Youth Lead Program Manager at Indigenous Clean Energy
Ricky-Lee Watts is ICE’s Youth Program Manager. He is named after his late-father, Rick Watts, whose ancestry is unknown, and through his mother, Molly Watts, he is Nuučaan̓uł. His Quu-as name, Aamiitlaa, means “blessed one”. He is a first generation University graduate, traveler, passionate dreamer, motivational speaker, and visionary leader.
With experience working with Indigenous communities, universities, government, and with a growing involvement in entrepreneurship, public speaking, travelling, and leadership, Ricky-Lee lives a life of interconnectedness and intentionality.
His vision is one that inspires values of ʔiisaak and hišukʔiš c̓awaak — respect for all creation having a common origin, and that everything is one.
Work and impact
How is sustainability/social impact integrated in your work?
Looking at integrating sustainability and social impact. It’s the fabric of everything I do. Looking particularly at my role with Indigenous Clean Energy as Youth Lead Program Manager. The entire vision is to advance equity and sustainability. Equity is looking at providing education and empowering Indigenous youth across the country, in urban and rural areas, and those with diverse backgrounds, and to essentially create a vision of what can be the pathway to get there, and building the confidence to take steps on that pathway. So it’s bringing Indigenous youth and worldviews perspectives into the space of clean energy. It also comes from the standpoint of addressing equity. We invite employer organizations who are part of Generation Power to partake in our equity training, created in partnership with Future Ancestors. This provides us with some sense of a context or history to know what the past has been and how this informs the present day and considers the future we want to create. So clean energy is an amazing and powerful solution towards that future. In our world, where we’re faced with a global pandemic, climate crisis, socio-economic disparities, and so many things happening, I’d ask you to consider what kind of work you want to be involved in right now. For me, right now, this is what fires my heart up, adding that spark and passion.
What are your past and current areas of focus in a few words?
For me, what that looks like is a sense of building career pathways and youth empowerment with the theme of the interconnectedness we all share in all our communities and with the earth and the land around us and combining these themes. The themes of interconnectedness and youth empowerment are the major areas of work that I focus on. And I’ve had a number of different roles along the way.
How did you enter this space?
Well, as a young person, there was a time when I never saw much of a bright future, let alone any future. A challenging time that, while tough and while dark, has given me the perspective to appreciate the good moments in life, and also to be able to better relate and connect with people from diverse backgrounds, considering the hardships that I faced and my desire to then create spaces of inclusion and spaces of belonging for people of all backgrounds. This has come through my volunteer work, my work experiences as a student, being a university recruiter, working with Indigenous communities in healing and reconciliation, and then beginning speaking in workshops about confidence, goal setting, and mental health. And then eventually to this past year, where a dear friend of mine named Jayman shared this job posting opportunity. I thought it was an incredible fit, considering my area of expertise in spaces of empowerment and belonging. You know, understanding how to build learning and education spaces and linking that towards the environment. I saw clean energy education as a natural fit to bring my worlds together and for myself to facilitate and lead a new initiative that’s unique nationally and even internationally, where this program is targeted for Indigenous youth in clean energy.
Did you always want to work in the impact space?
Yes. As a young boy, I was happy and curious; I have always been very open and had a loving heart and love of life. I consider all that my parents and ancestors have faced and the life that I’m gifted with; I want to make the most of every day and my experiences. And I see that by being able to share, learn, grow, connect, create. That’s driven by impact and meaningful and fulfilling experiences, and I couldn’t see it any other way where I could have experiences that aren’t driven by impact and the desire to make a difference.
What are you most excited about that has been happening in your industry/field for the past few years?
I would definitely be very biased in saying Generation Power and the program I’m leading now. But also looking at other organizations and learning a bit more about yours, but also look towards Student Energy, and as they become more involved in the space of the past year, all the incredible young people that I’ve met, and just people in general, who are so passionate about this challenge we’re faced with and having a such a fervent, strong sense of hope, in working together to overcome it. Working together and recognizing we all have unique strengths. So I see some sense of movement, and that there are more spaces of inclusion, and there’s an emphasis on this inertia, there’s momentum being carried with this work, and I’ve seen it a lot this past year. It’s something that I’m excited for, for all the folks who are a part of this work. And for programs like Generation Power to be making that significant splash into the awareness of having diverse perspectives into clean energy and thinking about the future we want to create for our communities.
Are there any misconceptions about your profession or industry?
