Alumna Diana Rowe graduated from Fuqua in 2016 with a Daytime MBA and a Master’s of Environmental Management in Duke’s 3-year MEM/MBA joint degree program. She had a strong focus on energy while at Duke, including serving as Co-President of the MBA Energy Club and helping coordinate the school’s inaugural Energy in Emerging Markets Case Competition.
After graduation, Diana joined a Leadership Development Program with chemical giant BASF, during which she’ll complete four 6-month rotations, including a stint at the company’s global headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany.
We followed up with Diana, and asked her to share some thoughts about her journey and her role.
How did you first get interested in energy?
As an undergrad, I studied comparative religion and Middle Eastern studies, and when I graduated, I worked for the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council. I was interested in seeing how international business played a role in geopolitics and intercultural interactions. As you can imagine, I worked with a number of companies in oil and heavy manufacturing. At the time, Saudi Arabia was initiating several alternative energy programs in nuclear and solar, so I worked with a lot of clients in those industries. I started to see just how dynamic the energy industry is and decided this was something that could keep me interested for a career.
You came in to Fuqua with a focus on an energy sector career. The chemicals industry is not always an obvious choice for students when they think about energy. How did you choose BASF?
My experience prior to grad school demonstrated to me that there are a lot of ways in which businesses can directly impact issues around energy and natural resources without necessarily being an energy or power producer. I think this perspective helped me to be more open to some of the more non-traditional opportunities for students interested in energy. The chemicals industry provides the building blocks for virtually everything we manufacture, so reduction in energy consumption during production or bringing a new molecule to the market could have huge amplifying effects for reducing environmental footprint.
BASF, and the chemicals industry in general, is a great fit for MBAs and the skillsets we develop while in school. Your role could be anything from strategic marketing to finance, to supply chain to general business management–and you’re not locked into one function. BASF was an exciting choice for me for several reasons. It’s truly a global company with operations around the world and opportunities to work outside the U.S, and its MBA Leadership Development Program is one-of-a-kind. In just under a year-and-a half, I’ve had the opportunity to work in Michigan, North Carolina, and Germany while learning new functions and businesses. The company values its employees and invests a lot into our development.
What’s your favorite part about your current job?
In terms of company culture, I’d say my favorite part is that I’m consistently challenged and my opinion is valued at all levels of the organization. And I really love being in a science-based company because I’m always learning something new. I work with a number of scientists and engineers, and they’re always teaching me something that I’ve never had exposure to. BASF’s products are in virtually everything we touch so it’s an endless world of what you can learn in this industry.
What policy developments do you have on your eye right now?
If I were to comment on policy in general, I’d say that in energy as well as manufacturing, it’s really about the intersection of business, policy, and technology. For example, when an automotive supplier is making catalytic conversions for cars, it’s working hand-in-hand with the OEM to find the technology solutions to meet stricter emissions regulations. You can see that regulation is really driving the business and the need to further advance the technology. So, as countries like China and India go for stricter regulations, that is going to present solid growth potential for our business.
Any words of advice for MBA students interested in the energy industry?
With energy in particular, companies want to see that you’re passionate and committed to to the industry. For those who are new to energy, take steps to demonstrate that this is the route you want to go: join student clubs, get involved with Energy Week, and network with the local energy community. For someone who doesn’t have a technical background, it doesn’t have to be a hurdle; I think you can overcome it with passion. But you need to demonstrate to recruiters that this is where you want to be.
What was your favorite class at Duke?
While not my favorite at the time, the classes from which I benefited the most were Energy Modeling and Power Markets at the Nicholas School. They were a lot of work and really hard given that I had virtually zero experience with Excel, but I benefited tremendously. The amount of work involved in the assignments meant that I really learned the material and have been able to directly apply it in my assignments. I also really appreciated Fuqua’s public speaking class. Never underestimate the power of how you deliver your message.
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- Leadership in practice: Creating an entrepreneurial career in the oil and gas industry
- Video: “A Bright Future: MBA Career Options in the Energy Sector”
- Read more alumni profiles