Green MBA Transitioning From Psychology to Sustainability: Meet Nils Moe, Sustainability Advisor, Mayor’s Office, City of Berkeley

Filed under: 1sdn,Green Career Transitions | |

Nils Moe Climate Change BerkeleyAs part of our Green MBA Success Series, I am interviewing Green MBA graduates to uncover what steps they took to transition to green careers using their degrees. Meet Nils Moe, Sustainability and Climate Change Advisor for the Mayor’s Office in the City of Berkeley. Prior to transitioning to a career in climate change from a career in the non-profit sector promoting social change and managing consulting specializing in industrial psychology. Don’t forget to check out our entire Green MBA Success Series and our Green MBA Directory.

by Tracey de Morsella, Green Economy Post. Tracey is the co-editor of The Green Executive Recruiter Directory. Follow Tracey on Twitter @greeneconpost

Nil Moe’s career started in the private sector where he worked for the 3D Group as a management consultant, specializing in program evaluation of non-profits and 360–degree feedback for Fortune 100 companies. His clients included Home Depot, The Federal Reserve Bank, United Airlines, Sears, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

After four years working in the for-profit areas, Nils jumps into the non-profit social change areas and founded Pinch Me Films (PMF, Inc.), a non-profit multimedia organization dedicated to promoting social change through documentary films, video, web content, and multimedia education programs. At PMF, Nils oversaw the design, implementation, and evaluation of art-based educational programs and materials for youth. During that time he also co-founded, Senior Surf Computer Education, a non-profit enterprise with the goal of narrowing the increasing digital divide resulting from the senior community’s lack of exposure and affordable access to computer technology..

Throughout his career Nils has been an educator. Nils has taught at the American Center in Aix-en-Provence, France and currently holds a permanent lecturer position at San Francisco State University where he has taught in the Psychology Department for over a decade. He has taught both continuing education students and undergraduates in courses including Human Motivation, Training and Evaluation, Psychology of Work and Stress and Scientific Research Methods. As a, adjunct professor at the Presidio Graduate School, he teaches two courses: Effective Management, Communication & Action and Sustainable Urban Development Economics & Policy.

Nils Moe now serves as the Mayor’s Sustainability Advisor for the City of Berkeley. In this role, he is helping to implement Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan and working with the city staff and the community to reduce their GHG emissions. Nils’ current position grew from a Presidio class project in which his team created a financial model for Berkeley’s innovative solar financing program, which has since become a national model of renewable energy financing (PACE).

Nils is currently a member of the East Bay Green Corridor’s Innovative Policy Committee. The Innovative Policy Committee- considers “cutting edge” climate protection/sustainability policies and approaches for EBGC region with economic development overlay. Examines “best practices” models, standards, incentives and regulations to be applied throughout the region, and state-of-the art strategies to reduce energy consumption. Coordinates with Business Development Committee to support the growth of small green businesses in the Corridor through policy initiatives. He is also a steering committee member of the Bay Area Climate Collaborative. The group works to accelerate the clean energy economy and response to climate change.

Most recently, Nils participated in the Garrett Institute’s Symposium on Behavior Change, a United Kingdom Climate and Behavior Change delegation, and was selected by the Heinrich Boll Foundation as one of five US representatives to meet with environmental leaders across Europe. He is currently co-chair for the National Public Engagement Sub-committee for the Urban Sustainability Director’s Network and faculty for the Institute for Sustainability Communities’ inaugural China Climate Leadership Academy Faculty 2010-2012.

Read my interview with Nils Moe below.

Name: Nils Moe
Company: Mayor’s Office, City of Berkeley
Title: Sustainability Advisor

1. What are the key responsibilities of your job I serve as the Mayor’s Sustainability Advisor for the City of Berkeley. In this role, I help to implement Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan and work with the city staff and the community to reduce their GHG emissions. I work with our “green team” on implementing our short and medium term sustainability projects and also help draft environmental policy that set the stage for our long term climate action goals. In doing so, I get to collaborate with our incredible city staff, innovators from the private sector and thought leaders from NGO’s and our local national laboratory and universities.

2. What do you enjoy most about your job? In my role I am a climate generalist. I get to work on a staggering variety of sustainability projects – from planning our city’s electric vehicle infrastructure, or expanding our use of renewable energy, to working on our Municipal zero waste goals and many more. I also have the luxury of working for a Mayor who is truly a visionary in this realm. With over 30 years of public service experience, Mayor Bates has made the environment one of his true legacies. In our current political climate, I feel that cities are at the heart of sustainable innovation. Through my work and under the Mayor’s leadership, I feel like we are making significant positive impacts at the local, regional and even national levels.

