Cool corporate career paths for green MBA grads

Getting a big career break has never been easy. But if you’re a recent graduate armed with a green MBA, you just might have a leg up in landing a cutting-edge job.

Back in 2008, GreenBiz featured several business schools that had developed MBA degrees with a green focus.

Since then, as corporate sustainability careers have grown into legitimate career paths, companies and managers have begun framing the jobs and identifying responsibilities that go with the positions. Many of these new jobs are one-of-a-kind offerings that play an important role in guiding company sustainability efforts.

From corporate careers to nonprofits to public service, the yellow brick road is really diverse for green MBA graduates.

Greenbiz spoke with several executives firmly entrenched in sustainability careers about where they went to business school, what kind of jobs they landed after graduate school and how their careers took shape.

Elizabeth Uhlhorn

Graduated: 2010 with a dual degree, an MBA and an M.S. in environmental science
College: University of Michigan, Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise (degrees awarded by Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources & Environment)
Her big break: Became a finance manager with Dow Kokam, a Dow Chemicals joint-venture that manufactures lithium-ion batteries in Midland, Mich., where I was responsible for economic analysis of new business, determining the tracking cost structure and carrying out competitive analyses.
How her green career evolved: I also worked on some sustainability projects, such as researching battery recycling programs and working on a life cycle analysis of our manufacturing process that pinpointed areas where we could reduce our environmental footprint.
Current job: Associate finance manager at Dow Chemicals with the Dow Advanced Materials Division (which includes the water solutions and solar divisions).
Job responsibilities: I currently work across the division on developing methodology to evaluate new innovation. My career in sustainability has evolved, in that I am involved in a much broader range of technologies and sustainability innovation across a number of businesses. Additionally, I have become more involved in our corporate sustainability efforts, including employee engagement and education around how various functions (such as finance) can be engaged in Dow's sustainability efforts.  

John Renehan

Graduated: 2007 with an MBA focused on sustainable global enterprise
College: Cornell University, S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management
His big break: Joined General Electric as part of its renewable energy leadership program and rotated through different divisions
Job responsibilities: Wind operations manager at GE Energy
How his green career evolved: Became the solar product line manager, then the commercial operations manager and later the European solar developments manager at GE Energy.
Current Job: Renewables strategy leader at GE Energy

Alex Keros

Graduated: 2006 with an MBA
College: University of Michigan, Ross School of Business & Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise
His big break: Recruited by General Motors as a senior project engineer, I took the project lead for the launch of hydrogen infrastructure for fuel-cell vehicles in Los Angeles
How his green career evolved: I have expanded my responsibilities for infrastructure commercialization for all of GM's advanced technologies on the West Coast, like the Chevy Volt, Spark BEV and Equinox Fuel Cell.
Current job: Manager and senior prohect engineer at General Motors
Job Responsibilities: All commercialization project management and coordination activities with our external partners/stakeholders, as well as ensuring that the infrastructure positively impacts our early adopter customers' experience.

Raghu Dharmaraju

Graduated: 2007 with an MBA focused on sustainable global enterprise
College: Cornell University, S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management
His big break: Landed a job as an assistant product line manager for Corning Environmental Technologies in Corning, N.Y. I was recruited on the strength of my MBA projects and consulting work, including a consulting stint with GE ecomagination leadership on market entry strategies for solar and water businesses in India. At Corning, I managed a global portfolio of products with roughly $35 million a year in revenues. I led key strategy projects and established new processes for the relatively new business unit in addition to coordinating production validations to start servicing $1 billion worth of supply contracts.
How his green career evolved: Moved on to a solar startup as the vice president of marketing at Duron Energy, where -- as the president's right-hand man -- I helped grow Duron from 10 employees to an 80-member team. I took on additional responsibilities spanning product financing, sales, hiring, training and service. It was an incredible learning experience building a bottom-of-the-pyramid business from the ground up in the remotest corners of India. [I'm] proud to have built Duron into a market leadership position in the areas it operated in.
Current job: Vice president of sales at Embrace Global, a social enterprise that aims to provide every newborn an equal chance at a healthy life via its award-winning, affordable infant warmer. Our goal is to bring quality healthcare within the reach of the poorest.