Annie Tran says she doesn’t like change, but her career path reveals someone willing to embrace it. “I change because I know it’s always for the best, right? We always grow with pressure.”
Nextracker’s environmental, health, and safety (EHS) manager started her career at Applied Materials, working for several years at the semiconductor equipment behemoth as an environmental technician and safety engineer after earning her degree in chemical engineering from UC Davis. She then worked as an environmental compliance specialist at AC Transit, building her government regulatory compliance and other related skills before moving on to a very different kind of Silicon Valley company, Facebook.
She spent over two years at the social media megabrand as an EHS program specialist tasked with employee training, “which helped me understand regulation at a deeper level, to dissect all the nuances.” Her last stop before joining Nextracker last year was at a small AI robotics startup, where she applied her ever-growing safety expertise within an emerging industry.
Embracing a change in industry, she interviewed for the Nextracker EHS manager position. And in a short period, Annie has already had a positive impact on the company and its dedication to safety.
“It ended up being perfect, because it gave me the opportunity to take on new responsibilities,” she explains. “In addition to overseeing safety for people in the offices, which is kind of my bread and butter, I’m also working with people remotely to ensure safety on project sites.”
Annie has also grown from Nextracker’s forward-thinking approach to safety, characterized by a willingness to embrace changes to improve the introduction and application of safety measures. “In my past safety roles, it was just about enforcing how things have always been done, more a sort of policing. Here, it’s very collaborative, and we’re shifting the whole culture to think differently about safety.”
For example, internal steps to meet safety regulations such as OSHA are developed together with team members, ensuring these critical processes have agreement and buy-in from those responsible for following them. “We think about how we can uphold these rules and create a dynamic conversation about safety that’s developing constantly, across all types of business units,” she notes.
Getting people to think about safety throughout the company requires a change in mindset. “Safety has this huge role that affects people across each of our business divisions, and we must consider all of them,” Annie says. “So we start these discussions early and get people to incorporate safety thinking at the beginning of a new project, which saves a lot of time and gets better results than retrofitting safety procedures towards the end.”
While it hasn’t always been a traditional focus of safety professionals, Annie is also passionate about Nextracker’s focus on protecting mental health. Out in the field, it’s not just about proper tool use or adhering to NEC requirements, but also about the holistic well-being of the techs and engineers who often work by themselves in remote areas for weeks on end. Nextracker created the NX Cares program in 2015 to help address these issues and ship care packages to project sites around the world.
“Construction workers have a higher rate of depression and drug abuse because of the hard, stressful work they do,” Annie notes. “We have about 50 to 100 people in the field, often working on their own and feeling very solitary. That’s why I go out into the field, not only to understand our product, but also to talk to these individuals and say, ‘hey, what are ways that we can make your job easier, to help you be happier.’
“I see myself as an advocate for my colleagues, because this is about safety,” she emphasizes. “That’s why we’re creating initiatives to highlight mental health, and encouraging our colleagues to talk about it instead of stigmatizing it.”
In the short time Annie has worked at Nextracker, she has helped to continue a shift in attitude toward safety. “Safety is now a regular topic of discussion at Nextracker, and I am proud to have had a hand in that.”