Advancing Business Ventures in the Energy Industry

Current MEM student Nishant Patel reflects on his internship at Exelon and how the experience will help him moving forward.

Nishant Patel has a passion for the energy industry, so it was with great excitement that the current Northwestern Master of Engineering Management (MEM) student joined the corporate innovation team within the company's in-house incubator as an intern this summer.  

His job was to help advance new business ventures, and he did that by validating hypotheses, designing and conducting market tests, analyzing data, and confirming financial projections. Throughout the experience, Patel leveraged lessons he learned in MEM. Now back in school, Patel took a few minutes to reflect on the internship experience and what he learned about the energy industry.

What were you hoping to learn from your internship experience?

I was eager to learn how Exelon was tackling some of the biggest problems that the industry faces today, such as aging power grids, shifting focus to renewables, and managing traditional asset bases. I was also excited to learn about the new advancements in the utility sector and provide value to new ventures with the skills I had learned in class through MEM.

Looking back on the internship, in what ways were you able to get the experience you hoped for?

The biggest challenge I faced while working on a new business venture was that I was required to wear multiple hats. I was fortunate to join a project where I was required to assist with business development, marketing, and data analytics. MEM prepared me with a dynamic skill set that I was able to apply on a project with constantly shifting priorities and gain a unique and very rewarding work experience.

What were the two or three most important lessons you learned from your internship?

It was refreshing to see the team’s emphasis on data-driven decisions vs deferring to HiPPO (highest paid person in the office). Working with new business models in untapped markets required us to provide rationale backed by data for each decision that was made. 

The culture on the team was to act with speed and to be nimble based on market trends.  Failing fast, reiterating and improvising on a strategy —I think this is an important mindset to have as we graduate and transition into the workforce.

How did this internship help you better understand the energy sector or better prepare you for a career in energy?

This internship allowed me to interact with colleagues who were working on a whole range of problems, from repurposing aging nuclear plants to adapting drone inspections in the power grid sector. I was able to gain a holistic view of the industry as well as work with a small team to tackle a particular problem. I believe that this internship opportunity has prepared me well for a full-time role in the industry. 

How important do you think this type of internship is to your overall MEM experience?

The summer internship was an integral part of my overall MEM experience as well as professional development. I was able to apply many things that I had learned in classes such as finance, marketing, and product management. This internship not only allowed me to improve my business acumen but also made me realize the value of pursuing a degree in MEM.

What other energy-related opportunities have you been able to experience while at Northwestern?

I have had the opportunity to attend energy-focused conferences this year hosted by various organizations, including Kellogg, NREL, and MxD. Conferences are a fantastic opportunity to understand challenges in the industry and network with individuals who are developing cutting-edge solutions to these problems. I have also been introduced to unique career opportunities including an upcoming Venture Internship with Clean Energy Trust this Fall. I am grateful to MEM for the financial support and exclusive student invitations to many of these events.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I would encourage new students to participate in internships, extracurricular projects, University clubs and case competitions throughout the year. These opportunities are not only great ways to build on your profile and improve your soft skills, but also great for engaging with the wider Northwestern community and making grad school a unique experience.