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Rising Stars: A Policy Analyst Confronts the World's Energy Challenge

By Erdin Beshimov

When one of her professors said that the world's energy challenge could not be addressed without leadership from the young generation, Jaclyn took it to heart. She pursued a master's degree in energy policy and now works as an analyst at the California Public Utilities Commission.

Name: Jaclyn Marks
School: BA - University of Wisconsin - Madison; MA - Harvard University Kennedy School of Government
Major: Biology
Years Out of College: 5-10
Title: Policy Analyst
Company: California Public Utilities Commission
First Steps

"My first 'real' job was less than desirable. I knew going into it that I was compromising job satisfaction to get into graduate school and to be able to pursue my longer-term career dreams. After completing my undergraduate degree, I spent a year in Mexico teaching English. When I returned from Mexico, I had decided to apply to graduate schools where I could study energy policy. I knew that in order to make my graduate application more competitive, I needed actual work experience in the field. Even though I was hired as an administrative assistant at a wind energy company, I got a fancy title and was able gain experience in the field. I learned a lot about the renewable energy sector and only had to stay eight months since I got into my first choice for graduate school."

From Then to Now

"I majored in Biology because I loved science and thought that I wanted to work in medicine. When I was a junior in college, I studied abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and became interested in public policy and international relations. When I returned to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, I knew that I no longer wanted to become a doctor but was unsure what the next step was. In order to complete my Biology degree, I enrolled in General Ecology. It was this course that left a lasting impression upon me and that led me to my current profession.

During the last day of the course, the professor looked out at the lecture hall of over one hundred students and told us that there was a lack of leadership in the realm of global climate change, and that in order to prevent global destruction, we would need to transition to renewable energy resources. This transition could either be smooth and gradual or chaotic and harmful. In order to make a smooth and gradual transition, we, the class, would need to step into leadership positions. This fateful lecture was a turning point in my search for a meaningful career. As a young girl, I had always wanted to be an environmentalist. My professor helped me return to my roots and pursue my passion."

My Experiece

"I am currently working as a policy analyst for the California Public Utilities Commission, which is a state agency that regulates the private utilities in California. I am working on the renewable portfolio standard team and am helping California achieve 20% renewable energy by 2010. My job requires much analysis and in a sense, detective work. More often then not, I am juggling multiple projects at once, all of which are exciting and hold much responsibility.?

On a typical day, I am reviewing renewable energy contracts and am identifying key aspects of risk in order to determine if the project seems viable. In addition to program implementation, I am also working on big picture policy analysis. The Commission has expressed its desire to achieve 33% renewable energy generation by 2020. My job is to determine if this goal is realistic and what are creative ways we can employ to achieve this goal.?

I love my job because I'm working with really smart people, am learning a lot from my manager and team members, and am working on issues that I deeply care about and that have consequences beyond the borders of California. In my view, climate change is the most important challenge facing humanity today, and bringing more renewables is one important way to confront this problem.?

If you are interested in working for the California Public Utilities Commission, we have many positions open at all levels of experience in the areas of energy and environment, telecommunications, and consumer protection and safety. Please contact us at, or call the CPUC Job Hotline at 1-866-652-3977 for more information. Check out our website at"

Did I Ever Think I'd End Up Here?

"As a Biology major, I never imagined I would work for the government in climate change-I didn't even know what public policy was. While I am not working in my undergraduate major, the courses in my major led me to my career path. In addition, I am using the same analytical skills in public policy that I used in my physics and chemistry courses. On the other hand, I went to graduate school with a very specific focus. After working and traveling for two years, I returned to graduate school in order to focus on renewable energy. I was extremely determined and went out of my way to immerse myself in the subject. Because of my focus and academic learning in graduate school, I was able to make a smooth transition into the energy policy realm."

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