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GEM’s Gems February 2013 – Julie Hughes

February 14, 2013
Julie Hughes_DOE

Julie Hughes

The GEM’s Gem for the remainder of February could probably set the record for having the longest work title description! GEM alumna Julie Hughes is the Chief of Staff to the Chief Operating Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in Washington D.C. Hughes, 36, was a member of Cohort 4 and graduated in December 2011. The GEM staff would like to thank Ms. Hughes for being a tremendous help in coordinating our international course in Washington D.C. and for being a star student.

Briefly describe your current role and responsibilities.

I support the COO in overseeing and improving the business operations for DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). EERE is dedicated to accelerating the development of clean energy technology; we have a $2 billion budget and over 800 staff to get this done. EERE, through the nature of its services, has core activities that revolve around traditional operational functions including oversight and administration of funds (grants), project management of diverse research endeavors, and deployment of resources. In essence, if our operations are sub-par, our ability to serve the American public to our full potential will be compromised.

How has the GEM program benefited you and your company? Have you been promoted since you began the program?

Yes, I have been promoted since graduating from GEM. I’ve gone from policy analyst to Chief of Staff to the COO, which is a more business- and operation-oriented role. I want to get back to the policy work eventually, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to apply some of what I learned at GEM to an organization about which I feel very passionate.

The GEM program brought a business focus to the energy expertise I had acquired by working. It added management savvy to my energy knowledge. Now, I am able to bring the private sector best-practices that we learned about in GEM to government. My goal is to make EERE operate as efficiently and effectively as the best run private sector company. We’re motivated by creating the greatest social and technological benefit for the American taxpayers, as opposed to creating maximum profit for shareholders — but in the end, the taxpayer is the shareholder and our mission is to maximize their benefit.

What were some of your favorite things to do during cohort weekends?

We went to the rodeo one weekend and that was a major highlight. I wish it happened every weekend. I’m hoping the DC Chamber of Commerce will pick up on the idea, to loosen the suits up a bit.

A more routine highlight was dinner with fellow students, which always sparked interesting conversations. I learned a lot from the different professional backgrounds and perspectives of my peers.

What are some of the things that you never forgot to bring to cohort weekends?

I always brought an appetite for mashed potatoes and molten chocolate cake. We liked to surge and treat ourselves to dinner at the Palm Restaurant every now and then.

Why did you choose the GEM program at CU Denver?

As I mentioned, I had experience in clean energy policy, but I lacked business and management knowledge and experience. I also wanted to make myself a better rounded energy professional, by learning more about the fossil energy side of the business.

Has GEM changed your perspective? If so, how so?

Yes, it enabled me to see how the full energy matrix fits together, giving me a better perspective of how energy efficiency and renewable energy fit into the broader scheme. I believe that clean energy is our future; but it won’t become our future in isolation of the rest. I look at GEM as one manifestation of the partnership through which the clean energy industry and more traditional energy players will enable change, through a more enlightened, broader understanding of the constraints and the assets of each respective industry.

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