This month, we spotlight Deepika Nagabhushan, Energy Policy Associate at Clean Air Task Force.
WCS: What excites you most about the work you’re doing?
Deepika: My current work involves policy analysis and policy advocacy to get carbon capture & storage technology more widely deployed in the US. What excites me the most about working on policy is that I think this is where the fundamentals of climate solutions are being built. When it comes to climate solutions, the biggest push so far has come from clean energy focused policies at national/regional levels. Markets such as Germany and California have strong policies to reduce emissions and there’s so much to learn from studying their experiences. Getting policy right to encourage all the necessary technologies to develop, instead of prematurely picking winners, is the biggest challenge right now and I find that this challenge attracts the most creative thinkers, and it excites me to get to work with them. I can happily talk about my work and debate policy issues at dinners and parties, although that’s not very fun for my friends on a Friday night!!!
WCS: What professional accomplishment are you the most proud of?
Deepika: I am most proud of the fact that I chose to work with an organization that is driven by rigorous analysis and science; a place where political ideology does not play a role in choosing which climate solutions must be supported. In terms of work that I have done, I am proud of a recent economic modeling project I led that studies the impact of federal tax incentives on the adoption of carbon capture technology in the US power sector. For the first time a study was able to show that a policy pathway exists to reach the targets that International Energy Agency’s 2-Degree Scenario lays out for carbon capture. I am able to use this analysis to create awareness about carbon capture and its benefits/role in emissions reduction, helping to build broader support for policies we advocate for.
WCS: How did you get to where you are in your career?
Deepika: Earlier in my career I worked at Schneider Electric in brand management and marketing roles, where I got introduced to sustainability. My interest in sustainability deepened and I decided to make a career switch. I enrolled in the MS in Sustainability Management program at Columbia University where I focused on energy systems, policy analysis, finance as well as environmental science classes. I still remember during school I was so eager to evaluate all sustainability related career options (because it felt like I was starting over) I spoke to multiple professors and professionals I found on LinkedIn or through networking. Then I joined Clean Air Task Force upon graduation! Here I am able to utilize my sustainability skills as well as my marketing skills, so I am not sure whether this was much of a career switch rather than organic progression!
WCS: What failures or setbacks have you learned from?
Deepika: When I was looking for a career switch, I attempted to enroll into an MBA program but I was unsuccessful. While I was disheartened, I objectively re-evaluated my intentions and potential options that lay ahead of me. I realized that I had spent 2 years trying to get myself an MBA not because I truly thought it would help me in my career-switch, but because I thought it’s what everyone does and so it might be right for me too. After having chosen a different path and landing up where I am today, I know that choosing a path for what it truly offers, knowing it really matches your needs is the best way to go. I learned to avoid doing something just because it suits many other people to do it.
WCS: What advice do you have for other women in WCS?
Deepika: Careers don’t happen in a straight line. Sometimes disciplines or skill-sets you thought had little to do with each other come together to create a very unique profile. The work/business landscape is changing so much! So my advice is to invest your time in developing skills, based on your strengths and interests, even if they might seem disconnected. Know that your unique skill-set will become the reason you shine and succeed.