Final Reflection

Over the course of my 10 weeks with Navigant, I was able to absorb more new knowledge than I expected in such a short time frame. Although classes are valuable for building many of the rough skills to guide students in the “real world” nothing is more important than getting out and working. At my internship I developed a variety of skills, all of which will be critical moving forward. I can classify what I learned into technical skills such as writing consulting reports and excel analytical work, industry specific knowledge, and general work and career advice.

 

Reflecting on the first, I quickly learned the difference between academic writing and writing a consulting report for a client. This was something I remember thinking I would need to adapt to before my internship, and wrote about in my Personal Plan paper as well as my Site Description and Personal Contribution paper, but I was not prepared for the extent that I might need to alter my approach, specifically in terms of bias. I had to be very cognizant of who my target audience was when writing reports. Even at a firm that specializes in renewable energy, there were often delicate balances where a “green” agenda could remain in the background, but couldn’t be explicitly mentioned. Another issue was over-speculating on rumors or claims, especially from startups. In the battery storage industry, it was easy to get caught up in exciting startups, each promising record breaking figures, however as my more jaded performance managers explained, many of these claims are often exaggerations or even blatant lies, thus making it crucial to tread carefully when profiling such companies. Often I would have to add an extra line or make it clear that these are only numbers a company reports, not figures that have been proven yet.

 

The final point on writing was about the importance of brevity. In the consulting industry, I was told by a very senior partner that you are either naïve or just plain dumb if you really think a client is reading everything you write. Using the pyramid principle, starting with the most important findings and then extrapolating from there, I was able to make my writing more concise and ensure that the client only read what they needed to, and not any filler. Many of the reports I worked on could be more than 60 pages long, so harsh edits were needed on my side before it went to the editing department so clients weren’t drowning in unnecessary information. On the flip side, industry insights I wrote could only be 600 words long, a very short space to introduce and address big topics. As such, I had to learn to prioritize and adapt to the changing length requirements.

 

Aside from writing, I learned the importance of analytical work and data analysis and got to practice and build upon my excel skills. At first I only engaged in relatively simple tasks, however as my internship progressed I got put on bigger projects, including a microgrid tracker with over 400,000 entries. This massive document put my excel skills to the test, and I was able to experiment with pivot tables and VLOOKUP as well as turning r-code into an excel formula. As I went along I found being able to google what you want to do to be almost as useful of a skill as knowing it. I was also able to rely on several employees with computer or data science backgrounds who could show me more powerful things excel can do, an experience that definitely makes me want to learn more going forward. Overall I’ve learned that behind being able to properly articulate your opinion, knowing how to analyze data is likely the most important skill a new analyst can have, and the efforts I made to go beyond making simple graphs and try and tell a story with numbers were greatly appreciated.

 

Additionally, I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about clean energy technology, key regions, and global trends through the research and interviews I conducted during my time with Navigant. Although I felt I was well up to date with clean energy news before starting my internship, there was a big difference between an outsider looking in on the industry and actually being involved in the day to day work and talking to key stakeholders. Specifically, getting to research and learn about different battery storage technologies, including, but not limited to: Lithium Ion, Flow, Advanced Lead Acid, Flywheels, Pumped Hydro, Compressed Air Storage, P2G Hydrogen, and my personal favorite, gravity storage, gave me insights and perspective I never could have gotten simply reading news articles. The best experience was the ability to interview CEOs and experts in the industry. These conversations advanced my understanding of technological aspects, as well as project financing, and the general trends of the market moving forward. It was particularly interesting to ask CEOs of a certain technology what they thought of other emerging competitors. This all informed the reports I wrote, and as I progressed throughout my internship I began to put together the pieces to understand how a variety of topics all intersected. Although I mostly focused on renewable energy and battery storage, there was plenty of overlap with transportation, energy efficiency, DERs, block chain, smart buildings, and AI. Although when I started out and was first reading some of the reports Navigant published I remember thinking it read like a competition to use as many “buzz words” as possible, as I progressed through my internship I began to see how they were all connected.

 

Finally, throughout my internship, but particularly at the end, I began networking with many executives at the company and got valuable advice, both for the short term getting hired after graduation, and throughout my career. Almost everyone stressed the importance of connections; who you know almost always trumps what you are capable of when it comes to hiring. One very senior executive told me that recruiters really do spend mere seconds on your resume and almost never read the cover letter. The key, he said, was getting in touch with the hiring manager directly. While this is not always possible at other firms, I was able to get in touch with several hiring managers while still at my internship. Aside from networking, I also received feedback and advice about my resume, how to sell and tailor my skill-set, and ways to advance further in my career. Still, the conversation always went back to connections and who you know as the most valuable tool to stay competitive and give myself the best chance of securing and advancing my career.

 

It can often be difficult to take qualitative leadership classes and show a direct relationship with concrete skills and examples. One may take an accounting course and be able to say “I applied X concept for Y application” but the liberal arts do not aim for one hard skill set. Instead, many of the “soft skills” I gained from my leadership classes are imbedded in almost everything I do yet often in the background. It can be hard to notice a leadership degree and the soft skills it provides, but it’s easy to tell when these skills are lacking. The most obvious example to me is my writing and presentation skills which we practice in leadership classes, however I believe that serval theories from leadership classes, ranging from behavioral economics and psychology, to Justice and critical thinking have affected the way I approach and solve problems and engage with case studies. Specifically, when addressing a global dilemma, if not catastrophe, like Climate Change, there is no one lens that provides all the context needed to even begin to think about solutions. I remember at the Jepson Edge event, one alumni mentioned her ability to “think differently” during team meetings, offering a perspective or idea many hadn’t considered, and I believe I experienced this as well at my company. Often times the highly intelligent individuals I worked with either specialized in engineering or business. Very few could speak both languages, and almost none were able to bring another discipline into the picture. While specializing in one technical skills can be valuable for many applications, a lot of the work I completed, one or even two perspectives would leave out a large chunk of the greater picture. Being able to integrate an interdisciplinary degree into problems that are often only thought of in one dimension was the most valuable, yet hard to define, skill I believe my leadership degree has afforded me, and one my performance mangers certainly noticed.

 

Overall, by gaining more valuable work experience I was able to connect more dots on how the skills I develop in the classroom can have real world applications. This connection can help inform and motivate my future leadership studies, as some of us begin to transition out of academia. Moving forward, this internship allowed me to identify what skills to keep improving in my leadership classes, and specifically find any gaps in my skill-set that I can fill before graduating. A great piece of advice that I heard from the CFO of my company was to never react negatively towards criticism since if you do no one will give it to you again, and constructive criticism is the best thing you can receive starting out since it’s the quickest way to improve. I wholeheartedly agree and look forward to more constructive criticism from my leadership professors.

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