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New at the top: To meet Warren Buffett, this outdoorsman didn’t stay lost in the woods

I started out studying forestry in college and ended up reporting directly to Warren Buffett. My career has been a pretty windy road, but with continual upward movement.

I love the outdoors.

As a kid I would hike and fish in the woods. I remember in high school, my buddies and I would drive to the national parks.

I thought a forestry degree would be a good start. I talked to my dad about it, and he gave me the best advice. He said that I should go to school for whatever I wanted. If I become the best at what I did, I would be fine.

After graduating college, my intent was to join the Forest Service, but there was a five-year waiting list. I had to get a paycheck, so I decided to load trucks, run forklifts and transport waste for small companies in environmental businesses.

After a few years of that, I thought maybe a sales job would be less painful.

In 1984, I transitioned to a sales job at Rollins Environmental Services. I took a very traditional pathway from account executive to senior account executive to sales manager to national director of sales to vice president of sales.

Sales is all about believing in your product or service, establishing credibility with the customer, and working very hard to satisfy all the work that needs to be done in consummating the sale.

The environmental industry was in a significant state of flux, and my company was sold to Laidlaw. I decided to make the move over to the energy industry, joining MidAmerican Energy to start up their competitive sales entity. At that time the energy markets were restructuring from the traditional utility model to competitive sales.

Eventually MidAmerican was purchased by CalEnergy as a private entity, which was the predecessor company to MidAmerican Energy Holdings.

The guys who led that charge were David Sokol and Greg Abel, who subsequently took the company to Berkshire Hathaway in 2001.

At that same time, David and Greg asked me if I was interested in transitioning from traditional sales to a much larger operational responsibility.

I knew I was talented enough and worked hard enough to go well beyond a senior sales position. So I jumped on that.

I took responsibility of transportation, distribution and transmission of energy within the utility until I became the president of the utility.

That’s where I got to meet Warren Buffett.

As part of the Berkshire Hathaway family, we did several large projects during that time frame including the Council Bluffs Energy Center, wind energy, high-voltage transmission to the tune of $2 billion-plus in infrastructure projects.

In 2007, I was asked to transition to Johns Manville, another Berkshire company. My charter with Johns Manville was to get it through what the company saw coming, the housing bubble.

We did just that, putting it in the great position it finds itself in now.

We determined that was the best jumping-off point for me. That was what drove me to the next logical conclusion, which is here at GridPoint.

I was intrigued by GridPoint early on. I joined the board of directors in April and got more excited as I got to know the company better.

There is a frustration of trying to understand energy usage costs and how to improve that. GridPoint fixed that problem.

I started out in environment and now work in energy, but the two are incredibly intertwined.

It’s all tied back to the environment, at the end of the day.

— Interview with Vanessa Small

Todd M. Raba

Position: Chief executive of GridPoint, an Arlington energy- management solutions company.

Career highlights: Chairman, president and chief executive, Johns Manville Co.; president, MidAmerican Energy.

Education: BS, forestry, University of Vermont.

Age: 56

Personal: Lives in Arlington with his wife, Diane.

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