Lara Gutierrez Santander, MSc Climate Change, Management & Finance, student at Imperial College Business School
Programme:
MSc Climate Change, Management & Finance
Nationality:
Colombian
University and subject studied for undergraduate degree:

Environmental Engineering, Universidad de los Andes

Company and role secured after programme:

Work placement, Trium Capital – ESG Emissions Fund

MSc Climate Change, Management & Finance 2020-21

About you

What work experience/internships did you have before beginning with Imperial College Business School?

I worked for three years as part of the sustainability department of OPAIN S.A, the concessionaire in charge of the construction and operation of Colombia’s main international airport. I supported the development of the sustainability strategy and led the airport’s participation in the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, the international industry-wide standard to decarbonise the airport sector. I also participated in several projects to measure and mitigate environmental and social impacts of airport operations and supervised the environmental compliance of the airport’s fuel supply system. Before that I had the opportunity to volunteer in forest and marine conservation research projects in Madagascar.

Why did you decide to study MSc Climate Change, Management & Finance at Imperial College Business School?

I wanted to complement the technical and scientific knowledge that I gained in my environmental engineering degree with additional management and corporate finance skills. This will enable me to be successful at showing businesses how addressing their climate-related risks and opportunities could mean a competitive advantage for them, as well as allocating the financial resources that are necessary to transition to a low carbon economy.

While it was mainly the programme that attracted me, Imperial is of course a world-renowned university, and the links to the Grantham Institute and their work on the latest developments in climate science and policy were another big plus.

Programme

What aspects of the programme do you most enjoy the most?

I really enjoy that it is not just purely an academic programme, in the sense that there are opportunities to engage with business leaders in the sustainability field, as well as academics at the forefront of research in their areas. Most of the coursework is highly applicable to what one would do in a real job. There is a focus on the real world.

Which has been your favourite module so far and why?

I have really liked Mitigating Climate Change for its detailed view of the diverse challenges and nuances of climate change mitigation. It really makes you think about the future and the challenges ahead. It also looks at the different tools available to meet these challenges. It is taught by Dr Joeri Rogelj, who has been the lead author for several IPCC reports and has been recently included by Reuters in their list of the world’s top climate scientists.

What has been the most rewarding part of the programme?

Being able to study for a whole year a topic that I am so passionate about. Every module has been chosen to make the programme extremely interesting and tailored to the skillset that businesses and policymakers are demanding to tackle the climate crisis. It has also been amazing to engage with such a diverse and multidisciplinary cohort; there are many nationalities and everyone has different areas of expertise which triggers very interesting debates and allows us to analyse topics from very different perspectives. It is amazing how much I have been able to learn from my cohort.

What has been the most challenging part of the programme?

I have found it academically challenging, particularly as I had never studied a degree in something other than my native language. But the challenging parts are where I have learned the most. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by this especially during exams where you have limited time. However, Imperial has a huge international community and the Business School has developed several tools to support us, such as Careers’ one-to-one appointments.

How have you found the multi-mode teaching delivery?

It has been new for everyone and difficult to get used to, particularly at the start of the programme. Of course, there are not the same physical social interactions as before the restrictions, but there are advantages as well, such as having a library of lectures and online classes to review. This has also motivated lecturers to innovate in the way they deliver their lectures. Some of them have come up with very cool ideas! However, I would definitely encourage people to come to London: being able to interact with your cohort, even if it is in a more controlled environment is an invaluable part of the experience.

People

How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?

Diverse, collaborative, skilled and passionate. I think the nature of the challenge that the programme is preparing us to meet means that the cohort is really engaged in what we learn. Coursework is a pleasure in this context because most people are 100% invested in what they are doing which really translates into the quality of what they do. I have also made some lifelong friendships. Some of them have been exclusively built online!

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?

It is very difficult to choose just one because they are all excellent, but if I had to choose, I would pick Dr Jeffrey Hardy who teaches Energy Business & Strategy. His lectures were energetic, interactive and clear. In addition, he has a lot of experience in the UK electricity system which is an area in which I was very interested but did not know much about. He was also constantly looking for ways to incorporate our feedback into his lecture and he assigned us very interesting coursework in which we had to design an investment strategy for an airline in the context of falling oil prices.

Opportunities

What has been the greatest opportunity you have had at Imperial?

The greatest opportunity has been being able to be part of a global network of professionals that will probably end up holding leadership positions around the world and will be contributing towards the transition to a low-carbon economy. This programme has opened innumerable doors for me and I’m sure that it will continue to do so in the future.

Which workshops, events or guest lectures at the school have been useful in developing your skills and knowledge?

