In many jobs “keeping the lights on” might suggest the kind of work that often goes unnoticed or uncelebrated. But for Page Crahan, it takes on a new meaning when the lights are quite literally those that flow from power grids the world over. The San Francisco-based creative entrepreneur serves as the Director of Commercial for Tapestry, an effort under Alphabet, formerly Google X, which focuses on Moonshot projects—think massively complicated universal challenges that require the most genius problem solvers to help address them. Enter: Page who’s focused on the climate crisis, specifically the decarbonization of the earth’s power grid. Though she and her team often keep their work hidden from public view, below she shares more about the exciting developments on the horizon and how her appreciation for personal style goes hand-in-hand with creative solutions, even when it comes to facing humanity’s most insurmountable problems.
ON THE MEANING OF A “MOONSHOT"
You have to come into this building and think about problem-solving in a different way. We have to answer the questions: What is the big problem that you’re trying to solve? Is there a radical solution that nobody else is bringing to the world? And is there a breakthrough technology that doesn’t exist? And if you answer yes to those three things then you’ve got yourself a moonshot. I feel super lucky. My job is basically to build a business that will help us decarbonize our power system, bringing next-level technology to speed up the transition to a carbon-free energy world, which is critical. We can’t decarbonize the planet if we don’t decarbonize our energy.
ON THE BEST “NO” SHE’S EVER HEARD
Early on at Alphabet, I presented an idea for a technology to my team but I didn’t explain how I got there. I just said, “here’s what I think we should do, it’s going to be great” and the team didn’t see it. They said, “no, go back to the drawing board.” The lesson for me was that it’s not just the idea and the work that you bring forward, but your ability to communicate and bring people along. I started to understand how to get people more comfortable in seeing what I see. The communication part was the lesson for me. Those nos were just “not the way you described it” or “not right now,” and learning to bring people along with more intention has really helped to speed up that cycle going forward.
“If you’re not afraid to fail, you’re not afraid to try really hard things.”
ON EMBRACING FAILURE
One of the things I can rock is that I have failed many times. I tried a lot of things that didn’t work along the way. And I think the only way you can address big problems is not being afraid to fail, knowing that you’re going to make some mistakes and that there is a learning. That sounds cliché, but it is really true and one of the superpowers of being an entrepreneur: trying a bunch of things and when it doesn't work the way you thought it would, the world doesn't end. You just learn something. You adjust. You move. If you’re not afraid to fail, you’re not afraid to try really hard things.
ON HER WORK STYLE EVOLUTION
My first career out of college was at a Washington, DC law firm. It was suits, super formal, and I respect that. We had to establish trust and credibility and that’s earned by how competent we were and how we showed up. In technology, some of that formality makes it hard to innovate. I mean, we can’t solve climate change without laughing once in a while. It’s too intense, too hard. We have to bring some levity so we can stay the course. Wearing a funny T-shirt or cool shoes with a blazer is part of creating that environment. On any given day I can have a meeting with an artificial intelligence engineer and then minutes later I’m talking to a government official about how we’re going to decarbonize their country and keep the lights on. I need to have that balance of competence, confidence, and innovation.
ON THE CHANGING CONVERSATIONS AROUND CLIMATE CHANGE
The urgency around climate change can bring people together to do things differently. The meetings I might have had 10 years ago, where we’re convincing people, today in 2022, people come to the table and say, “We get it. What should we do? How can we work together?” That sea change in the community should bring some optimism that we can make a change and there are a lot of people around the world who want to help.
ON PROUD MOMENTS
Audrey Zibelman, who is the lead of Tapestry, was invited to speak at the White House at the Leaders Summit on Climate in April last year. The reason that was such a moment for me is because I’ve been working on this idea confidentially for about three years at Alphabet, with lots of other really smart people, and this was the first time we’d seen it in the outside world. It was validating and rewarding to see something that was a secret become real in that forum and be received with optimism. It’s such an important challenge so the more we can get a dialogue going with other innovators, the more rewarding it is in my mind, and the more likely the effort will be to succeed.
“We can’t solve climate change without laughing once in a while. It’s too intense, too hard.”
ON NEW NORMS OF A CREATIVE WORKPLACE
For me, the approach I always take is starting a meeting grounded in what we know, what we aspire to do, or what belief we hold true in our core, and then you can get people to start thinking about the art of the impossible or doing something a little different than usual. If you let people talk about what they believe in, say things that might seem silly, then you can create an environment that lets everyone bring their weird, crazy idea to the table and celebrates that type of thinking.
ON THE COOLEST INNOVATIONS ON HER HORIZON
The electric grid is the world’s largest machine and virtualizing that level of complexity—especially when the electricity is generated so dynamically by the weather, in wind and solar for example—is so incredible. The impact of building that sort of technology and the way it could help teams and other technologies all around the world is mind-blowing. It could truly be a transformative tool to virtualize the world’s electricity system, allow people to make better decisions, and enable carbon-free, equitable energy access.