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Energy Club’s Virtual Alumni Career Panel Offers Real World Advice

Alumni working in the energy sector discussed career strategies.

The leaders of the Energy Club, Pablo Montes Iannini MBA/MEM 2015 and Theo Polan MBA 2015, organized a first-ever virtual alumni career panel on December 1. It featured Bryan Eckstein, Project Finance at SunEdison, Tyler van Leeuwen, CO2 Adviser at Shell, and Nate Gorence, Advanced Research Projects Agency at DOE ARPA-E, and was moderated by Pablo. Alumni offered advice on recruiting, spoke about their medium-term career objectives, and reflected on valuable experiences at Yale SOM.

All the panelists stressed that the recruiting process for energy was unstructured with the onus on students to be both opportunistic in reaching out for the right positions, and patient with timelines. Luckily the energy space is teeming with Yale and especially SOM alums. Nate found his summer internship at Broadscale by networking with the CEO, a YLS grad, who had come on campus to speak at an event. “Don’t be afraid to ask for things,” said Tyler, who found his current position through his SOMAA mentor, with whom he did an independent study. Bryan leveraged his connections with alumni at SunEdison, to land his current position. All of these relationships took time to build, with offers coming sometimes half a year after. For this reason, Bryan recommended commencing outreach now.

Bryan shared that while he was at Yale, he had had an impulse to explore multiple career tracks, a move he later regretted. “I wish I had just stayed true to the intention put forth in my application,” in order to avoid unnecessary stresses, he said. Ultimately, he refocused, going on to be an EDF Climate Corps fellow, to building strong ties in the energy community through his fellow joint-degrees and the Center for Business and Environment (CBEY), and to working for SunEdison. This resonated with me because I had had a parallel experience in my first semester; I felt overwhelmed by the breadth and quality of companies that recruit here, and compelled to explore as many as interested me, including those in tech, economic development, and finance. Ultimately, the experience proved to be a long-winded and arduous way of demonstrating to myself that clean energy is still what most excites me.

With regard to career aspirations, Tyler spoke of a desire to eventually transition from his current role evaluating climate risks and opportunities to “putting steel in the ground,” for carbon capture projects. Nate envisioned working in a business development or strategy role at a cleantech startup.

All three panelists offered different perspectives on which classes they found most valuable. For Bryan, Sourcing and Managing Funds, Corporate Finance, Investor, Environmental Law Clinic, and a project finance workshop, were all extremely helpful (especially project finance for his interview.) For Tyler, Problem Framing ended up being valuable (super-characteristic given that he works for Shell,) given the breadth of his company, and the importance of internal alignment on decisions. For Nate, the entrepreneurship electives allowed him to get a firm footing on ideation and strategy.

All in all, the panel could not have been more timely and refreshing for my fellow energy enthusiasts and me, as we prepare for a winter break full of outreach and company research. A fellow joint degree in attendance, Amir, noted that he was struck by the camaraderie evident among the speakers, and the range of organizations represented, which demonstrated that exciting opportunities could be found around the world, and across the public and private sectors.

As I ramp up on recruiting, I’m comforted knowing that the energy sector is full of friendly faces, and that I can rely on the small and tight-knit community here at SOM/FES, and CBEY, to share and receive support.