Rachael Moore, Consultant at the World Bank
What is your job?
I wear two hats currently. I am a Senior Energy Consultant at the World Bank. In this role, I internally support their work on industrial decarbonization and CCUS. It is interesting and dynamic work, but has some limitations. Consultants cannot represent the World Bank externally and the role is also not full time. My second hat is as an independent consultant—I am in the process of setting up my own company to allow me to work with clients on industrial decarbonization and carbon capture, utilization, and storage.
How did you get your job?
From 2014-2019, I was a PhD student and then a post-doc researching what happens when CO2 is injected into basalts at low temperatures. Sometime in 2018, I realized I was interested in implementing decarbonization solutions rather researching new technologies and processes. So, in 2019, I joined ARTTIC, an innovation consultancy, where I worked with energy sector clients to develop strategies to access European innovation funding. While I enjoyed the policy and project management aspects of the role, but it was not analytical enough for me. So, in 2021, I joined the International Energy Agency (IEA) as their CO2 storage subject matter expert. In addition to writing the IEA CCUS Handbook “CO2 Storage Resources and Their Development”, I worked on CCUS business models, policies, investment, and capacity development. A major highlight was working with the Office of the Vice President of Nigeria to develop a multi-year work program for CCUS capacity development. Based on that work program, Nigeria was able engage the World Bank CCS Trust Fund to implement some of the defined activities. The collaboration between the IEA, the World Bank Group, and the Nigerian Government, resulted in significant progress on developing CCUS capacity in Nigeria since 2021. Working at the IEA really broadened my horizons and I definitely could have stayed there longer. However, when I learned that the World Bank was looking for a new consultant on CCUS, I decided to take the leap because I wanted to dive deeper into implementation.
Did you initially plan on this career at the onset of your PhD?
When I started my PhD I was convinced I wanted a career in research. I definitely was not thinking about the energy sector or working in policy. This is my third job since I left academia, each time I have changed to learn new skills and continue to grow in an exciting profession direction. For example, today, I am learning the mechanisms behind multilateral development finance and working extensively with low- and middle-income countries. I expect my career will keep evolving, but that works for me and keeps things interesting.
What helped you to be aware of the alternative career paths to academia?
It actually came down to chance. Summer of 2018, I took a multi-week French class and a classmate was the head of an IEA Division. We discussed the energy sector and early-career opportunities for geoscientists. Our discussions convinced me to pursue a career in energy, and here I am 5 years later. More practically, I found LinkedIn is a great place to search for jobs outside of academia!
What skills acquired during your academic experience are the most valuable for you today? What are the new skills you learnt in your current job?
The science expertise gained during my PhD is clearly a great asset, but my ability to write successful grants and to critically review information are probably the most valuable skills I learned. I have applied these two skills extensively in my roles at ARTTIC, the IEA, and now today at the World Bank. In all my roles I have needed to distill huge amounts of information into clear and concise summaries, that is not so different from writing a grant.
Would you have wished to have a special training during your time in academia to be more ready for your career today?
French language classes were very important for my recruiting process in France. However, my PhD required a lot of travel which made it complicated to learn the language in a systematic way. Additionally, I wish I had learned more about statistics, I have picked up many of the basics, but more instruction during my PhD would have really helped me with a lot of my work.
What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?
What I am enjoying most is being at the nexus of innovation, policy and implementation. Today, there is significant momentum growing behind energy transition. It is a really exciting to be part of it and to translate the technical aspects of projects and technologies into digestible and clear messages and actions for policy makers.
What advice do you have for PhD student/academic staff who is thinking of leaving academia?
I’m clearly biased, but come to the energy sector! Opportunities for geoscientists are exploding given that energy transitions need huge volumes of critical minerals, more geothermal, CCUS, etc. That said, a big advantage we have as geoscientists is that we are well practiced in cross disciplinary thinking and multidisciplinary work. Our work is also very applied. Personally, I lost sight of that when I was first applying for jobs outside of academia. Initially I tried to sell my very niche and specific expertise, rather my substantial skills in managing projects, synthesizing and translating technical information, and solving problems. When leaving academia, I recommend individuals present their geoscience expertise as value added, but unless it is key to the role it should not be the focus. Rather than focusing on WHAT you did, focus on HOW you did it. As part of that, be sure to have a succinct and clear CV.
Interview conducted by Thaïs Couasnon (EAG Communications Committee)