Kanak, International Energy

Kanak, International Energy

Mon, 2022-06-13 17:57
  • Actualité Sciences PoActualité Sciences Po

Kanak Gokarn has graduated in International Energy. Coming from India, she is Junior officer in the Sustainable Energy team at the ICLEI World Secretariat in Bonn

What is your role and main responsibilities? 

ICLEI is an international network of local and regional governments committed to sustainability. My primary responsibilities involve mainly project management, in my case for the 100% Renewables Cities and Regions Roadmap project, where I am the focal point for the project work in Kenya. There is some amount of research and writing, as well as general coordination, outreach and communication through more focused initiatives, and webinars and events, as ICLEI is actively involved in facilitating peer exchange and knowledge sharing among cities. 

How did you secure this role? 

ICLEI had always been on my radar but I have to be honest, it was a straightforward process. I applied to the posting online and was later called for an interview and finally given a written assignment. I think my profile, including my previous academic and professional background and my academic experience from PSIA, aligned very well with the role, which needed a broad understanding of the energy sector and technologies, as well as the international climate governance space. Some of my hobbies, including graphic design, helped too!

What is the most fascinating and/or surprising aspect at your role?

I think the most fascinating aspect is how much there is to learn. I really enjoy the variety of tasks I have responsibility for. I have been able to acquire new skills, especially in management which I did not have much experience in prior to this. It is interesting to see how I can bring my own learnings and values to managing, and also how to be flexible and adapt to the many roadblocks you hit on the way. Some skills I have enjoyed continuing to hone, such as writing, and surprisingly graphic design. My colleagues are committed to local sustainable development and so the work environment is quite supportive. Getting a glimpse into the nature of the development sector has been an enlightening experience as well.

How did your PSIA experience help you with the role? 

I think the energy-related coursework in my master’s covered a lot of the information that is relevant to my work. Bringing in that international perspective, understanding that energy is not just about the technical aspect but the social aspect as well and that peoples’ relationship with energy is very context-dependent, all these are things I learnt to appreciate during my time at PSIA. This helps when communicating with different actors and partners. Also as an added benefit, having spent time in France and learning French has helped a lot as some of our work does require some language ability as well.

What advice would you give to others? 

I think during the job hunt I would sometimes get in my own way. So if I can give advice to others, it would be to not let doubt stop you from trying for any kind of opportunity. If you need a visa, if an employer likes you, it is not as big a deal as you would think. If you don’t speak the language of the country fluently, even if you put in a real effort to learn, that can go a long way. If you are unsure about whether you will be able to do a good job, no one expects you to get it perfect immediately and people are more than happy to help out. It helps to realistically assess your skills, be proactive in seeking out help and resources, and be open to learning in order to be able to grow. Other than that, the ‘hidden job market’ is real, and I can say so confidently being on the other side. Networking and even cold e-mails can lead to surprising results!

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