Clean Energy in California

Day one: San Francisco, here we come!
by -- March 17th, 2014

The long-awaited Clean Energy Trip kicked off on March 11 with discussions on Aquatic Park Pier and dinner with alum in Bistro Boudin.

San Francisco is indeed a tourist destination, which is rich in bars, souvenir shops, street musicians, sunshine, beaches, trees and visitors coming from all over the world. Surrounded by all of these, we, as visitors, become scenery as well. As our presentations and discussion went on, many took photos of us. Even a dog came by.

On our way back from Aquatic Park Pier.

On our way back from Aquatic Park Pier.

Before we came, every student (22 in total) chose a topic and wrote a report on that. Professor Timothy Johnson compiled these reports into a field guide and sent it to us. We were supposed to read the guide and discuss during the trip. Since we all have read the reports, we skipped the presentation section and get into Q&A session directly.

Day one’s topics were about Lawrence Livermore National Lab, STEM, PG&E, California Public Utility Commission, Energy Efficiency Service Companies – ESCOS, and Nuclear Fusion.

A perfect place for pictures.

A perfect place for pictures.

It was similar to our classes in school. The only difference is we (other than professors) become question takers. The challenging thing is you have to be well prepared because you wouldn’t want to be embarrassed by questions that you don’t know how to answer.

Heated discussions were followed by dinner with alumna Melissa Semcer from the CPUC. Melissa spent two hours taking three rounds of questions on cap and trade and rooftop solar, sharing her experiences on how to get into the energy sector, and her struggles dealing with unfamiliar cases.

One of the youngest women judges in CPUC, Melissa said she is usually the only women in a room of the “old boy school” of energy sector. According to Melissa, what made her stand out is her communication and team management skills.

On our way back to hotel.

On our way back to hotel.

Melissa suggested we understand our strengths as well, let interviewers know and leverage them at work. A philosophy major in undergraduate, when she graduated from Duke, she knew she’d “do analysis but was not that good”. What she could bring to the table is her skills of communication and team management. She said soft skills she learned in Nicholas and Fuqua helped a lot in her career.

For more information about Melissa Semcer, please refer to Seven tips for following your dream from a Duke alumna with Duke Energy Initiative. http://energy.duke.edu/news/4663

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