Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Environmental and Natural Resources Law Graduate Program Alums Danny Splettstosser and Leslie Weise Speak About Careers in Renewables and Clean Tech

Two recent graduates, Danny Splettstosser (Masters in Resources Law Studies, 2008) and Leslie Weise (LLM, 2005), spoke last week about careers in the renewable energy and clean technology sectors to a large group of students at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. The event was the second in the on-going Speakers Series, sponsored by the Environmental and Natural Resources Law program.

Mr. Splettstosser is a renewable energy project developer for enXco, the American subsidiary of French electricity giant EDF. Ms. Weise is vice president for business development for Boulder-based clean tech firm CoolEnergy.

There are three career tracks available to individuals looking to work in the renewables industry, Mr. Splettstosser said: (1) inside or outside legal counsel; (2) legislative or regulatory specialist; or (3) project development, which is the track he is in. The project development role requires someone who can "see the big picture, is detail oriented, and is willing to work long hours," he said. One of the most satisfying aspects of his job is knowing that "At the end of the day there is something standing [a wind turbine or a solar array] that reflects your social and work ethic," he said.

He identified four key steps that students who are interested in this sector should be thinking about:
  • Take the College of Law courses that address subjects such as renewables [DU now has three exceptionally good renewable energy-related courses], as well as Land Use and Environmental Law.
  • Understand the sector you are considering; read the publications that deal with the sector and be knowledgeable about the business issues companies and developers are facing.
  • Take advantage of the numerous externship opportunities offered by the College of Law (he had an externship at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Golden field office, which works with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that is also in Golden).
  • Be passionate about working in the field and express that passion to those you interview with.
Ms. Weise, who works on legal matters and business development including seeking grant funds, noted some additional ideas regarding how to pursue work in the clean tech sector:
  • Networking is extremely important; get involved in the many diverse industry and social groups (for example the local branch of the Sierra Club) that meet regularly in the Denver-Boulder area; get to know the key players in these groups.
  • Be prepared at the interview; spend time at the company's website and know who the competitors are as well as what is going on in the market.
  • When interviewing with a start up company, be prepared to emphasize your cross functional skills (which you should work on during your education); be prepared to talk about your marketing, writing, research and grant-writing skills, as well as your legal skills.
Ms. Weise also emphasized the importance of pursuing externships during a student's studies. As it turns out, she also was an extern at the U.S. DOE Golden field office.

The event was rounded out by a series of questions and answers, as students sought more detailed information from the guest speakers. Introductions were also made to two professors who attended, Energy Law Professor K.K. DuVivier and Adjunct Professor Anita Halvorssen who teaches courses about Climate Change and Sustainable Development.

Don C. Smith, director of the ENRL program observed afterwards that the College of Law is fortunate to have graduates such as Mr. Splettstosser and Ms. Weise, and many others, who are so willing to help current students understand the key aspects of looking for jobs and pursuing them. "Danny and Leslie have been particularly supportive of our program. The time and energy they invest in helping our students reflects their own passion to the sectors they work in and their own personal commitments to building a better world for future generations."

The Speakers Series continues on November 9 when Kate Iverson, assistant general counsel for RTD Fastracks, which is building out Denver's light rail system, speaks.

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