1.3 billion people around the world lack access to energy, and for everyone else, most of their energy comes from sources that are often unreliable, expensive, and detrimental to the environment. I had worked on sustainable transportation at Tesla before HBS, and came to business school to explore additional solutions to the lack of clean energy access.
Reflecting on my two years here, my advice to students looking to explore clean-tech while at HBS is threefold.
1. Find (or make) a community
The cleantech community is not the largest by far at HBS, but – on the plus side - you can get to know basically everyone who shares your interests. Through the Energy and Environment Club
, Business & Environment Initiative
, and Energy Conference there are several ways to get involved while on campus.
Find folks who have worked at your “dream” companies through the MBA Classcards – HBS is a unique opportunity to “sample” different careers and companies by talking to people who have lived them. In our year, students organized cleantech interest group dinners, which was a great way to get discussions going.
Also look to groups with relevant geographic focus, like the Africa Business Club
and Westrek. The Africa Business Conference has an excellent cleantech panel every year, and Westrek often includes visits to Bay Area cleantech companies.
2. Be proactive on (and off) campus
Consider organizing an event for the annual Energy & Environment conference – like a panel on a topic you’re interested in within cleantech. It’s a good way to learn about the companies and organizations in the space, and have an excuse to invite people you admire to campus.
Keep tabs on study groups and speaker events at Harvard Kennedy School and Law School on energy topics. Also, head over to MIT! Several HBS students cross-register for Energy Ventures every fall, participate in the Clean Energy Prize, and join joint university initiatives through the MIT Energy Club. MIT Joules is an awesome group of women interested in energy careers, and does interesting company visits in the Boston area.
Get creative when looking for classes and events: look for adjacent topics as well, like infrastructure, water, and agriculture. Entrepreneurial Finance is an even less obvious source of many of the cleantech-related cases at HBS.
3. Stay on top of your reading
There is a small (but growing) amount of material on cleantech at HBS, so definitely look to external sources to stay on top of information, e.g. Greentech Media. A great way to get academic credit for pursuing a topic that is of interest to you is by doing an Independent Project
. You can approach a company you are interested in to write a case on a challenge they are facing, or do a high level industry scan to explore a broader trend.
Cleantech can be a risky career choice – businesses are often highly capital intensive and vulnerable to commodity prices and regulatory shocks – so mine every source of information you can before joining a company with significant technology risk. Building an interdisciplinary community of mentors and friends who can advise and support you, being proactive about shaping your academic and extra-curricular experience, and going a step or two further in gathering information can go a long way!