Jenna Koester graduated from UNC in 2014 with a BS degree in Environmental Science. She currently works in the finance department at Strata Solar.
Q: Describe a typical day at your job.
A: “My job is to track the cash flows of the solar farms after they have been placed in service. I make sure the revenues and expenses are in line with what we projected in our model. If they are, great. If they are not, we need to find out why. Each quarter, I distribute the earned revenue to the investors in accordance to the structure of the deal. This requires an in depth understanding of the legal documents–a skill set I picked up when I worked in legal right out of college. I am learning a lot and I look forward to applying this knowledge to a different role.”
Q: What past work experience do you have in clean-tech?
A: “I had a few internships in college that were related to energy/sustainability. I worked in a wind energy lab, which involved a lot of mathematical modeling. It was helpful in clarifying for me that that was not what I wanted to do. I was also the Co-Chair of RESPC at UNC. It is run through student government and manages the $4 student fee, which we spend on renewable energy projects–like the solar panels on the Student Union. That position gave me experience working with higher-ups, so I was more comfortable in my Strata interview.”
Q: What skills did you need to learn that other job-hunters should cultivate?
A: “I realized very quickly in the working world that I lacked the skill set in finance that I wished I had. It doesn’t hurt to take an entry level accounting course as an undergrad! I ended up taking Financial Accounting online this past fall.”
Q: Describe a time you messed up at work or were uncertain of what to do. What happened? How did you handle it? What did you learn?
A: “My first six months on the job were really frustrating because I had no idea what was going on around me. The language was foreign, the conduct of business was foreign, the nature of my work was foreign too. I spent a lot of time googling words that I heard in meetings as I attempted to piece together the world around me. My bosses would assign me smaller jobs that contributed to the process of financing these solar farms and I would complete them to the best of my ability. Often times those tasks took me ten times longer than they should have because I was inefficient and made mistakes that took time to correct. Luckily, my bosses understood that and worked with me as I learned and picked things up. The learning curve is big in any job and I had to learn how to accept constructive criticism with grace. ”
Q: What is the #1 thing you wish you’d known earlier during job-hunting?
A: “I stumbled upon a job that allowed me to learn and grow very quickly into a new, more essential role. It is important to understand that most college grads spend their first year doing a lot of low skill grunt work that feels “beneath” them. This is okay as long as there is upward mobility. Make sure you understand what the trajectory is for you at a company before you sign on.
Working at a small company also has it’s benefits. I started out in legal. Being a part of that team, you were either a lawyer or you weren’t, so that put a cap on my position. So I moved to finance. I was able to do this lateral transfer because I work at a smaller company.”