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Columbia Business School - Green Business Club

Solar enthusiast Chris Celio tells us about one of Columbia's professional MBA clubs

Financial journalist turned analyst, Chris Celio, worked in markets as diverse as China and Chile before settling on grad school in New York City. He chose Columbia Business School partly because of recommendations from colleagues at his previous company, Met Life, and partly because he wanted to live in a vibrant city with great food and decent public transport! With an undergrad in International Relations, Chris is sharpening his commercial skills at business school before forging a career in the renewable energy sector. We caught up with Chris in Manhattan last month to hear about his experience as Co-President of Columbia's Green Business Club.

How big is the Green Business Club at Columbia?
We have about 120 members, which is sizaeble but not as big as clubs like Investment Management. Our members are interested in working in the renewable energy sector and we act as a professional (rather than social) club, providing a mixture of education, career support and networking.

What have been your initiatives during your time as President?
We've continued Columbia's 'Cleantech Month' in February, with a series of speakers from companies such as Natel Energy and Borrego Solar Systems, as well as energy experts from the likes of Lazard, Booz & Co and McKinsey's Sustainability practice. Alongside my co-president, Ted Maa, we've also introduced two helpful (and simple!) initiatives. Firstly, a research library stored on Dropbox, containing interesting green business articles and financial models for cleantech financing. Secondly, we've built a resource pack using Google docs with valuable contact details for Columbia alumni and local NYC companies in the renewables sector.

Where are you hoping to work post b-school?
I'd like to work in a solar company, probably in the US. I think it's harder to 'add value' in older energy businesses such as oil and gas, but with solar there's still a lot of growth and innovation. I've been lucky to intern in the New York office of a Chinese solar panel manufacturer, which has given me firsthand experience of the industry and exposure to the two biggest players in the solar market - the Chinese and the Americans.

How important is an MBA for working in the renewables sector?

An MBA is definitely helpful if you want to work on the business side of renewable energy, particularly for someone like me who hadn't worked in this sector previously. I guess a b-school on the West Coast is closer to the action (a friend of mine spent a semester at Berkeley Haas where he noticed a lot more buzz around cleantech). But on the other hand there's more competition for cleantech jobs in California, so maybe New York has worked out better! Recruiters in this sector still seem to be quite regional - so it's important to choose a business school close to some of the green business employers, if this is your chosen career path.

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