Holly Schwarzwalder of Our Next Energy

ONE in a Million

Holly Schwarzwalder moved to Michigan to pursue a career in the state’s thriving automotive industry. Now she’s a program manager with Our Next Energy, a Michigan-born energy storage company looking to electrify the future.


Holly Schwarzwalder isn’t a Michigan native, but her aspiration to become an electrical engineer brought her to the state with plentiful opportunities. Hailing from the Washington D.C. area and an alumna of Virginia Tech, Holly pursued a career with General Motors after graduation.

Now as a program manager with Our Next Energy (ONE), Holly is continuing to honor the automotive industry’s place in Michigan’s history while working on the green technology of the future.


How did you come to live and work in Michigan?

I studied electrical engineering at Virginia Tech and graduated in 2016. As an undergrad, I was on a senior design team called BOLT that designed, built and raced electric motorcycles. I was on the design team for high voltage systems for two years, and my senior year I led the team. Many large industry companies are interested in partnering and recruiting from these senior design teams because of the hands-on experience students have. GM was one of the primary sponsors of the team and after several rounds of interviews, they offered me a job. I started at GM in their two-year rotational program called TRACK, where I worked several different positions within the electrification propulsion system space. My first rotation was in the battery lab in Warren, Michigan.




For the final interview for GM, they flew recruits up to Michigan and we took tours of different locations – the Milford Proving Grounds, Woodward Ave., downtown Detroit. At the time, Mary Barra had recently announced GM’s new mission statement – Zero Crashes, Zero Emissions, Zero Congestion. I was really inspired by Mary, the first female automotive CEO and coincidentally also an electrical engineer by trade. The Chevy Bolt EV was on the horizon of launching as GM’s first major electric vehicle since the EV1, which I had actually driven at one of my previous internships. It felt like everything was lining up which made it a very easy “yes” for me to accept the offer and move to Michigan.


How did you come to work for ONE, and can you talk about your role as a program manager?

I worked at GM in many electric and autonomous vehicle roles for seven years before joining ONE in 2023. I had completed my MBA in finance from Purdue Global University and was looking for a new opportunity to utilize my skills in a more challenging environment. I came to work for ONE as the program manager of our Aries Grid energy storage system. My job is to manage the product development lifecycle of the program – I am successful at my job when the rest of the team is successful. I get to work cross-functionally with the whole company – program management is one of the few roles where that is possible. Every day is different; some days I work with marketing to create product mockups, and some days I work with engineers to troubleshoot issues. Having an engineering background means I can participate in technical conversations and understand how to solve problems, and having a business background means I can envision the bigger picture and make better decisions wholistically.




What does it mean to you to be working in an industry that has been a legacy for the state while also being part of the electrification of the industry?

I started working in the automotive industry at a really exciting time as the world started to transition to the idea of electric vehicles. I feel like I am making a tangible difference by working at a company like ONE that not only is pursuing making batteries in America, but specifically making them here in Michigan. It’s important for me to be able to honor the impact that the automotive industry has made on Michigan while also working on green technology.


How has living and working in Oakland County helped you achieve your career and personal goals?

Being in Oakland County has allowed me to be central to all the exciting work that is going on in Michigan in the automotive and mobility industry – there is so much opportunity here. I love being able to live in an area where 15 minutes in either direction I can be downtown or at the park.




Have you experienced any barriers along your career path, and how did you overcome them?

I am very passionate and driven and felt like I eventually hit a wall working in a large corporate environment. I wanted to be challenged more, feel more valuable and have my contributions make more of an impact. ONE has been a great fit for me. As a small startup, we move quickly and every person gets to make a larger impact than if we were a big company.


Why is Michigan where you want to live, work and build a life?

I’ve been very lucky to find a great partner here in Michigan, who also moved up here after going to school at Virginia Tech. We value the progressiveness of the state and the opportunities to work on interesting industry problems.




What have you learned about Michigan that you didn’t know before living here?

I didn’t know Michigan was such a foodie state until I moved here, so that has been amazing. Food and cooking are some of my favorite hobbies, and we are always trying out great places. We try to support local as much as possible, so we love going to Frame, which is just down the street from our house in Hazel Park.



Anything else you’d like people to know about you?

I am very grateful for the unique opportunities I’ve had while working in the electrification mobility industry in Michigan! I worked on a variety of different electrified propulsion systems at GM, and at ONE I now get to work on electrifying the grid utility sector.