All the Thursday guest speakers were amazing. These sessions helped widen my view of potential career paths that I could take, particularly the potential for a move into impact investment, which I will be exploring during my summer internship. Most of our lecturers also bring guest lecturers to go deeper into specific areas of each module. I particularly enjoyed the lectures delivered by Daniel Klier, Global Head of Sustainable Finance at HSBC. He gave us some very interesting insights about the challenges and opportunities of embedding sustainability in the core of a business.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the team of Climate X Change, a student-led initiative that has organised several guest talks that touch upon additional topics that our lectures don’t cover. Topics have ranged from the most technical bits of carbon capture and storage to the role of rare-earth metals in decarbonising the economy. They have done an excellent job and I would really recommend that future cohorts take it forward.

What clubs, societies or other activities have you been involved in at Imperial?

I am a member of the Energy & Sustainability Club which has organised several workshops and guest lectures which have complemented the programme with additional knowledge and has provided us with access to many industry leaders. Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop on carbon accounting for investment portfolios which was very interesting and useful. In addition, we had the chance to listen to John MacArthur, Vice President Group Carbon at Shell talk about the company’s recent net-zero emissions commitment.

Have you had opportunities to work/socialise with students across programmes within the Business School?

It hasn’t been easy this year with the lockdowns, but the university has created activities such as #CoffeeConnect, a good initiative to meet new people from other programmes. Next weekend I will also go on a Darkest Victorian London private tour as a part of the #LondonCalling tour pilot that the Business School is developing. I am really looking forward to it!

Career

What are your future career goals and how have they been realised since being at Imperial?

I would like to continue working towards making the transport sector more sustainable. I am a big fan of aviation and I recognise the immense benefits that it has brought to our society, but it needs to become low-carbon as it grows rapidly in emerging economies. This programme has opened my eyes to the range of tools that are being developed precisely to tackle challenges such as this and shown me numerous options for how I can lead the change in future.

Have you received any job offers since commencing your programme?

I have accepted a work placement this summer with a sustainable investing fund called Trium Capital that seeks investment opportunities in sectors that are difficult to decarbonise. I will be working on a project about the European airline sector, which is exciting because it will be the perfect opportunity to combine my previous experience with the knowledge gained in this course. I am also participating in several application processes for long-term positions.

How did the services from Careers help you secure employment/in your professional development?

Labour markets are different in every country. The services helped me translate what I had done previously into UK terms, so that it was relevant to potential employers. They also helped me strengthen my interview skills, through one-to-one appointments. They have recently acquired an AI-based tool that allows you to record yourself while doing the interview and gives you feedback based on your speech speed, tone, and body language. I found it very useful.

London Location

Do you think studying in a central location such as London is beneficial for networking and career opportunities?

London is becoming one of the strongest centres of expertise in sustainability, climate change and green finance and there are lots of opportunities which are far easier to access through the university network. The network also gave me various ideas for related career paths that I never would have thought of on my own.

Where do you live in London and why did you choose to live there?

I live outside London, in Sussex. It’s a pretty easy journey into London and I have a lot more space and nature, which has been important during the lockdown. I probably have the longest commute out of everyone in my cohort, but it is only one hour which I don’t think is too bad. Since it is on the train I can just take my laptop out and do some work or enjoy the view of the British countryside.

When you’re not studying, what do you enjoy doing?

Coming from Colombia, which is the second most biodiverse country in the world, I am a big fan of wildlife, so I spend most of my free time walking in the countryside looking for birds and weird animals, I think that by now I am already able to recognise the songs of most common British birds! I also enjoy cycling and basically anything that can be done outdoors.

If you had to move to London for the programme, what have been the benefits and challenges of moving to London?

I think the challenges this year were unique because of the pandemic and all the restrictions on flights, getting visas and so on. Once I got through those, being in the same place and the same time zone as my cohort made coordination a lot easier, for formal group work and just bouncing ideas off people.

Tips

Looking back to when you were applying for the programme, did you attend any online webinars or on-campus information sessions?

I went to an alumni showcase event in Bogotá, which provided all the information I needed about the programme and the application process. I also spoke to people from my own educational system about how they translated what they had done into the UK context, which was invaluable. Definitely attend an event like this if you can.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about applying for the programme?

Do it. The world increasingly needs professionals with the skillset that this programme provides. Don’t let the subject of your undergraduate degree be a limitation. There are probably many transferable skills that you acquired in your previous degrees and experiences that can be applied in this field. Tackling climate change will require people from diverse study and professional backgrounds. Climate change is not just an exclusively environmental issue anymore.

Interested in applying for a scholarship to this programme?

Programme:
MSc Climate Change, Management & Finance
Nationality:
Colombian
University and subject studied for undergraduate degree:

Environmental Engineering, Universidad de los Andes

Company and role secured after programme:

Work placement, Trium Capital – ESG Emissions Fund