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Joe Indvik, Head of Clean Energy Finance, RE Tech Advisors

Joseph Invik

"The thing I wanted most out of an MBA program was a group of innovative-minded people who would be collaborative and challenge me and offer opportunities to cross-pollinate, and I got that in spades in the FDCE program."

What was unexpected during the program?

As someone 10 years into my career with a fairly diverse resume in the clean energy industry, I didn’t expect to learn so much brand new information in such a short period of time. I thought the FDCE program would be more review and refinement than new concepts. Boy, was I wrong.

The policy course introduced me to policy mechanisms that are already at work at the state and local level but which I had had only minimal exposure to professionally. I learned the engineering background behind technologies that I’ve been working with for years but never truly understood. I learned the ins and outs of project finance, including both traditional and innovative models—making concepts I had run into before “click” for the first time. Every single one of the modules introduced new, transformative information that I then was able to turn around and apply to my day-to-day work. I can't tell you how many weeks during the program that I was immediately able to apply the material (I think it was nearly all of them).

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

As we got started on the program, it was clear that I wasn’t going to be applying these concepts far down the line in the future in my career, but...tomorrow. Here’s an example: despite having worked in clean energy finance for most of my career, I never actually got formal training on balance sheets and income statements and the whole financial accounting apparatus. And so as part of our project finance course, we were trying to understand how renewable energy projects work from an accounting perspective and how the cash flows are recorded. Then, separately in my job maybe two days later, we were working with the Department of Energy on this climate change initiative looking at the impacts of climate change on the financial performance of the built environment. It kind of hit me that, well, we're struggling to explain climate change to CFOs because it's probabilistic and nebulous and future-based, whereas CFOs operate largely on historical precedent. It's very difficult to characterize climate risk in a way that resonates with CFOs, so why don't we take the language they do speak, which is balance sheets and income statements, and map climate change risk to that. So we came up with this idea to basically create a mock balance sheet, except instead of line items that you usually have on a balance sheet, it had arrows showing all the different ways that climate risk will impact those line items. Suddenly we were presenting this material at conferences, and it never would have occurred to me if I hadn't just been learning about the intersection of clean energy and balance sheets in the program.

Why did you choose this program?

My journey was a little bit weird in that I thought I wanted to do an MBA at first, and my plan originally was to do an MBA at Yale, actually. I got into the Yale MBA/Masters of Environmental Management joint degree program and actually moved to New Haven to start it. I was already on the fence about whether it was the right time of my career to be doing that; I felt like it wasn't exactly what I wanted to be doing now, but it was something I had always wanted to do in theory. Within two weeks of being on campus, it became clear that an MBA just wasn’t for me. The Yale community is incredible, and I’ve found every opportunity throughout my life to engage with it, which I love, but the MBA itself wasn’t what I needed at that time. (Other factors were the huge financial investment, and the fact that being away from my significant other for 2-3 years didn’t sound like much fun.) So I had this crazy moment where I called my old boss, moved back to DC, and within a week had resumed work in a new role launching a clean energy finance practice at RE Tech. 

But I was still looking for continuing education for two reasons. One is for the community. The thing I wanted most out of an MBA program was a group of innovative-minded people who would be collaborative and challenge me and offer opportunities to cross-pollinate, and I got that in spades in the FDCE program. The second reason was because there were several areas and disciplines in which I’d never received any sort of formal training, like project finance. I was really attracted to the Renewable Energy Project Finance module. My intention was to get deeper formal training in those areas where I didn’t have a lot of expertise, but I wound up learning tons of brand new and actionable stuff too. 

In the end, I found exactly the educational experience I was looking for.

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

Community was put front and center during the orientation week when we started the program. The week was not only about clean energy content, but also team-building and examining leadership and innovation. Some of the most interesting aspects of FDCE happened during that week. We talked about how to design organizations to drive innovation and did visioning exercises around that. It would have been really easy for a program like this to just stay focused on content and let community take the backseat, but it deliberately didn’t do that. I came away from the program having talked to pretty much everybody, and I’m still frequently in touch with 5 or 10 classmates since the program ended. For me, this was the right group to facilitate community because they were all such engaged people, and you can tell how much effort Yale put in to make sure that we all got access to a diverse and active community.

In what ways is the cohort diverse and how did that actually benefit your learning or career development?

It seemed to me that it was diverse in almost every way, especially in terms of age. We don't often think about age diversity in building programs or teams, but having people who are just starting their careers all the way to somebody who reports to the CEO of a major bank in the same room talking about the same issues as equals was really cool. If you're a 25-year-old interacting with a 55-year-old, usually you're interacting either as their direct report or there’s some other authority figure dynamic going on. There was none of that in this program. We were all just classmates, and that created a lot of interesting opportunities for the more experienced people to learn from the younger people as much as the reverse. Having so many international participants was great too; none of the other clean energy programs I’ve done have had such an international focus. The diversity of backgrounds and careers was also amazing with people coming from very specific technical backgrounds all the way to more generalist management consultant types. 

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

The main way we connected was through the weekly lectures, and also through the group projects, which were really fun. I particularly liked the peer editing we did of each other’s documents because we’d hop on calls, walk through edits, and learn about each other in the process. There were also a couple of folks who came to a Clean Energy Leadership Institute conference that I helped put on in San Francisco and I met up with a couple of classmates in DC too.

What are the other advantages of the program being online?

I never could have done the program if it wasn’t a) online and b) very flexible in terms of schedules. I personally did all of my work on weekends because I just don’t have a lot of flexibility during the workday. Having one hour of lecture during the week and the rest of the work “on your own time” was perfect for me. I also liked that everyone was online; sometimes when there are programs where some people are in person, you feel like kind of a second-class citizen as an online participant. Here, everyone was on the same playing field, and the program was built from the beginning to be optimized for online. I think it also enabled a much more diverse set of voices to be part of the conversation since people around the world could participate and there were more ways to contribute than just raising your hand in class.

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

There is one area I'm doing a lot more work right now: carbon neutrality and greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the corporate space. For example, I'm working with MetLife now to implement a carbon neutrality program across many of their real estate assets. My job is quickly becoming very focused on carbon neutrality, where the finance component is now just a part of a much broader portfolio. The challenge with carbon neutrality is you need to understand policy, economics, engineering, finance, and management to be effective because you have to look across an organization’s entire operation to find emissions reductions. The FDCE program helped me understand all of those connections in addition to getting a deep dive in project finance and accounting. Those skillsets and connections now serve as the basis for much of my day job. It’s actually been incredibly timely. 

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 you’d like to add?

If you're thinking about going back to school for a full-time degree, consider carefully what exactly it is you want to get out of that, and ask yourself if a full-time program is even necessary to get what you want. In my case, the thing that I realized upon pursuing an MBA was that it wasn't actually the full-time, immersive experience that I wanted; it was the deeper training in specific areas of clean energy, and more than anything else, it was the community of fresh faces and an influx of new ideas. Point being, if you’re thinking of going back to school, the FDCE program may be a way to continue working on what you're doing, while also becoming a better innovator and a better clean energy professional.

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