Please tell us about yourself
Rohan Patel is on a mission to help build a world that runs on clean energy. The former Senior Advisor for Climate and Energy Policy during the Obama administration, Patel now serves as the Director of Policy and Business Development, North America, for Tesla. Throughout his career, he has maintained a focus on the people and issues that fuel his motivation to help him press onward through the challenges toward progress.
“Everybody on our planet is impacted in some form or fashion by the generation, storage transmission, distribution, and use of dirty energy,” explains Patel. “So many public health issues arise from the way that we use energy today. So it’s motivating to know that every little thing that we do in this sustainable energy profession is helping have both an immediate impact on the most vulnerable populations in our country . . . and also in the longer term having an impact on our planet as a whole.”
What did you study? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
A graduate of Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, the one-time music performance major and pre-med student did not expect to find himself where he is today. However, he greeted life with open arms, met his wife at Northwestern, and built the foundation to excel when opportunity called. “I think the relationships I developed at Northwestern, the ability to focus and study and be challenged has been really important ever since,” he says.
“It’s motivating to know that every little thing that we do in this sustainable energy profession is helping have both an immediate impact on the most vulnerable populations in our country . . . and also in the longer term having an impact on our planet as a whole.”— Rohan Patel (BSM ’03), Director of Policy and Business Development for North America at Tesla
By working with organizations that have shared both his drive and goals, he has found inspiration and fulfillment. During his tenure at the White House, Patel experienced firsthand the competing priorities and people that converge in such a dynamic setting. He contributed to work with issues around clean power plants, ocean policy, and more to further the administration’s effect on the environment, wildlife, clean energy, and sustainable transport. “It was really humbling to be a part of it,” he reflects.
Tell us about your work
At Tesla, Patel furthers policies that advance the company’s three focus areas: generating clean energy through solar panels, storing energy at utility and residential scale, and delivering zero emission vehicles. As such, he says 100 percent of his job is about sustainable energy. “I get a chance to work on the policies that further advance and accelerate the deployment of sustainable products,” he explains. Patel admires the culture of his workplace, where he says employees are aligned around the mission of the company itself. He credits this culture with creating a similar bond and source of motivation to the one he experienced in the White House. He is also energized by the opportunity to contribute to Tesla, a company that he says is centered around the goal of accelerating the transition to sustainable energy.
Your advice to students?
Although he admires those who set out on a clear career path early in life, he has advice for those who feel similar uncertainty as he did when he first set out to contribute to a presidential campaign in his home state of Indiana. “If you’re not sure, keep an open mind and realize that if you’re willing to work hard, opportunities are going to come your way. You can make a big impact in places you never thought possible,” says Patel.