"I knew specifics about the type of transactions that are available in the market today that fit the parameters of how I was investing, but I really wanted to have that broad perspective with a holistic approach: how the policymakers, engineers, technology drivers, and financiers all fit together."
- How has the program built your knowledge and/or skills of clean energy?
I’m coming at this from the perspective of an institutional investor; I have an MBA and I have been focused on clean energy. It's been both a passion and interest of mine over the years, but I “didn't know what I didn't know.” I knew specifics about the type of transactions that are available in the market today that fit the parameters of how I was investing, but I really wanted to have that broad perspective with a holistic approach: how the policymakers, engineers, technology drivers, and financiers all fit together.
That’s what I liked about how the program was set up, and I have a new framework so I can look at opportunities across all of these disciplines. I can explore the areas that have material uncertainty and also understand other deal participants’ perspectives in terms of negotiating, putting a deal together.
- What was unexpected during the program?
The level of detail and granularity we went into was very helpful. It’s been a while since I was in school, but I didn’t realize how much of a case-based approach we’d use. Our professors would present us with a situation like, “you’re the director of X program and you need to make X decision,” so we’d need to truly dig in, provide some detail, and work through the numbers like you would in a real-world example.
The other thing that was unexpected was being able to have real-time conversations with real-world practitioners both from the public and private sectors. Being able to understand how things were actually getting done and how those decisions actually get made was huge, and we were able to dive deep in our conversations with them and ask the questions directly.
- In what ways do you think that the program enabled you to expand your network?
The program was made up of such a diverse group of people--some were coming from policy, others from technology or finance, not to mention people were in different parts of the world. By going through the course together, having all of those detailed conversations together on a weekly basis, we really built a community of students and of learners. I know that if anyone associated with the program reached out to me, I would either help them as best I could, or connect them with someone who can help them, and I know that would be reciprocated.
Since I got my MBA decades ago, I especially appreciated the fact that there were people at different stages of their careers, unlike a graduate program where you tend to have people all at approximately the same point in their careers and launching at the same time. Having people in those different stages meant that people brought different perspectives and brought their lived experiences in a way that brought many discussions to life.
- 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?
The program launched with a week on campus and everyone was very excited about making those connections with each other as much as possible. As we jumped into the weekly work within the program, we had the benefit of having discussion prompts based on our readings and were able to see what other participants had to say about each topic. Honestly, that speaks to a huge benefit about online learning; in a live classroom experience you're sort of limited by the bell ringing and people walking out without hearing everyone's perspective and, frankly, you can be limited by dominant personalities taking over a classroom discussion. In an online environment, you get to hear from everyone.
Over time with multiple topics, it adds a lot of value to be able to gain all of those perspectives and builds a deep sense of community. Then, outside of the online classroom on social media and when there were opportunities to meet in person, I found that people were so open-minded and eager to discuss these topics further.
- What were the other advantages of the program being based online?
It’s hard to overstate the value of being able to be in the program while working and just living your life; if you had asked us all to be in person for the duration of the program, it obviously couldn’t have drawn the people it did. As working professionals, we just couldn’t have done that. I think the same is true regarding speakers who were brought into class; I’m sure we were able to hear from people we otherwise wouldn’t have had this been an in-person-only program. Don’t get me wrong, the program is still a lot of work; I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but it’s a program that attracts enthusiastic and driven people, so it’s still very possible to continue with your work but gain a lot even from the limited weekly hours you put into the program.
- Why did you choose this program?
It offered such a unique nexus of policy, technology and innovation, and finance, and I’m just not aware of other programs like it. On top of that, of course, is just the level of excellence of the institution. I knew the faculty who I’d have access to and the participants who would also be attracted to the program would be top-notch; I wanted to be able to connect to that network. I also knew that since my background is mostly in the private sector that it would be critical to understand public sector policy and regulations. That’s just key for clean energy investment.
- Who would you recommend this program to?
I guess I’d say someone like me! The group I thought was the least represented from a discipline standpoint in my cohort were institutional investors, and I think it’s quite valuable as investors to hear the perspectives of different people in the clean energy space in order to make smart decisions as you venture into different deals. I also think it would be a great program for someone who is trying to pivot or relaunch their career. Anyone who has an interest in clean energy and wants to direct their career there could benefit. This industry is moving very quickly, and we’re pretty clearly on the precipice of success along a number of paths. Having a better understanding of the landscape has been and will be very beneficial to me as the policy and politics and technology of clean energy are exploding across the globe. Going through a program like this one now can help you further your career at an accelerated pace as all of this takes off in the next decade or sooner.
- Anything else?
I was definitely proud of the work I did in writing policy memos, but I had never done any type of engineering. So the fact that I could actually calculate some and come up with some of the engineering solutions to clean energy problems was huge to me. It might not be impressive to other people who come from that space, but it was new to me, and meaningful since I enrolled in the program in part for that interdisciplinary perspective. The people who self-select into a program like this have a curiosity and an ability to look at things from multiple perspectives, and it’s clear that they’re also the type of people who are life-long learners.