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Portrait

Ivana Jemelkova, Managing Director at FTI Consulting

Ivana Jemelkova

"We are a few months in, and the course has already helped me become a better consultant to my clients and a better colleague to my team. I’m thinking differently about many aspects of the energy transition—more deeply, and systematically."

What has been unexpected about the program?

I certainly didn't expect to be going through the program in the middle of a global pandemic! No one expected that, but everyone's really gone out of their way to make this an exceptional experience despite the difficult circumstances. The team, the cohort, everyone's just been so understanding and collegial. I believe we were all disappointed that we couldn't get together for the initial kickoff in person, but the digital induction turned out to be an incredibly engaging and energizing experience nevertheless, and it set such a great tone for the program. We are now about two modules into the course, and it’s had a wonderful family feel to it; it’s like a circle of friends who are all passionate about the clean energy transition and learning together.

From a content point of view, my background is in international relations, policy and communications, and I admit that the return to math and physics has been humbling, to say the least! It's been some time since I last worked my way through equations. I knew that was coming when I signed up, though I probably didn’t fully appreciate how much depth and rigor to expect, but in many ways, this is exactly why I applied—to challenge myself to learn something new and broaden my horizons. Luckily, we have a lot of help available and I’m glad to report that after a few weeks, the various equations and quantitative quizzes seem much less intimidating, and that’s really empowering. I can really feel that progress.

How has the program so far built your knowledge or skills of clean energy? Have you found you've been able to apply those in your career yet?

I've been in the energy space for about 10 years now, and I have developed deep expertise in certain areas of the energy transition – especially renewables, electric vehicles, and hydrogen.  So I’m here to fill in the gaps and complete my understanding of the whole landscape. I’m learning about technologies I was previously less familiar with, seeing how the various pieces connect and exploring new perspectives. We are a few months in, and the course has already helped me become a better consultant to my clients and a better colleague to my team. I’m thinking differently about many aspects of the energy transition - more deeply, and systematically. The program has helped me connect the dots and consider the various policy, technical and financing aspects of different solutions in a much more nuanced manner.

In what ways do you believe the program has enabled you to expand your network?

This is one of my favorite parts of the experience so far because the course has really opened a whole new universe for me, and it's not only the cohort; it's also the team behind the course, the teaching staff, and the larger Yale community—an impressive network of brilliant, capable and incredibly welcoming people. Through Yale, I’ve discovered great new resources, attended many events, and learned a lot by connecting with the network. It’s the people that make the program really special.

In what ways is the cohort diverse and how has that benefited your learning or career development?

I'm used to working in a very diverse international environment. I was born in the Czech Republic, started my career in Brussels, moved to DC, worked with clients in the U.S., Europe and Asia and my husband is German. Point being, I'm very accustomed to working and living in an international environment and having a diversity of perspectives and ideas. But what I really appreciate here is how intentional the program is about drawing on everyone’s varied experiences. One of my favorite parts of the course is reading the weekly discussion boards, where I’ve had so many “aha” moments. Participants are really encouraged to actively share their unique viewpoints. It’s not just a byproduct of having a diverse cohort.

How else are you able to connect with your classmates? What does that actually look like on a week-to-week basis?

One of the first things we did with our cohort was to pull together a list of resources including everyone’s favorite clean energy newsletters, books, podcasts, events, even movies and music playlists! That’s led to some fun conversations and unleashed a snowball of people sharing resources. It’s a real testimony to how friendly and collegial this environment is. I also like to set up one-on-one meetings with other participants to get to know them better and use our WhatsApp groups to chat outside of weekly classes. Having people working together and being so willing to share and inspire each other is so important, especially because, at least in my experience, there can be some tribalism or finger-pointing in the energy space which just isn’t very productive. What I really appreciate about this cohort is that the conversation is nuanced and fact-based, and people understand that we're in this clean energy transition together. There are no silver bullets, and we have shared goals, so we need to work together to make that transition a success, and in the cohort, there’s just this powerful acknowledgment that we’re all on the same team.

What you think the other advantages are to the program being online?

In one word, it’s flexibility. I'm a working mom; my daughter is two years old, and I have a very exciting but also demanding professional life, and my husband works full-time, too. This program gives me access to world-class resources, content, and network when and where I need it. The tools are very efficient; I can run the program from an app on my smartphone and it’s just so easy and convenient. It obviously requires a lot of discipline to work through the material, and there’s no one watching over my shoulder to make sure I get it done, with the exception of the Monday deadlines, but we have a lot of help and support from the community.

As a working mom with a busy schedule, I treasure my FDCE time as my “me time.” I look forward to making a nice cup of tea and just sitting down with my materials and digesting the next lecture, the intricacies of the wind turbines, or whatever the equation for the week is. It’s an investment in myself and in my future and that’s very important to me. I can honestly tell you I was concerned when I applied. I thought, it's a really good time professionally, but it's a terrible time personally; how will I manage an additional commitment with a full-time job and a very lively toddler? Thanks to my wonderful husband and colleagues at FTI and the whole community, I've been able to make it work. Having the flexibility by nature of the way the course is structured, and the support from the Yale community has made it possible.

How did you decide you wanted to do a program like this and then came upon this one?

I moved to the U.S. about three years ago, and I needed to build my local network in the energy transition space. I participated in several fellowships, among them the Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI)—a fantastic group, which really helped me build a foundation here in the U.S. Someone in CELI mentioned this program to me, and I went to the website and was immediately intrigued, but I’d missed the deadline for the first year by a couple of weeks! And I said, “no way,” and bookmarked the date for the next cohort immediately in my calendar for the following year. I had a small baby at the time, and I was a bit concerned about the timing and the workload, but it turned out just right. I applied, was accepted, and never looked back. I’m glad to say the program has already more than delivered on its promise to help me complete the big picture of the energy space, and to energize and motivate me for what’s ahead.

Who would you recommend this program to?

That would have to be a very, very long list because I would recommend it to anyone who's looking to make an impact in the clean energy transition! Anyone who loves to learn and is looking for the knowledge, the tools, the networks to advance their career in clean energy. During our induction week, we all took a personality test that identifies our unique strengths, and I think for 70% of the class, one of their strongest traits was the love of learning. No surprises there. We're all just hungry for knowledge. If you love learning, this program is for you.

 

Want to learn more about the program?

Want to learn more about the program?

Intrigued?  Want to learn more?  Find detailed information about the Financing and Deploying Clean Energy certificate program here or reach out to us at cbey.certificate@yale.edu.