Renewable energy holds the key to our future energy needs. But as much as the focus is on underlying technologies it also requires big picture thinking to create an ecosystem of suppliers, partners, customers, solution providers and policy makers to deliver Renewable Energy at scale. 

Our next pathbreaker, Shailesh Telang, talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy  from The Interview Portal about how his passion for the Environment drove him to take up diverse roles in Environmental Management as an Editor, Consultant, Project Manager and his current role in sourcing of Clean Energy for corporate customers. Read on to know more about his work…

Shailesh, tell us about your background?

I belong originally from a rural area and grew up in a small village in Nagpur district, Maharashtra (India). I studied at a local Marathi medium school till 10th standard and then opted for Science stream for 12th (junior college). 

Since my childhood I always liked applications of science in the real world. I’ve participated in district and state level science exhibitions and have won many prizes during my school days. I started developing an interest in reading books from class 5. My school had a tiny library where I found myself most of the time during a typical school day. I have always had an interest in reading science fiction and history books. I also used to play badminton. However, because of less options in my school (as I was studying in a small village), I couldn’t find too many opportunities in sports.  

My parents have shaped my childhood in a very happy environment and in close proximity with nature. My father used to work with Irrigation Department, Government of Maharashtra, so I got the opportunity to see the mega dam construction project since we lived near the construction site (in government colony).  I’ve closely seen environmental and social issues associated with the dam construction, which further helped me develop interest in areas of environmental science and management. 

What did you do for graduation/post-graduation?

I graduated from the Institute of Science, Nagpur (India), which is a renowned institution in my state. I love science and its inter-relationships with the community, so it was natural to take up basic science subjects Chemistry, Botany & Zoology for my graduation studies. Further, I did my post-graduation in Environment Management from Forest Research Institute (FRI) University Dehradun to pursue my interest in the subject. 

How did you get your first break? 

There was an announcement of a vacancy in my college alumni group, where I applied and participated in the recruitment process, and finally got my first job offer. However, I prepared myself in the final year of my post-graduation through two internships.  I worked with Geo-Environment Management division at National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur for two months soon after the end of second semester (summer internship) and then worked with Emergent Ventures International (EVI), a leading Renewable Energy and Sustainability consulting firm in Gurugram for 4 months in the final semester.  My association with EVI helped me learn technical aspects of environmental consulting. Those 4 months of experience played a significant role in landing my first job.   

Tell us about your career path

I took a lot of time to decide on my interests and the career opportunities that could link my interest with various career options. I kept myself updated about the job market via relevant magazines and social media platforms like LinkedIn as well as interacting with college seniors.  

During my post-graduation at FRI, Dehradun, I realized that there was an enormous requirement for industry focused information on environment, climate change, energy and other relevant fields. After conducting a bit of market research, I found that there were very few media platforms providing information in these areas. Some of the information in public domain was not credible and hence there was a chance of false interpretation by users of such information. Considering this situation, I along with my batch mate designed and developed a dedicated web portal named Green Clean Guide (www.greencleanguide.com ) that specifically caters to such information in public domain (thanks to the 3 months part-time course on ‘Web Designing’ which I did in Government Polytechnic, Nagpur which helped me develop the website). At GreenCleanGuide.com, we work hard to gather scientific and policy level information on environment and energy domains and publish the same using the power of internet. Having studied and working in the same field, I am able to analyse such information and produce a credible outcome.  One of the ways to stay tuned with the subject is to read and write about it. I found blogging as a good way to learn new things and communicate to the world about it in a sophisticated way. My blogging experience was a discussion point for a considerable time with the interviewer in my first job interview (for my first job).  

I’ve also volunteered for Institute for Conscious Global Change and worked as a Researcher on Millennium Development Goal # 7 “Ensure Environmental Sustainability” as part of the overall work on the Millennium Earth Project: A Visual Framework for Sustainable Development. I’ve compiled a set of leading questions at the end of investigative research on Haiti, the first of three countries to be used as prototypes. The questions served to give greater insight into the environmental issues facing Haiti with recommendations for change (Please read more on Millennium Earth Project here http://consciousglobalchange.org/?page_id=7 ).