3. Can you think of one project that really stands out as having a big impact on you? If so please describe it and explain why it had such a dramatic affect on you. When I first started in my role over three years ago, I worked on the very early stages of what was then called Berkeley FIRST, which is now known nationally as PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy). Although the program has stalled due to some national politicking, the program will eventually revolutionize the way that people finance renewable energy and energy efficiency. It has also changed how people approach financing green programs from a public/private partnership perspective.

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4. What, if any additional certifications, training, degrees do you have that have helped you in your obtaining a position in the sustainability/green section? I have a BA in Environmental Science from McGill University, an MS in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from San Francisco State University, and an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School.

5. Why did you decide to make a career change into sustainability? I have always sought employment that allowed me to make a positive impact. Although this has consistently been a part of who I am, the birth of my daughter (Olivia) further solidified this ideal. For a very long time, however, I siloed my interests in psychology (working as a management consultant) and my passion for the environment (volunteering and working for various non-profits). My MBA in sustainable management and my subsequent role as the Mayor’s advisor has allowed me to integrate these two passions into a cohesive role – engaging the community around sustainability. I feel very lucky.

6. What steps did you take that were the most effective in helping you make the transition to a career in sustainability? My graduate school internships and class projects have always had the most sway on my career decisions. I made a conscious decision to choose from a variety of projects while working with a diverse array of clients. In doing this, I was able to get a broad base of experience while making a lot of contacts. It’s also important to keep your finger on the pulse of this fast changing industry by attending the myriad networking events and conferences in the Bay Area.

7. What are your long term career goals? I want to continue acting as a change agent in some form. My current obsession is around the concept of climate change and behavior change. We will not reach our ambitious climate action goals if we can not empower people to make some important lifestyle changes. I hope to continue to work in this area that mixes concepts from behavioral economics, neuro and cognitive sciences and climate science.

8. Please share any additional thoughts that you feel might be helpful to someone seeking to make this type of career transition? At the moment, this is a very dynamic field with many entry points. For me, my Presidio MBA was a great transition moment as it helped give me the skill set that allows me to make the business case for sustainability. The City of Berkeley is a great example, in that we are environmentally progressive but also have one of the best bond ratings in the nation. Having said this, you can access this field from the position you are currently in (even if your company is not traditionally considered green). The goal is to approach solutions from a systemic perspective and in doing so, show the multiple benefits of your sustainability initiatives. I would also add that it is very important to make sure you are having fun in what you are doing!

Connect with Nils Moe on Linkedin or follow Nils on Twitter @nilsmoe.

Join us each month as we introduce to sustainability professionals who used a green MBA to make a green career transition. If you have a green MBA, have successfully transitioned into a career in sustainability, and would like us to spotlight you in the Green MBA Success Series, or if you know someone you think we should spotlight, drop me a line. Don’t forget to check out our entire Green MBA Success Series and our Green MBA Directory.

Note: The Green MBA Success Series was inspired by Interview Series: Transition to a Clean / Green Career by Jennifer Massie of the Massie Group. Thanks Jen!

© 2011, Tracey de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Tracey de Morsella (323 Articles)

Tracey de Morsella started her career working as an editor for US Technology Magazine. She used that experience to launch Delaware Valley Network, a publication for professionals in the Greater Philadelphia area. Years later, she used the contacts and resources she acquired to work in executive search specializing in technical and diversity recruitment. She has conducted recruitment training seminars for Wachovia Bank, the Department of Interior and the US Postal Service. During this time, she also created a diversity portal called The Multicultural Advantage and published the Diversity Recruitment Advertising Toolkit, a directory of recruiting resources for human resources professionals. Her career and recruitment articles have appeared in numerous publications and web portals including Woman Engineer Magazine, Monster.com, About.com Job Search Channel, Workplace Diversity Magazine, Society for Human Resource Management web site, NSBE Engineering Magazine, HR.com, and Human Resource Consultants Association Newsletter. Her work with technology professionals drew her to pursuing training and work in web development, which led to a stint at Merrill Lynch as an Intranet Manager. In March, she decided to combine her technical and career management expertise with her passion for the environment, and with her husband, launched The Green Economy Post, a blog providing green career information and covering the impact of the environment, sustainable building, cleantech and renewable energy on the US economy. Her sustainability articles have appeared on Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation, Chem.Info,FastCompany and CleanTechies.