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Sharing Energy Knowledge

Katriella Lumbantobing and Ryan Dooley are using MSES lessons to build successful careers in energy and sustainability consulting.

As an engineer, Katriella Lumbantobing (MSES ‘21) already knew how solar electricity could be produced and moved onto the electric grid. But she wanted more. 

For that, she turned to Northwestern's Master of Science in Energy and Sustainability (MSES) program. MSES is jointly offered by Northwestern Engineering and the Paula M. Trienens Institute for Sustainability and Energy. 

Katriella Lumbantobing“I felt like my understanding of energy was really one-dimensional – really technology and engineering focused,” she said. “What piqued my interest was how that merges with policy, because in order to advance the grid, there needs to be movement in those spaces.”  

Ryan Dooley (MSES '22) found himself in a similar situation. He had a background in environmental engineering and a passion for sustainability, and he wanted to better understand how businesses can contribute to sustainable development. He also wanted to do that learning in a one-year graduate program void of a thesis structure, and that could open doors to new job opportunities.  

Like Lumbantobing, he found what he was looking for in MSES.  

Helping solve client problems 

Today, Dooley is a renewable energy and carbon advisory consultant with Schneider Electric, where he is focused on renewable energy procurement strategy and implementation for a global client base.  

Lumbantobing helps companies understand the economics of renewable energy production and the government policies that encourage it as a managing consultant for the global firm Guidehouse, specializing in energy, sustainability and infrastructure.  

Advancing clean energy technologies in a way that meets the nation’s energy demands, without overwhelming an aged electric grid, is no small task — nor is it inexpensive. Incentives to help bring new energy sources like clean hydrogen to scale, build out infrastructure like electric vehicle charging and grid transmission lines, and spur new technological innovation, are frequently needed. 

That makes understanding the economic and government policies behind renewable electricity a must for those looking to be successful energy industry consultants. But that common baseline of knowledge can be applied in a multitude of ways, depending on a consultant's specialty and responsibility. 

Dooley, for example, makes strategic recommendations for global renewable electricity procurement strategies. He also supports clients navigating the risks and opportunities associated with virtual power purchase agreements and tax credit investments. 

“I have a lot of variety in the types of clients I work with and have a lot of autonomy to formulate their decarbonization strategies,” he said. “The team I work on has supported clients in contracting 18,000-plus megawatts of renewable energy globally, which has a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”  

Lumbantobing, on the other hand, is based in New York City and helps most of her clients work toward meeting New York's aggressive climate goals. Her job is to help them understand the part they play in reaching those targets and mapping out a strategy to achieve those benchmarks.  

Giving thanks to MSES 

Both Dooley and Lumbantobing find themselves in client-facing roles, and both credit MSES with helping them excel at their current employers.  

The key lessons went beyond technicalities. Instruction on soft skills, such as communication, were vital, they said.  

“I can have conversations with three different clients each day," Lumbantobing said, "and knowing how each of them is different and how to have different kinds of conversations with them helps me be a good consultant.”  

Dooley agreed. 

“My role is client facing, so you need to be comfortable presenting to people and making recommendations on what they should do,” he said. “I hardly realized roles like this existed before grad school.” 

Dooley and Lumbantobing represent a small sample of the opportunities available to energy or sustainability consultants. Both agreed that anyone interested in a career in the field would gain a lot from the education and experiences offered in the MSES program.  

“It's great to learn a huge variety of skills,” Lumbantobing said. “Especially in the energy space, there are so many opportunities to accelerate your career and hone in on what you are best at doing.”