I then worked with Agneya Carbon Ventures Private Limited (now Sunshot Technologies Private Limited) between 2010 to 2015.  It was my first job which provided me a first-hand experience of sustainability consulting and renewable energy project management along with a lot of memories to cherish.  Agneya Carbon Ventures provided focused management consulting in the fields of renewable energy, carbon advisory, sustainability strategy and reporting. The company was founded by Indrajeet Dudile, Kedar Deshpande, Anshumaan Bhatnagar, and Rahul Dasari. While Kedar is from IIM Bangalore, the rest of founders are IIM Ahmedabad alumni. All the founders helped me grow and are still my mentors. 

As a part of the team, I worked on first-in-sector projects in sustainability consulting and renewable energy project management, across real estate, infrastructure, pharmaceutical and process sectors. Most of the work involved helping clients to measure their environmental impacts and prepare a plan to mitigate it (which should also make economic sense such as adoption of cost effective low-carbon energy solutions). We handled renewable energy projects right from feasibility study to project management.  The company stopped its advisory business in 2014 and became a full-fledged Solar EPC (Energy, Procurement & Construction) company looking at perspective growth in the sector and plans for future expansion. I’ve joined as Associate Consultant where I have provided advisory services to large corporate clients on their sustainability journey. Further, I got promoted as Manager Projects to take up company’s newly launched renewable energy project management service. We had a very good team which provided me support to learn engineering aspects of the renewable energy project.  I still remember, one of the directors used to teach me electrical engineering so that I can prepare myself for actual project delivery. I worked as a first employee with the company which is now over 100 people organization. 

Further, I got influenced by the work CDP is doing. CDP operates global environmental reporting systems and helps focus investors, companies and cities on taking urgent action to build a truly sustainable economy by measuring and understanding environmental impact. CDP is also part of the RE100- a global renewable energy initiative which attracted me further as I had gathered significant work experience by that time in the field of renewable energy. I discussed my interest with my employer and joined CDP in 2015.  

What were the challenges? How did u address them?

Challenge 1: Language (English communication skills) was the biggest barrier since I studied in Marathi medium till 10th standard. I got a friend in my post-graduation who was (and still) pursuing his interest in writing.  He helped me overcome my fear of language. He is the one who encouraged me to take English language classes, which I eventually ended up taking. A month of hard work (in classes) and series of conversations with my friend (who used to plan it in such a way that I can get more confidence) helped me get a good command of the language. I am still learning! 

Challenge 2: Less exposure. Being from the rural area, I didn’t get proper exposure to the outside world. However, I got good exposure during my graduation and post-graduation days in Nagpur and Dehradun. 

Challenge 3: Lack of access to the right information at the right time. I used internet to bridge this gap when shifted to the city during my graduation.  

Where do you work now?

I work for CDP Worldwide on an initiative (RE100) that brings together major companies committed to sourcing 100% renewable electricity and setting the bar for corporate leadership on renewable electricity sourcing, holding committed companies to account, and celebrating their achievements to encourage others to follow.  I mainly help them to source renewable electricity globally in credible manner. The skills needed are Project Management, Technical expertise of renewable energy markets and sustainability reporting standards, data analytics, reporting and client interaction. 

The work I am doing is increasing the uptake of more and more renewable energy by corporations globally, and thus results in reduction of associated greenhouse gas emissions, so lowering the power grid emission factor. 

How does your work benefit the society? 

My work is helping the world mitigate the worst effects of climate change via increasing the uptake of renewable energy and thus reducing emissions. New renewable energy projects bring cleaner energy to the people, create new jobs and help reduce air pollution.

Tell us an example of a specific work you did that is very close to you!

With my previous employer, I was appointed as project manager for an industrial rooftop solar project at Pune on Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) Model.  As part of the team I was responsible for various project stages including Technical, Financial and Regulatory feasibility assessment to assisting in the preparation of legal documents like Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and managing on the ground execution of the project with the help of EPC contractor. This assignment helped me to learn real-time project management skills. The project generates around 0.6 million units per year which in turn reducing around 550 tonnes CO2 annually (so good for the environment).

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Just be focused, read a lot, keep your eyes on new developments (in the subject you like), create your professional network and get mentoring from them, be healthy and pursue your dreams rather than pursuing the career (or find a career that help you pursue your dreams).