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Alumni Profile: How Michael Hanyok went from bond trader to solar financier


I met Michael Hanyok (pictured above with his 1 year old son) at a Smeal Alumni Relations and Alumni Career Services event in New York City and he was gracious enough to provide some of his story and advice for others in the community. Like Mike, you just might be 50 conversations away from an impact career. Here's our conversation.

What have you been up to since graduating?

Until very recently, I was with the same company that hired me out of Penn State. I spent the first 12 years of my professional life in bond trading in New York. I spent that time enjoying the city, traveling, starting a family, and figuring out what really matters.

How did you get interested in sustainability/social impact in business? And what particular area of this work most interests you?

I decided I needed a change professionally. When I examined what kind of work would really excite me for the next couple decades, I realized I needed a bigger purpose behind what I do. Fighting climate change was something I cared about and supported personally. For me, it’s just the biggest, most important, most urgent problem of our time. The organization Protect Our Winters (POW) also made an impact on me. I love to snowboard and I want to make sure that the mountains stay snowy for my son and further generations to enjoy.

Renewable energy is particularly interesting to me as it’s a large lever in any climate solution plan. The technology excites the engineer in me and there are jobs in renewable energy finance that link to the skills I had developed in bond trading.

What kind of work are you doing now?

I just started with a residential solar finance company in San Francisco. I joined a team that functions like an internal consultant, working closely with multiple high level business functions and applying data to inform key business decisions.

What advice would you give current students and recent graduates who want to have an impact career?

The best advice I can give, especially for those coming from a background outside of sustainability, is to build a network. I found that people are extremely receptive and happy to talk to you when your goal is to join them in trying to help save the world.

It’s a very different feel than just trying to get a job.

Find people who do things you find fascinating and go talk to them. Learn about the industry and pick up their language.

Find your initial contacts through Penn State, friends and family, LinkedIn, sustainability events or groups, and then branch out from there. Many people won’t know of available jobs but they will probably think of someone else to introduce you to.

Over the course of about a year, I spoke with close to 50 people and only a couple actually led to an interview. But each person I spoke with helped focus my job search or opened my eyes to opportunities I hadn’t considered.

Thanks, Mike, let's stay in touch. I am sure the whole Smeal community will be cheering you on as a father and solar developer!

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