Updated: Feb 9
"Mentors are truly invaluable when facing obstacles in a particular job or in your career in general."
SEPTEMBER 25, 2019 | BY COLE ZAHARRIS & LEIGH MARSHALL
Nicole is a Regulatory Affairs Manager at Urbint, a start-up that helps utilities and infrastructure operators make communities safer and more resilient. She is a co-author of Urban Green Council's Blueprint for Efficiency, a report that served as a basis for New York City's Climate Mobilization Act. Prior to joining Urbint, she spent 4 years in Washington D.C., working at M.J. Bradley & Associates, a strategic environmental consulting group, and at Accenture. She graduated from Duke in 2013 and studied Economics & Political Science, and has an MSc in Environmental Economics & Climate Change from LSE.
Thinking back, why were you interested in joining BOW?
I wanted to join BOW because it was such a supportive environment in which to learn about opportunities in business. I looked forward to BOW events with companies recruiting on campus, as former BOW members would come speak to us candidly about their work and interview experiences. I also enjoyed that BOW was not tailored to a specific field or industry - everyone came to BOW with their own interests and aspirations.
What was your favorite class that you took at Duke?
My favorite class at Duke was the “History of Impressionism.” In my first semester of sophomore year, I was in the midst of major requirement classes and this class was just a breath of fresh air. I have always loved art but never had any formal education in how political, historical and social contexts inform artists and audiences of a time period. It really opened my eyes to the significance of the movement and helped me appreciate the art on a deeper level. A close second favorite was “The Roman Spectacle,” a course on the society and history of ancient Rome through the context of gladiator fights and other “spectacles” taking place at the Colosseum.
What advice do you have for BOW members trying to figure out what they want to do?
With the benefit of hindsight, I can say that you should try not to put so much pressure on yourself to have it all figured out now. I know this can be difficult because the job search at Duke is stressful and it might seem like others have it figured out (they don’t, I promise). Take it from me - I started in management consulting, then wrote policy reports for a nonprofit, and now work on energy policy at a startup. Each opportunity is instructive - it doesn’t only teach me what I like about a certain career path, but also what I don’t like, and this knowledge helps me grow personally and professionally. Whatever you do, always make sure you’re learning. And remember that there are alums out there working in a wide variety of fields and industries. Don’t be afraid to reach out!
What made you decide to study Environmental Economics & Climate Change at the London School of Economics?
My first two years out of Duke taught me two important things: that I wanted to transition from business into policy, and that I wanted to dedicate myself to work that I found to be meaningful and impactful. I decided to apply to graduate school to help get my foot in the door in the policy space. I actually thought about applying to law school to study environmental law, but struggled for months to write a personal statement on why I wanted to be a lawyer (not a good sign). I started looking into other graduate programs, and when I learned about this program at the LSE, I wrote a first draft of my personal statement in one afternoon. The program was an ideal mix - I could apply my economics degree and approach environmental problems quantitatively while studying climate policy at a global and diverse university. I also had the opportunity to do an internship in Parliament with the former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, an experience that really sparked my interest in energy.
What does your typical day look like at Urbint?
At Urbint, we work with utility clients to help them anticipate and address risks to their infrastructure. As a policy analyst, I work to lay out the political and regulatory landscape in which our clients work and provide relevant context to our sales, engineering and deployment teams. I keep track of federal, state and local climate and utility regulation, write reports on the regulatory environments of utility service territories of interest, meet with state public service commissions, identify key takeaways from rate cases and annual reports, and investigate trends in the energy space. On a typical day, I’ll connect with colleagues on the latest climate news, synthesize regulatory findings on a utility’s service territory, help plan for an upcoming industry conference, and provide a regulatory perspective during demonstrations of new features of our software products.
How have you navigated various obstacles in your professional life?
Mentors are truly invaluable when facing obstacles in a particular job or in your career in general. A mentor doesn’t have to be someone much older or more experienced than you - it just has to be someone who you trust, who can relate to issues you might be facing, and who will be honest with you. In one instance, I felt pressured to take on a long-term project that I didn’t think was the right fit for me, and a talk with a mentor gave me the confidence to push back and ask for a role I really wanted. When I was debating whether to go back to school or continue to apply for policy positions, I reached out to a number of people I would consider mentors to explore the paths they and their colleagues followed to get to where they were in their careers. Their opinions and insights helped me to decide on my program at the LSE.
What is your #1 interview tip?
Like any good story, an anecdote you provide during an interview should have a beginning, middle and end. When you get nervous, it’s easy to get lost and start to ramble in the middle of a response. Take a deep breath, then set the scene briefly, explain the process you went through, and wrap up with your contribution or the final result of the effort.
What is your favorite thing to do in New York?
I’m from New York, so I love being near my family and my friends from all stages of life. Most of my favorite memories involve walking and eating with friends - I love the West Side Highway for a good stroll. Being in DC for so long without breakfast carts and a good egg & cheese on a roll was hard too. It’s the little things!