As a teenager, Morgan Sheil (MBA 2021) developed a keen interest in the environment and climate change. That sustained interest, along with her drive to make a positive impact on the world, led Sheil across various geographies, industries, and functions. Each step, including her most recent two years at HBS, allowed her to pick up experiences, skills, and knowledge that would help her carve a path from chemical engineering and supply chain to climate operations strategy at KKR Capstone and climate investment at KKR ESG.

Sheil’s Road to HBS

Sheil began making plans to join Harvard Business School as an undergraduate chemical and biomolecular engineering student at the University of Maryland. She was accepted into the 2+2 program and set out after graduation to explore potential careers and build her skills. After a year and half as a Process Engineer at Exxon Mobil in Texas, followed by a year and a half working in supply chain optimization at Pinnacle Foods in New Jersey, Sheil faced a choice – begin her MBA now or pull one more lever of change.

“I had the option to either go to HBS or I could do something else for a year, and I really wanted to make the pivot into climate,” Sheil explained. “I was worried that if I went directly to HBS it would be easier to be led astray by all the shiny opportunities that pop up here, so I went into a graduate program at the University of Cambridge in engineering for sustainable development.”

The program at the University of Cambridge presented Sheil with an opportunity to reflect and then narrow her focus on what she wanted to be doing in the climate sustainability space. With her goals defined, it was time for HBS and a pivot into systems change from a financial perspective.

Pivoting the System, and Her Career

The switch from operations to investing was a strategic move that Sheil saw as necessary to further develop her toolkit and influence change.

“Being able to do both operations and investing will be important and necessary for creating change and pivoting our economy,” said Sheil. “Every single organization is going to have to be making climate pivots and will need operations people and novel, strategic, investment to make it happen.”

It would not be easy to break into the competitive investing field without prior experience in finance. Yet, Sheil saw a clear line between her background in engineering, supply chain, and climate, and knew she needed to make others see it as well. “I was only interested in climate change work, so I approached my search explaining that I may not have an investing background, but I have unique and technical knowledge in this space that you need, so I add value here and can learn new skills,” said Sheil.

To make connections in the VC and PE world and land an internship and later a full-time role, Sheil focused on clarity and confidence as two major pillars. “I think if you want to make a pivot into VC or PE you need to be really thoughtful and concentrated on what you’re interested in, whether that’s consumer products, certain technologies, or climate,” she said. “And you have to see how your interests match with your background and how you add value so that you have a clear narrative.”

A Strategic Approach to Networking

While her clear narrative helped to open doors, Sheil had to knock on those doors – and she did knock, again and again.

“I essentially was in search mode for my internship and full-time role my entire time at HBS,” Sheil recalled. “I started reaching out to organizations and individuals in October of RC year and had an infinite number of coffee chats and Zoom calls.”

Sheil also was very vocal with friends, classmates, and professors about her goals, which she said kept her motivated to continue pushing in her search and resulted in more leads. Friends would send her postings that might be of interest and classmates helped her make new connections in the ESG investing space.

With each formal and informal networking conversation, Sheil asked if there was anyone else they recommended she speak with, taking the “spider web approach” to networking. She also made connections through her classes, reaching out to professors and case protagonists, and by taking on leadership roles with the Social Enterprise Club and Business & Environment Initiative. This multi-pronged approach that centered on putting her passion out there into the world led Sheil to critical conversations, including ones with State Street and the ESG Investments & Asset Stewardship team where she spent summer 2020 as an intern and Prime Coalition, a catalytic climate VC where she interned for six months during EC year.

“It’s a lot of work reaching out to your existing network and alumni and sending cold messages on LinkedIn. Some people responded, others didn’t,” said Sheil. “You have to network and network and network, and be willing to put yourself out there.”

“Comparison is the Thief of Joy”

One challenge Sheil faced in her full-time and internship search, and one she sees as common at HBS, was reminding herself to avoid comparison.

“I had to check myself the entire time to be happy for my friends when they were getting consulting offers or more structured opportunities much earlier,” she shared. “We were not looking at the same kind of opportunities and our timelines were different. It was not an apples-to-apples comparison.”

To tackle the challenge of an unstructured search, Sheil put her own structure to it by mapping out how much time she would spend on her search each week, which helped her stay on track. Her search was also an exercise in patience, managing sustained conversations over months while facing rejection and skepticism.

“On some coffee chats there were people I would talk to who would flat out tell me, ‘You are not going to find opportunities like this. This is a waste of your time. You are not a fit for what you're trying to recruit into,’” she shared. “I had to have faith in myself and faith that the ESG space is growing rapidly and there is a unique skillset and value I can contribute.”

Ultimately, Sheil’s persistence paid off and she landed three full-time job offers right before graduation in the VC and PE space. Now she is excited to be joining KKR Capstone and KKR ESG in summer 2021 as a Climate Strategy & Resource Management Associate.

Advising other students seeking to make their career pivot goals a reality, Sheil shares this advice: “Don’t be afraid to be passionate about something and pursue it. It’s kind of scary to do a risky job search, but HBS will open doors for you if you do the work to get to the door.”