by Wyley Hodgson, MEM/MBA ’11
In January, Wyley traveled to Colorado and California to do career research and participate in informational interviews with industry executives. Here are his reflections:
My trip began in Denver. Colorado has helped lead the pack among clean tech industries with a very strong renewable portfolio standard (RPS) and state-level incentives for the production and sale of clean tech products and services. The state also hosts several well-known industry names; the new Vestas manufacturing site was one of the latest additions to Colorado’s clean tech community. Additionally, NREL (the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab) has spawned numerous start-ups along Colorado’s Front Range.
With all this activity, I was quite surprised to learn from my first informational interview with Lincoln Renewables that few renewable energy projects get developed in Colorado (and the projects that are developed are typically issued from Xcel Energy, Denver’s serving utility). During my subsequent company visits, I was offered different explanations for why Colorado had grown such a strong clean tech industry: aggressive RPS spawns business for demand side management services; NREL provides research and development; geographically speaking, Colorado is adjacent to the solar belt (Southwest U.S.) and the wind belt (Midwestern U.S.). Regardless of the reason, the overall sustainability vibe is thriving in Colorado and shows no sign of subsiding.
The California leg of my trip was initiated with more informational interviews targeted at corporate sustainability. I met with sustainability representatives from HP, Intel, and Levi Strauss. Each had an interesting perspective on their duties (Intel’s focus on water as risk management and sustainability; Levi Strauss on lifecycle analysis of its products and collaboration with cotton suppliers), but I was most impressed with HP. Doing my homework, I was astounded to learn how long conservation has been ingrained in HP’s DNA (the company’s Citizenship program began in the 1950s). And not only has HP been extremely active in reducing its own environmental footprint, the company is now introducing new sustainability services such as carbon accounting software to generate sustainability reports and energy efficiency programming tools in conjunction with SAP.
Overall, the trip was an invaluable experience. It was an excellent way to learn more about the industry as a whole, and as a graduating student, the trip provided great exposure to companies that has jump-started my off-campus job search.