"There's nothing like seeing people who have entirely different backgrounds and experiences from you to help you expand your knowledge of the world. And I do have to say I was extremely impressed, in general, not just by the geographic diversity, but with the diversity of the cohort in general in terms of ages, color, gender."
- How do you think the program has built your knowledge and skills of clean energy?
I knew very little about the regulatory landscape before this program, and I'd never taken a finance course before, so the program expanded my knowledge significantly. I would say going into the program, there were basic concepts that I understood, like for example, a kilowatt hour. I sort of understood what that meant, but the program helped me dig deeper into not just the meaning of the word, but how it's used in different contexts and technologies specifically. I went from a baseline of a general knowledge of everything to having learned quite a bit through the program in really a very brief period of time. My master's is in Information Technology but in the first 10 weeks of the FDCE program, I would say that I learned more than I learned in my entire two-and-a-half-year master's degree program.
- In which ways do you think the program enabled you to expand your network?
I had a very strong network locally in Colorado, but this program exposed me to a group of professionals across the country and around the world as well. I've been keeping in touch with one of my fellow participants from India and keeping the network connections tight. I think, in the short term, it really just exposed me to a group of people who are doing extraordinary things in clean energy, whether it be policy or on the technology side, building their own small businesses. And I think in the long term that is going to continue to bear fruit. I now have this network of 75 other folks who are passionate about clean energy. There’s knowledge-sharing that continues to happen past the end of the program, and the networking opportunities are limitless moving forward.
- In what ways does the diversity of the cohort benefit your journey in your career development?
Having fellow participants from other countries who have vastly different energy policies and technology and growth opportunities, specifically mini-grids technology in developing countries, it's just extraordinary to be able to expand our horizons to understand what's possible in other places that we may not have even considered. In my master's degree I focused on providing electricity; there's about a billion people in the world who still don't have access to electricity, and that's a personal passion of mine, and I think there's an extraordinary opportunity right now in those areas and locations to leapfrog technology and to use, say, mini-grid expansion, mini-grid development where building out the electricity grid is financially not feasible. So being able to meet people in areas that are doing this work was key to the future opportunities that I'm looking for.
There's nothing like seeing people who have entirely different backgrounds and experiences from you to help you expand your knowledge of the world. And I do have to say I was extremely impressed, in general, not just by the geographic diversity, but with the diversity of the cohort in general in terms of ages, color, gender. I know and I'm aware that in clean energy, especially in the business environment, women and minorities are extraordinarily underrepresented, so it was really wonderful to see a super diverse cohort that represents people from all sorts of different backgrounds, including their professional backgrounds, their expertise.
- What are the advantages of this program being online?
Even if the program were only 10 months that was in person on the Yale campus, there's no way that I could have done it because I had to continue to work. The online venue emphasizes the way Yale wanted this program to be for working professionals. It also makes it possible for the program to collect a group of people from across the country and across the world who otherwise wouldn’t have had access to this kind of education. And then, thanks to the pandemic, clearly the online format was the right choice for reasons that I don't think anybody ever anticipated.
- How did the program help you with your current career success?
There’s a level of respect that comes with having earned a certificate at Yale that expands opportunity, and I saw that immediately upon starting the program. It’s not just an empty certificate, though; it's earned. I'm very proud of the work that I put into the program and the knowledge that I've gained, and it's also wonderful to see external validation and to see that the amount of work and effort, and thought that has gone into this program is respected.
Pretty much immediately after I started the FDCE program, I got a new client that has become a huge part of my portfolio of work; it’s an agency that works on communications, marketing, and branding for mission-driven organizations in the cleantech and clean energy ecosystem. Now, my portfolio of client projects is diverse; I do have some on the nonprofit side, but just as I intended, I’ve expanded into the business world, which is exactly where I wanted to be. The quality of the work that I have been tasked with achieving is much higher, which happened basically immediately once I started the Yale program.
Some of the companies that I'm working with and some of the concepts that we're talking about are market-busting technologies and innovations. I went from thinking in a nuts and bolts way--like “okay, we're going to do this event on this day, we're going to send out a newsletter” to doing system-wide strategy and structural organization and project management. It's really been a career expansion for me. I'm doing a lot of the same kind of work in terms of communications, marketing, and branding, but on a higher level.
- Why did you apply to this program?
Before I started the certificate program, I was working for an industry association that was for cleantech. I was really looking to expand my knowledge base, specifically my technical knowledge of clean energy technology, as well as learn about policy and finance. My hope was to move away from the nonprofit advocacy world, which I'd been in for my entire career up to that point, and go closer to industry and closer to the work that has actually been being done.
Right before I applied for the Yale program, I got an Engineering Master’s from the University of Colorado, and I really was trying to move my professional career towards building and doing. I wanted to move a bit out of marketing and communications, and so I liked the experience of educating myself on some of the technical and finance modules in the FDCE program. What the program really made me realize and the value that I got out of it was that I can walk the talk: I can go into a meeting with clients who are talking about technology and I understand the details of what their technology does and why, and that is a huge value. I think I was relatively unique in the cohort, working as a marketing and communications professional. Being able to understand how these systems work in the background is just a huge value added to my ability to onboard for new projects, speak with clients, and then to be able to translate what they do, what their work is, which may be highly technical to a wider audience. And then I can bring the mission, the message, whatever that might be for the organization in question to a broader audience.
- Who would you recommend the program to and why?
There are so many people who could benefit from this program, and I have recommended it to quite a few people because of the way it is structured in such a holistic way, which makes it beneficial even to people with a lot of expertise in one area of clean energy. Somebody who has a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and is working in the engineering department of a large firm, for example, would learn a lot from the policy and the finance sections of the program. I think it's for anybody who wants to expand their opportunity in clean energy and learn more about what we all need to be doing right now in the world, which is moving our entire system from one kind of energy production, which is polluting and affecting climate change, to an entirely new system. We need so many people who are focusing on all the different sectors and aspects of this transition, and I could even go further and say: anybody who wants to really have a positive impact on the world and through their professional careers.