I think some dialogue I have heard a little bit of is that there’s, for some folks seeing clean energy, there’s this dichotomy where you’re either clean energy and environment based or sustainability, or you’re not. I think most folks can get in the space of clean energy, and it’s something that involves all of us. Someone might think ‘clean energy, that has nothing to do with my life,’ but when we think of energy in general, looking at, you know, the energy that powers our lights, our homes, or perhaps our vehicles, or our phones, or whatever it may be, but looking at energy, electricity, and where does our energy come from? Whether it’s clean energy, renewables or being energy efficient, or looking towards the future of EVs, or mass technology, this is readily part of all of our lives, it is not only to the select few folks who are involved in clean energy, but it is a topic very relevant for all of us. I think as well when we’re considering energy and resource management; we must be thoughtful and considerate of the land and how we must essentially take care of the land as the land takes care of us; a bit of that reciprocal relationship where the earth provides so much. It’s a living being that deserves that respect. So yeah, I think it’s a misconception where it only involves a select few, but it really involves everyone.
Life and aspirations
What does a typical workday look like for you? What’s your work-life balance like?
I do prioritize sleep; I’ve learned from experience that rest just is so incredibly beneficial. So I’ll start with a great sleep, awake in the morning, if I may, meditation, lemon and ginger water. Go to my to-do list for the day, which is already mapped out with my calendar and the night before where I write it out. My work will involve meeting with youth, employers, partners, or mentors. It’s also looking at a lot of planning, such as our cultural land camp or meetings and webinars. There are a lot of emails, questions and curiosities around the program too.
What parts of your job do you find most challenging?
At the moment, I would say work-life balance and drawing boundaries. I think there’s so much work to be done, and it’s important to consider how we nurture ourselves; as we’re giving so much, we must also give to ourselves, nurturing our well-being and practicing self-care. Just knowing there’s so much work to be done and having a lot of passion, and needing a lot more capacity for a larger team to advance this work as much as possible. So with those challenges comes an opportunity for folks to be involved with this work or support it financially.
What’s next for you, what are your long-term goals (if you have any)?
So for the moment being, it’s finding that balance and taking the steps I can to sustain a better lifestyle. That’s number one. Beyond that, I would say, seeing Generation Power successfully laid out with its foundation where it can be self-sustaining for years to come and carrying that impact that it’s capable of. I’ll continue to do the work with my Nation and improve our governing practices and empower community members to improve well-being and health. I’ll continue sharing and speaking with youth and all people about different topics upon self-improvement, goal-setting, mental health, self-care and things like this. And then ultimately, I’d love to travel again. I had this dream for such a long time, those beautiful moments in life, where we think of a day of adventure, of exploration, of learning and growth, and of love and pain, and all these feelings have that life offers and you know, I’m here in my office, which is fine, and I do the work here, but I really miss those adventures and meeting new people in person. That would be my long-term goal thereafter and then beyond. I’ll assess again, but it could be likely spaces of environment, empowerment, community development, leadership. We shall see.
Advice for the next generations
What are 3 key skills required in your position?
One is really strong interpersonal skills in the sense of relating with diversity, connecting with people, looking at people’s diverse needs, and also a standpoint of how we are all interconnected and the strength that every individual brings to the space. So really strong interpersonal skills and creating spaces of inclusion. I think another one is having some really strong organizational skills like information management and looking at the most efficient practices and ways to get work done effectively. And the third one is a matter of being grounded, confident and effective at decision making. To be clear-minded and make difficult decisions.
Whether it’s from your own path or the ones from your colleagues and friends who have a similar profession, how important is it to have a specific degree to be able to work in your industry/profession?
I would say it really isn’t that important to have a specific degree. There are some experiences that come along with being involved as a student, networking, learning, and expanding our knowledge in whatever area this may be. But as to a specific degree or even needing a degree, I think what matters more than anything is resilience or steadfastness or the ability to be dedicated and motivated through challenging work. Having that kind of dedication and motivation, the ability to take initiative. So the degree, I’d say it’s quite open. And if anyone’s interested and keen on clean energy, I would encourage them to apply and put their name forward and see what’s out there.
What are some personal characteristics that you value in someone you’re interviewing/working with?
For me, what really stands out and what I really value, particularly in the workspace, is integrity, humility, passion. And I think those are the main three ones that I would share.
Knowing what you know now, would you have done something differently with respect to your career? If not, why and what is your best life or career advice for youth?
Well, to begin, I’m really happy with the journey I’ve taken and all the experiences I’ve had along the way to be where I am right now. I don’t think I would have done anything differently to a significant degree. Perhaps travel a little bit sooner. Nonetheless, I’m in a space right now where I see a significant opportunity to contribute to this work. The advice I would give for young people is that what’s important is to be curious, to be humbled, to step outside their comfort zone, to explore new things, to find out what it is that can get them out of bed in the morning or excites them or what lights that fire and does it for themselves, and how do we share that with other people around us. I think trying new things, whether it’s education, work experiences, or exploring outside the comfort zone, and understanding we’re all interconnected. Additionally, the importance of building community and respecting one another is huge. And I see the world shifting in this way, and it makes me excited.