Léo Mongendre (SEF 2011-12) is a Climate Finance Consultant at Climate Focus and has recently become ‘The Most Eco-Friendly Man in the World’. We catch up with Léo and find out more about this prestigious title and what he has been up to since leaving the course.
How did you become the most eco-friendly man in the world?
This might have sounded bigger than it really was! Every year, the company I’m working with (Climate Focus) organises a week-long retreat to discuss our current work and what we would like to achieve individually and collectively going forward. Given that we are scattered around the world (offices in Amsterdam, Berlin, Washington DC and Bogota), this is a good opportunity for us to see each other, meet new colleagues but also to organise one group activity all together (training, workshop, campaign etc.). As part of this year’s team week we decided to receive a “visual storytelling” training and challenge each other (in teams of 3) in a competition to produce a short one-minute video, exclusively using a mobile phone for both filming and editing.
How did you come up with the idea for your video?
Honestly a bit randomly. As I was teamed up with two Americans, my initial idea was to make an environmental parody of the Dutch “America first, Netherland second” or Macron’s “Make our planet great again” but it didn’t fly. I think at this point my colleague Alan came up with the “Dos Equis” concept and we quickly adapted it to our field of work. Our trainer wasn’t too impressed by our idea at first but we were having too much fun so went ahead anyway; he quickly changed his mind when he saw what we were producing.
What did winning the competition mean to you?
Well, I’d like to thank my colleagues, my family, our executive producer… more seriously, it felt good conveying a strong message (“we collectively share the future of our planet”) in a not too serious video, and getting the win for it. But more than winning, the best part was the team bonding experience and seeing the creativity of all my colleagues. I was truly impressed and hope we get to use our new skills to showcase our work differently in the future.
What else have you been up to since leaving the course?
I initially stayed in London where I worked for Lightsource Renewable Energy and supported their technical team with performance optimisation of their solar assets. After several years installing small decentralised energy systems in Africa, it was a great opportunity for me to gain expertise in a different segment of the PV industry. I then moved on, for a short while, to Switzerland and worked at ETH Zürich, developing electrification models and exploring ways to tap into satellite/aerial imagery to map out electricity demand. Moving from one extreme to the other (in terms of mountains), I have been living in Amsterdam (Netherlands) for the past two years working with Climate Focus, an advisory company in the field of climate change. My work at the moment is split between West and East Africa: in Senegal, I’m supporting the rural electrification agency to access funding through the Green Climate Fund, while in Kenya I provide technical support and facilitate investments in the climate-smart agriculture space via the Accelerator programme we are running in the sub-region.
Are you still in touch with any of the people you studied with?
Yes very much so, I even managed to marry one of them! We were a truly cohesive group, looking after each other and making sure no one was left behind. We organised (large) study sessions at the library before our exams (particularly helpful for “thermodynamics” in my case). These sessions provided a great platform for the strongest of us in each module to teach and support the others, and for the rest to get up to speed. I think this level of collaboration is really what stood out from the MSc for me, although I must say climbing Mt Snowdon in shorts and open shoes also stands pretty high! Beyond that, I have regular interactions with about half our cohort, which is surprising given I’m not even using Facebook. But in the end we are all like-minded people and the Energy/Environment world is fairly small I guess.
How would you sum up your time on the MSc in three words?
Intense / bunker / opportunities
You can watch Léo’s winning video here.