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How Our Next Energy Fosters an Innovation Company and Culture Built on Family

December 9, 2022

During the 2022 MichAuto Summit, MichAuto Executive Director Glenn Stevens Jr. sat down for a one-on-one conversation with Deeana Ahmed, Vice President of Strategy, Policy, and Sustainability at Our Next Energy (ONE). 

Stevens and Ahmed discussed what it’s been like building an innovative company and culture at ONE. The company was founded in Silicon Valley in July 2020 and built on three principles: 

  1. To double the range of electric vehicles. 
  2. To use safer and more sustainable raw materials. 
  3. To establish a localized supply chain. 

According to Ahmed, the first principle empowers electrification and helps move the mass market to an electrified future; the second principle helps mitigate the risks of thermal runaway — ensuring consumer safety – which is important because, “when we put consumer safety at risk, then we hinder, prospectively, the movement and adoption of EVs.” The third principle focuses on developing a North American supply chain to avoid disruptions like those the industry has experienced over the past few years. 

Why ONE Chose Michigan 

Although ONE was founded in Michigan, the company briefly moved to Silicon Valley before returning to the state. However, the company’s return was not a given – ONE put out an RFP to 12 states and one Canadian province first. 

According to Ahmed, Michigan stood out during the RFP process for a variety of reasons, ranging from being competitive with energy costs through DTE to committing to projects like ONE by offering grant money and the opportunity to grow in renewable energy.  

“Michigan did extremely well in thinking about competitive landscape,” Ahmed said. “There were a lot of wonderful things that [it] did to really show us we could really grow here in partnership.”  

ONE’s Company Culture of Family 

During the conversation, Stevens also spoke about ONE’s grand opening of its Novi headquarters, where he recalled all 200 ONE staff members gathering to take a photo. He noted that the moment reminded him of a family photo, which Ahmed agreed with, both literally and figuratively given ONE was founded by Ahmed’s father, Mujeeb Ijaz. 

“The company was built on family, in the literal sense and the not so literal sense, but it feels like it truly is a family,” said Ahmed. 

ONE maintains this family-like culture by showing staff they are valued. It does this through providing benefits, such as PTO, family leave, and premium-free health care. 

“By offering things like that and having that mindset, we’ll be able to hopefully maintain that [family] culture,” said Ahmed.  

Attracting Young Professionals to Michigan 

Ahmed believes Michigan is doing well at attracting young talent. 

“I think it’s about having that ecosystem of partnership between people who are innovative right now. That is really important, and I think Michigan is building that,” said Ahmed. “I grew up in Michigan. I left for about 10 years and then coming back and seeing all of the momentum that’s taken place… to create an ecosystem that will actually allow for that level of partnership and collaboration. I think that young people want that.”  

Outside of the workplace, Ahmed also believes Michigan generally has a great community that offers many things young professionals seek.  

“We have wonderful outdoor opportunities during the summer that I think people value. We have great places for people to raise families. I think that what Michigan offers is really unique,” said Ahmed. “We have an opportunity to retain the young people who are getting educated here right now so they don’t have to go away and come back and realize that this might be the best place to be raising a family, to be growing their careers, to be having an impact in the work that they are doing.” 

Thank you to Walker-Miller Energy Services LLC for sponsoring this session.