Yale School of Management

Matt Rogers '89, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Energy; Former Senior Partner, McKinsey & Co.

In February, Matt Rogers ’89 was named a senior advisor to U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. The move marked a major shift for Rogers, who had been involved in the private sector side of energy for more than twenty years, first as an investment banker and later as a management consultant. A senior partner at McKinsey prior to his appointment, Rogers decided to make the change in order to have the kind of impact on U.S. energy that was difficult, if not impossible, from the private sector. "When the Secretary of Energy calls and says, ‘I need you to do this,’ it’s something you take very seriously," Rogers said. "This was an opportunity to serve the country at a time and in a way where I thought I could add a lot to the equation."

Rogers’ role is to oversee the implementation of $36.7 billion in funds the department received as part of the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the stimulus plan. This is no small task. Two hundred and fifty reviewers work every day to sift through applications for the money, looking for projects that don’t just help speed money into the economy, but are aligned with the Obama administration’s long term goals of making the U.S. more energy independent and efficient. "We have the resources now in place to make a meaningful impact on energy efficiency in the United States and to really demonstrates that energy efficiency is a high return investment for the United States to make," he said. "It will be cleaner, safer, wealthier, if we actually are a more efficient country. We have the potential to double renewal energy capacity here."

While Rogers has spent his career in the energy space, he didn’t plan to go into it when he joined First Boston as an investment banking analyst after graduating Princeton in 1985. As he tells the story, on the first day of work, he and the forty-five or so other new analysts were asked to pick which areas they were interested in. Rogers chose technology first and energy second. "What I had not counted on is that nobody else put energy down at all and so if I put down energy as two they said we’ve got somebody to do energy," he said. "And so it was more serendipitous than intentional."

Rogers spent two years at First Boston before deciding to enroll at SOM. The stock market crash of 1987 just weeks into his first year at Yale, helped change his view of returning to Wall Street, a shift that fit with his desire to address a broader set of questions facing industry than banking allowed him to do. SOM, he said, opened him to a better understanding of operational and organizational issues and it became clear that consulting would be a good fit for his skills and interests.

Upon graduation, Rogers took a position with Booz Allen, working on the restructuring that swept the global oil industry after the Gulf War and becoming a partner at the company in 1995. He left for McKinsey in 1998 and was promoted to senior partner in 2005. He continued his work in the oil industry and consulted with natural gas companies during the period when regional markets evolved into national and global ones. He then helped McKinsey form its clean tech practice, a new direction for the company as it saw many of the issues facing energy markets resulting not just from matters of supply but demand as well. "If we just stay focused on the supply side of the equation and we look at just the U.S. domestic supply of oil, for example, we miss some other elements of the equations,” he said. “It’s really thinking about it from a balanced standpoint that is what distinguishes a successful energy policy from ones that are less successful in this complicated world."

Working at the Department of Energy allows Rogers an opportunity to put what he learned in the private sector into practice through the public sector. He said the Recovery Act money will allow the government to provide a "down payment on the nation’s energy and environmental future," adding that the $36.7 billion, to be spent over eighteen months, will allow the government to support roughly $100 billion in projects. At this point, about two thirds of the stimulus money has been committed, with about a third already out the door. He said they’re clearly making good progress apportioning the money, but that with such a large amount of funding and so many moving parts, he finds himself recalling crucial lessons from many years ago. "I always go back to my operations professor, Art Swersey, as it’s an everyday de-bottle necking process for the machine as we adapt the department’s capabilities with the demands of the Recovery Act," he said. "And then we have to put it into a context of strategic goals that we set out and make sure that what we spend with the Recovery Act actually moves the ball ahead for each of those goals. Swersey and Sharon Oster were hallmarks for this stuff, and I go back to some of their lessons practically everyday."