Recruiting Stories: Andy Gollach
A couple weeks ago, my friend and classmate, Erik Steeb, wrote about recruiting into the energy or clean tech industry with a non-technical background. Today I’m going to write about my experience recruiting in the energy and start-up space with significant work experience in the industry as an engineer.
Prior to Tepper I worked as a technical consultant/advisor for a variety of technology licensing companies in the oil and gas and alternative fuels space. In those roles, I supported large capital projects in the $50 million - $500+ million at international client sites, living and working with our clients for several months. My longest project was 18 months living in China, leading an internal team of engineers during the construction and commissioning of a new technology producing a low carbon ethanol from waste emissions at a steel mill.
My Goals and Interests
When I first started at Tepper in August of last year, I knew a few things about what I wanted:
I wanted to work at a mission-driven organization
I wanted to make a clear transition to the clean tech side of the energy industry
If possible, I wanted a role that allowed me to leverage my technical background but in a business role
So I had clear goals coming in, but those goals presented a bit of a challenge: How do you recruit for those goals? What do those roles look like? I didn’t know the answer to those questions either. Fortunately, the Energy and Cleantech Club and the broader Tepper Community have the resources and advisors I needed to help me narrow down the search.
As I went through the recruiting process and became more involved in the MBA program as a whole, I was able to start to narrow down my search. I learned that I’m interested in early-stage technology and helping new and more established companies innovate. This allowed me to focus on start-ups or larger corporations with significant innovation track records. The year progressed and I got more involved with a local angel syndicate. Through that process I learned that I was interested in the finance as well as strategy side more so than roles like marketing or operations. That is the great thing about Tepper, and an MBA in general. There are so many opportunities for exposure to various functions, specialties and industries that you get the opportunity to try-before-you-buy early on, something I took full advantage of.
The Recruiting Process
I would love to tell you all that my recruiting process was a smooth, well-run and systematic one. It was not. I applied for 41 positions with the first application in October and the last one in March. It might have been more if an application didn’t make it in my spreadsheet to track. Of those 41 applications, I had follow-up interviews with 9 of those companies. I ended up with 2 offers (and a third “likely” offer). Those that didn’t work out all had their own reasons, from not being the right fit to me withdrawing from the process
In my process, I really utilized three different pathways:
Job Boards and Newsletters: Erik has already written about a few. Another good place to look for jobs in the startup space is with VC firms and newsletter’s from VC firms. One newsletter I particularly like is Climate Tech VC.
Referrals/Alumni: Throughout the year I spoke with Tepper Alumni as well as built connections with my classmates, including the current 2nd years. I ended up getting the offer I accepted (more on that later) via a referral from a second year and my third “likely offer” was via a referral from a first year who already had a job and had a company reach out. This pathway was definitely the most consistent; I tried to leverage it strategically making sure I was fully interested before asking for help from someone in connecting with recruiters and alumni.
Competitions and Extra Curriculars: I think this is potentially the most interesting route, though not particularly reliable. It gives you access to opportunities you might not have had otherwise and helps to build your network. Erik already wrote about some of the case competitions available to MBA students in the energy space. I was working on my own company (shameless plug) and used that to enter several competitions. The first was the McGinnis Venture Competition here at Carnegie Mellon where we competed in the final round and the second being the MIT Cleantech and Energy Prize for which we were 1 of 15 teams out of an initial pool of 160+ companies to compete in the semi-finals. Both of these allowed me to build connections with people in the entrepreneurial space and many of them specifically in the Cleantech space. It didn’t turn into anything this year, but those connections will be valuable throughout my career.
My recruiting process ended with me accepting an offer from ARPA-Eas part of their Summer Scholars program. ARPA-E is a department inside of the US Department of Energy (DOE) that focuses on investing and developing early stage technology with the potential to have significant impact in energy and climate. I’ll be working on a project that helps establish funding for maritime propulsion innovation. I’m really excited about the opportunity. As I look back at what my goals for the summer internship were, it checks all the boxes. Mission-driven? Check! Clear transition to Clean Tech? Check! Leverages technical background? Big Check! Innovation Track Record? Check! Finance or Strategy role? Check and check!! Of course, there are other benefits including the brilliant people I’ll get to work with over the course of the summer. I didn’t expect that a role with the federal government would be the one that checks all the boxes for me when I started out my MBA journey, but it is hard for me to imagine what a more appealing opportunity would look like to me. This could not have happened without coming to Tepper.