Matt O’Hare (MBA ’19) recently joined 3Degrees as a senior manager of analysis where he’ll bring operations and project leadership focused on environmental commodity markets, including carbon offsets and renewable energy certificates. Matt joins ACS to talk about how his career has evolved and give some advice to those wanting to focus their careers on sustainability and environmental impact.

QYou spent many years consulting in energy efficiency then joined Johnson & Johnson in the med tech space. How did you make the recent move to a firm focused on climate change?

I was a director with Guidehouse when I left consulting. I had grown from a technical engineer to an engagement and business development leader. However, after 14 years in the same space, I saw the learning curve flattening. A role at J&J in business strategy for robotic surgery offered an industry and function change that turned that curve right back up. Unfortunately, I was laid off following 2022’s supply chain woes. In retrospect, it’s turned out to be a no-regrets career exploration to find out if the grass is truly greener on the other side. I found out that healthcare is not for me. I missed the energy transition space. I was happy to leave consulting, and I thrive with a certain balance of competitiveness and mission impact. I knew that climate change and renewable energy could check those boxes and connect me with people most like me.

Q:  How did you build a search target list focused on energy and renewables?

My search timing (spurred by a layoff) was fortunate: It began after the peak of the Great Resignation, after a private equity acquisition at Guidehouse (which drove some colleagues for the exit), and after some non-compete restrictions with former clients expired. I had a broad network and a strong diaspora to tap. I built a search target list two ways. First, I identified companies that I knew, that I liked, and researched their energy and renewables activities (e.g., think large data center energy consumers pursuing 100% renewable energy). I looked for network contacts within. Second, I created a list of all the colleagues and contacts I knew, whose opinions I respected, and learned about where they worked. The latter approach proved more fruitful because in short order I discovered and connected with companies that I would have never found on my own — including 3Degrees, which made me an offer two months into my search.

Q:  Were there any surprises you found when networking and interviewing with renewable energy and climate-focused firms?

The industry has a lot of momentum. We all heard about layoffs and hiring freezes at the beginning of 2023. I was concerned that sustainability efforts among large tech companies that drive a lot of the market momentum might wane; these initiatives might be the ‘nice to haves’ and first on the budget chopping block. However, I found the opposite to be true. Companies are committed to their goals and maintain them as top priorities. I also learned that there are not a lot of tenured experts in these fields. The industry is relatively new, and the number of leadership experts is low. I discovered that in many places, there is an understanding that leaders will come into these roles from different backgrounds and experiences. (Note: For more on this topic, see The Darden Report’s article “Sustaining Sustainability in the Face of Market Pressures” from earlier this year.) 

Q:  What advice do you have for Darden alums who want to move into roles in renewable energy?

Search for sustainability or renewable energy teams within your existing company. These areas are growing in priority and might already exist within your organization. Also, I think functional areas and desired skillsets are broader than most people think. It’s not all environmental engineering, but roles cover every area just like any other industry: data science, finance, operations, consulting, human resources, etc. Successful candidates will pair their skillsets with a genuine interest in making an impact with renewable energy and around climate change.

If you’re contemplating a shift in industry or role as your next career move, contact Darden’s Alumni Career Services for support.