Laura Ipsen.Laura Ipsen
Senior VP and General Manager, Cisco

Laura Ipsen, general manager of smart grid technology at Cisco Systems, will tell you that she’s no whiz at the nitty-gritty side of electrical engineering. Her challenge is at the 10,000-foot level, coordinating a massive project with many minute parts: “It’s about putting intelligent devices — billions and trillions of sensors everywhere — at every point in the grid, from generation and distribution all the way into buildings.” What excites Ipsen, 47, most about her work isn’t its breathtaking scope, but the possibility of ramping up energy efficiency in the U.S. “If we build this right, it will enable us to store and transmit energy without waste. My motto is: No electron left behind.” Ipsen says her decision to pursue cleantech reflects her devotion to her kids as much as her passion for technology: “I’m a huge techno-optimist. I believe our technology will do a lot more to give back to the environment than anything it will do to take away.”