Dr. Gabriela Bunea has been promoted from Senior Vice President of Solar Research and Development to Chief Solar Innovation Officer at GAF Energy. This change comes at the heels of the tremendously successful product launch of Timberline Solar™, a product developed by Dr. Bunea and her team, and it comes appropriately at the start of Women’s History Month. Dr. Bunea has commented in the past on her journey in a male-dominated field: “while working on my Ph.D. in Physics, I was the only woman in my group. When I took my first job, I was also the only woman in my lab. My thirty colleagues were all men.” However, she now says things are much different, as evidenced by the strong female representation on her team. As we spoke with Dr. Bunea to learn what this title change means to her, she was sporting a pin celebrating Mărțișor, a holiday in her native country of Romania that marks the beginning of March, spring, and new life.
“I used to speak at my kids’ school during Mărțișor when they were growing up, and I’d give pins to the students to celebrate.” Dr. Bunea’s pin shows two people dancing in traditional Romanian attire, and has two red and white strings tied around it. Since moving to the U.S. in her early 20s and teaching herself English to pursue a Ph.D., she observes the spring holiday every year by donning a pin and telling colleagues about the tradition.
Celebrating new life was doubly fitting this year, as Dr. Bunea earned her new title as Chief Solar Innovation Officer. “I think the company is recognizing that my team and I have practically achieved mission impossible,” says Dr. Bunea about the promotion. “I basically joined the company with no team, no office or laboratory, no idea of what to do, other than the high-level direction to figure out a solar roof that will be appealing to roofers and become the roof of the future.”
And that’s what she did.
In January 2022, GAF Energy launched its latest solar roofing product, the Timberline Solar™ Energy Shingle (ES). For years, Dr. Bunea and her team of engineers, researchers, designers, roofers and scientists worked together to develop the world’s first nailable solar shingle – that looks great, is cost effective, and has the durable, protective qualities of a roof. “In designing this product, our priority was the roofers,” Dr. Bunea recalls. “We constantly asked ourselves, ‘what do roofers want?’ and create something that achieves their goals.” As the sibling company of the leading roofing manufacturer in North America, GAF, “we’re merging the roofing industry with the world of solar power, so we already had the fundamentals down. For every key technical decision that could be made, the roofer was at the forefront.”
The reception of the Timberline Solar ES™ has been overwhelmingly positive, proving to GAF Energy that the individual they chose to lead the charge in making the world’s first nailable solar shingle was the best person for the job. To Dr. Bunea, however, “this promotion aligns with the achievements of the company.” She was tasked with something that seemed un-achievable, and having achieved it, she’s pleased to be recognized. When asked what advice she has for other women pursuing career goals, Dr. Bunea said she hopes she is leading by example. Her message is, “be true to yourself, do the best you can, and always advocate for yourself.”
This Mărțișor and Women’s History Month, GAF Energy is celebrating the history being made by our women team members, and the new beginnings of solar roofing that will lead to a future of energy from every roof.