Tell us about what you were doing before joining HBS and what inspired you to join the Career & Professional Development team.

I joined HBS in 2010, one year after graduating from law school, in the middle of a recession. I chose to study law to pursue a career in environmental policy and regulation. That goal had almost fully materialized when the recession caused my post-law school employer to freeze hiring and rescind offers. I had to pivot. Luckily, I landed at HBS in a role working with faculty to develop, research, and write case studies. Two years later, I met Kristen Fitzpatrick (HBS 2003), Managing Director of Career & Professional Development (“CPD”). At the time, Kristen was expanding CPD’s employer relations and career coaching teams in an effort to grow the School’s international network and strengthen support for international students. I was inspired by the opportunity to represent HBS in markets around the world by building new relationships and connecting students with employment opportunities. More recently, the Energy and Cleantech industries were added to my employer relations and career coaching portfolio. On a daily basis, I’m inspired by each student I coach and company I meet with, from climate tech startups to renewable energy investment funds.

You’ve worked with CPD for over 10 years. What trends have you noticed over that time? Specifically, what have you noticed about the types of jobs that students pursue and the types of positions that recruiters are looking for in the energy and environment field?

Interest is exploding! In the last four years alone, the number of students interested in careers in energy, cleantech, and sustainability has grown fivefold! At the same time, more and more of these students want to join a startup; about 80% of them today versus 50% in 2017. CPD has responded to this growing interest by adding career coaches with experience in energy, cleantech, mobility, and impact investing, and increasing the number of coaches who work in VC and are current or former founders.

There is a huge variety of MBA jobs focused on energy, cleantech, environment, and sustainability. Opportunities exist in virtually every industry, from consumer products and technology, to investing and real estate. In the most recent graduating class, the top five industry destinations where students accepted roles focused on energy, cleantech, environment, or sustainability were energy & cleantech (not surprising!), private equity, consulting, venture capital, and manufacturing. Similarly, opportunities are found in all functions, with finance, consulting, and business development at the top, but students also land in marketing, strategy, and general management roles.

A common question from MBAs is how to decide what type of company to pursue- whether an early stage start up, a medium size company, or a large corporation. What advice do you have for students grappling with this choice?

Think about your interests, motivators, and preferences for the type of skills you want to build, problems you want to solve, business models you want to understand, and environment you want to work in. What you come up with can be thought of as your ‘career criteria,’ that is, a set of elements that you’re looking for in a role or an organization. You may discover that both startups and larger, more mature companies align with your criteria, and they might be in different industries, have different products or services, or be at different stages of commercialization.

Another thing to consider is the recruiting timeline. Larger organizations, typically those with a structured MBA internship program, begin engaging with first-year students in October and November, conduct interviews in January, and have offer decision deadlines in mid-February. On the other hand, smaller, earlier-stage companies, as well as organizations that hire only one or two MBA interns, do their recruiting in the winter and spring, anywhere from late January into May. As more and more students target early stage companies, the job search process is increasingly a marathon that runs well into the spring, rather than a sprint across November and December. This is especially true for the 60% of students who received the internship offer they ultimately accepted in March, April, or May. Whichever timeline you are on, it is important to use the fall months to develop a career vision, learn about industries and companies, build a recruiting strategy, and network, all with the help of CPD.

Careers in business & environment are relatively new and, therefore, the path to breaking into the field can be less straightforward compared to other fields. What advice do you have for students whose background may not be directly related or those who came to HBS looking for a career change?

Careers in business & environment are definitely a field for career switchers (students who are coming to HBS with the intention of changing industry, function, or both). Because of this, many employers in the energy, cleantech, environment, and sustainability sectors hire a student based on the student’s skillset, particularly transferable skills, and the student’s demonstrated interest in and passion for the field. I have two pieces of advice. First, before starting your MBA, spend time educating yourself about the sectors you are interested in. Who are the players? What challenges are companies solving, and with what solutions? What deals are happening? Second, when you arrive at HBS, be sure to work with one of CPD’s career coaches to map your transferable skills to the types of companies and roles you are interested in, and to integrate these skills into your personal brand narrative.

Are there any other common questions or concerns that you get from students?

One common question I get from students is how to navigate a job search when you are interested in a variety of opportunities. Many students, a majority in fact, come to HBS to make a career pivot from their pre-MBA industry and/or function. This is particularly true for students interested in careers in cleantech, climate, energy, and sustainability. Often, these ‘career switchers’ want to explore more than one industry, function, geography, company size, or venture stage. For example, a student who wants to explore product management roles at early-stage battery storage companies and investing roles at venture capital firms with cleantech portfolios. But, there is only one summer during the MBA Program when a student can try something new through an internship. This may present a tension or create pressure to choose the “right” option... and underscores why it is important to work with one of CPD’s 55 career coaches. In addition to the typical summer internship, there are ways for a student to gain new experience. One option is to do an independent project during the second-year of the MBA Program, which grants a student academic credit for completing project-based work for a company or helping a faculty member with research. For students who want to test out more than one industry or company, I ask them think about it this way: of your interests, which one do you want to really dig into and get your hands around by working on it full-time as a summer intern for 10-14 weeks sitting with the team; and, which of your interests would you be comfortable doing on the side, perhaps remotely, either through an independent project or a part-time internship during the academic year with a Boston-based business?