Amanda Byrne is pursuing a Master of Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. She worked at ICF International for four years primarily supporting EPA’s ENERGY STAR program after graduating from Penn State with a Bachelor of Science in Energy, Business and Finance.
How often do you hear electric utilities talk about their work in the sustainability and environmental impact mitigation spaces? Let me tell you, it is a very enlightening experience. Two utility employees participated on the second panel of IGEL’s October 5th event – Careers in Sustainability, Energy and Business – and discussed many ways they are driving those types of efforts within their companies. Rye Barcott, commercial associate in the Sustainability Office of Duke Energy, and Melanie Dickersbach, Climate and Environment Strategy Manager at Exelon Corporation, both talked about their work to move their companies to a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly framework. An interesting fact that the panelists mentioned is that much of the utility work force will be retiring in the coming years. The utility industry is worth looking into if you are interested in corporate sustainability career opportunities. Based on questions from interested audience members, Melanie and Rye gave the following tips to those interested in careers in that field:
- It is important to first understand the structure and intricacies of the utility industry in order to address future challenges.
- It is particularly helpful to have sales experience.
- Internships with utilities are a great way to get your foot in the door and start building utility experience.
Gary Survis, CEO of GeoscapeSolar, and Bill Kunze, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Nature Conservancy also participated on the panel and highlighted the following key points with regard to careers in energy and corporate efficiency:
- Consumers are making decisions based on finances over their emotions (particularly in the solar industry), so it is important to understand the financial components in this business space.
- It will benefit students to study cultural shifts in terms of attitudes towards sustainability.
- Experience at consulting firms can help build experience with breadth and depth for these types of careers.
It is evident from the panelists’ comments, and their resumes alone, that cross-functionality in sustainability careers is important. But that doesn’t mean we have to pursue five different career avenues before settling into sustainability. We can learn from these experiences and figure out how best to tailor our curriculum and the types of companies we pursue to our interests.
This event was the first career event that IGEL held this year, and it was extremely useful for me to hear career and curriculum pointers directly from industry (in particular, employees that hold the types of positions I want!). If you weren’t able to make it, check out a recording of the event here. To hear more from some of the panelists individually, check out panelist interviews here, or at: http://www.youtube.com/WhartonIGEL.