For my STEP Project, I attended the Women of Renewable Energy and Sustainable Industries (WRISE) Leadership Forum in Denver, Colorado in February 2019. This was a 3-day conference that involved a lot of opportunities for networking with industry leaders as well as discussion on recent renewable energy market happenings.
I had never been to Denver, Colorado before and so this was a “first” for me. It was a really interesting city. Although it was cold and I only had a couple of hours free when the conference was not in session, I tried to walk around the city to see it a little. It felt very different from any city I had been to before. Almost slightly European with how they have the transit set up and there were so many local restaurants that looked really unique. It was a really interesting city.
I learned a lot about myself from this conference. During the previous summer, I worked at a company that invests in infrastructure assets; I specifically looked at a lot of renewable energy assets during my time there. I went to this conference because I wanted to learn more about the industry and see where my interests in terms of my career path lie. I realized that I am most interested in the finance and investing side of this industry. I enjoyed learning more about the industry and the world’s need for different energy sources; and I think that is so important. However, I know it also requires investment in these types of projects, and I realized I am most interested in that side of things.
I was confirmed of my career interests being focused in finance and investments partly through talking with people at the conference. This conference gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of people in the renewable energy industry and learn about their career paths. I probably met over 50 people if I had to guess! I was really excited to meet a woman who worked at another infrastructure investment firm and learn about her experience on the finance side. Also, I met a woman who is a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) and I really benefited from hearing what she had to say about getting the CFA designation. She highly recommended that I pursue it and said it was one of the most worthwhile things she has done.
In the main reception area on the second morning of the conference:
I also talked with numerous people from the development side of renewable energy and it was amazing to meet all the people who actually work on creating the energy projects. I suppose I knew a lot of different people were required to work on these assets to make them exist, but I did not know truly how many until I met people who had roles in all parts of the process. I enjoyed getting to talk with some of these people and really learning about the technical aspects of what they were working on, whether that means constructing wind turbines or originating PPA’s (Power Purchase Agreements). However, also from this, I realized that I would not like to concentrate on one of these technical areas for my career. With finance, it is a bit more broad in terms of the asset type but specific in terms of the financial nature of these projects.
I also not only learned about careers in this field, but I learned a lot about renewable energy and our planet in general! I got to go on a tour of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) which was really neat. They are doing so much research there on all of the types of energy as well as energy efficiency and other sustainability methods. It always humbles me to see people working on things that I have no understanding of whatsoever. I also got to experience a 3D simulation of seeing windturbines spin and how when they spin they create wind and can mess up some of the original wind currents. This was all done through a super computer – I had to wear these special glasses to see it in 3D! It was really amazing to experience. While I enjoyed seeing all of the research they were doing, I realized that I think I would rather still stay closer to the business side of things as opposed to the science side.
This conference gave me a lot more insight into the renewable energy industry and careers in it. Learning about renewable energy has made me more conscious about our (humans) impact on the earth. It is something that I think about more regularly now and I hope this consciousness will help me to be a better citizen and inhabitant of our earth. Additionally, the insight this conference gave me in terms of what careers I am interested in is invaluable. I think it confirmed for me that I am interested in finance and investments. Whether that is in renewable energy space or not, it is what I am broadly interested in. This gives me more conviction when I am thinking about my career. Additionally, I plan on taking CFA level 1 this summer, and the woman who I met gave me encouragement in my pursuit of it.
Overall, I am very thankful for this experience and for STEP for allowing me to do it!