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Jill Rathke, Associate, Business Development at Sol Systems

Jill Rathke

"The continued networking has been great because it seems like every week someone says, 'oh, what is the cost of capital for Green Banks these days?' or 'does anyone have any supplier contacts for small batteries?' There is a willingness to share information."

How has the program built your knowledge and/or skills of clean energy?

My job involves some financial modeling. I worked at SolSystems, which is a solar energy storage developer. I was in the sales team when taking the program, but I didn't really do financial models. The program gave me the confidence to begin to test specific assumptions and try to build out new functionality within our internal financial modeling because I not only have the Excel skills to do so officially but I also now understand how all the different contracts need to work and who the different counterparties were. This program definitely gave me a lot more leads to advance in my career.

What has been unexpected during this program?

I didn't realize how little I knew about the industry as a whole and how many different specific sectors there are. My favorite thing was having guest speakers come in who ran their own businesses or nonprofits within the industry and talked about specific case studies. It was very motivating to hear about a microgrid community in the Netherlands and just see how it worked. I understood how learning through multiple case studies is better than just learning an entire industry through a single case study; it opened my mind to the world of research. 

In what ways did the diversity of the cohort benefit your career development?

I was younger and newer to the industry compared to most participants, so I was excited to learn from my peers, especially within a group project setting in the last section of the course. The first orientation week of the course was a great networking opportunity because it made us feel more comfortable reaching out to each other. The continued networking has also been great because it seems like every week someone says, “oh, what is the cost of capital for Green Banks these days?” or “does anyone have any supplier contacts for small batteries?” There is a willingness to share information, even with people that we honestly don't know that well, but we have the bond of this program since these are people who want to take initiative to sign up for the program and put in the work. It’s a self-selecting group of people that are excited about continuing to learn and help the people around them and I feel lucky I got to be a part of it.

In what ways do you connect with your classmates through weekly discussions or other tools and what are the benefits of the social aspect of the program?

I live in Washington, DC, which is a hub for policy and energy in general. There was a big group of us who lived in Washington, DC, and we met up a couple of times for happy hour, which was nice to socialize and share life updates with each other, and it was also great way to stay connected. There are also all these other virtual ways of staying connected during the course; we had a WhatsApp group chat and a LinkedIn group, and those were active and continue to be active.

What are the advantages of this program being online?

Being online allows so many more people to be a part of the cohort. There were all these international participants since part of the goal of the cohort is diversity, in geographic diversity and industry experience. The virtual format is beneficial for people with 20 years of industry experience and who have kids to take care of on the weekends and can't be traveling as much. Being online opened the doors for almost anybody to participate as long as they had five to 10 hours of time to dedicate. I think one of the biggest benefits of being online was just accessibility; I find I learn best by being able to rewatch things that I don't understand, so it was helpful that the content was recorded and we could rewatch it later. I remember feeling frustrated in college if I missed something, or wasn’t quite sure and then never could figure it out. I feel like the program was ahead of its time; now everything is online! 

How has this program helped you with your current career success?

I had been at my job for about a year and a half when I started the program, and I felt in control at my job, but I was still learning my job itself. The program accelerated the learning I was doing and helped me skip ahead five years in terms of how long it would have taken me to learn each of those individual things just on the job.

Why did you choose this program?

It was honestly like the dream program that you could apply for; I knew a bit about policy, finance, and technology, but wanted to learn a lot about all of those topics. I had been considering master's programs, but also I wanted to be able to continue my job at the same time to continue to learn. I think the wealth of different learning opportunities and the fact that spread out over an entire year, rather than being with a couple of boot-camp weekends, made me interested in this specific program. Also, I was lucky enough to have my employer cover a portion of the cost under a professional development program, so thanks to that help, it made me feel comfortable applying knowing that I could financially afford it.

Who would you recommend this program to?

Honestly, I recommend this program to anybody in the clean energy industry. The fun thing about being in the industry is that it's a business industry that is policy-based. Even if you understand basic business principles, policy changes every year, and the market shifts even if you've been in the clean energy industry for 15 or 20 years. I think there's still so much to learn why certain policies are being prioritized over others, if you've already been experiencing each of the policies. I would recommend it to anybody with any experience level. I do think that, while it's not crazy time consuming, it is worth waiting until you have time to invest in the program. I think only people with at least five to 10 hours a week should apply; if they are too busy, then they might not get as much out of the program.

Who would you recommend the program to?

Well, I have already recommended it to about 20 people! I feel like I'm on the phone once every two or three weeks talking to somebody about how they should apply to FDCE. In terms of broad categories, I’d recommend the program to anyone for whom this quote resonates: When we first started the program, Stu Decew [the Executive Director at Yale Center for Business and the Environment] was talking about why Yale had launched the program. He said, “everybody always talks about waiting for the next generation of clean energy leaders. I'm tired of waiting for the next generation. We need the current generation to be better and faster and more capable.” This program is very much for people who either know they want to work in clean energy or are interested in transitioning to it. Even more so, it's for people who are already in the industry and want to broaden their background and empower themselves to be better change-makers, whether that means getting smarter on a particular new area or making new connections or just being back in an academic environment where they're free to explore new ideas with cool, innovative, diverse people. If that’s you, you fit the bill. The program is for anyone who wants to dial up their clean energy innovation skills to 11. 

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

When I told my coworkers about the program, they said it was the best program they've ever heard of. Even though I was in the inaugural class, I was impressed at how smoothly the program went from the technology, from using Zoom and the different portals to the engagement level from the professors, you honestly would never have been able to know that this was the first year; so big kudos to the entire CBEY team who ran it. I'm sure it's even better this year but I think it was really well thought out and there was never a class where I felt like it was a waste of time. Every single thing I learned was interesting and intellectually stimulating. I think we need more programs like this one. 

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