, Margaret Chen, an investment consultant, and their two daughters, five-year-old Tabitha and nine-year-old Mari. The family enjoys spending time outdoors, including cross-country skiing and biking.