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MS in Sustainability Management alumnus James Kocher (’13)
MS in Sustainability Management alumnus James Kocher (’13)

Alum James Kocher (MSSM ‘13) works in the photovoltaics monitoring sector where he helps clients measure and analyze photovoltaic (PV) solar production. The PV monitoring sector was a natural fit for him because it is at the intersection of technology and clean energy. His interest in the clean energy sector sparked during first semester in the Master of Science in Sustainability Management program, when he took “Financing the Green Economy”.  James currently designs and implements data monitoring systems for large commercial and utility scale PV projects. He started as a Project Manager and is now transitioning to a new position as an Application Engineer at Locus Energy.


What is your current job?

I work at Locus Energy in Hoboken NJ.  Locus is the largest independent residential solar monitoring provider in the U.S. We provide an integrated solution of hardware and software that help our clients measure and analyze photovoltaic (PV) solar production.  I’ve been with Locus for about a year now, first as a Project Manager and now transitioning to the Applications Engineer role.  My primary areas of focus as a Project Manager were resolving installation and post installation technical issues for residential and commercial sites, working with solar PV fleet and asset managers to diagnose site performance yield concerns, and a customer point of contact for the continued improvement of the Locus software platform.  As an Applications Engineer my responsibilities will be primarily focused on the design and implementation of data monitoring systems on large Commercial/Utility scale PV projects.


Do your current job responsibilities align with the professional goals that you originally had when you began the MSSM program?

When I started the MSSM program I was working for Apple and knew that I would find great satisfaction by continuing to work in the technology sector as I have always been passionate about computers and cutting edge technology.  During my first semester in MSSM I took the class ‘Financing the Green Economy’ and this really sparked my interest in the clean energy sector.  When I first saw a job opening at Locus Energy, I didn’t know there were companies dedicated to PV monitoring.  This sector was a natural fit for me because it is at the intersection of technology and clean energy.  Working at Locus has been an amazing experience because I have been able to work in an industry that is innately interesting to me alongside some extremely bright and creative people.  The environment within Locus encourages questioning, constant learning, and unrelenting improvements.  It is very satisfying to be a part of the clean power industry that I believe is the lynchpin of the climate change puzzle.


What skills has the MSSM program taught you that you think have proven useful to your current position?

The MSSM program taught me a number of useful skills which I have been able to apply in my current role as a Project Manager at Locus Energy.  The MSSM program offered numerous opportunities to work through complex problems requiring careful analysis and interpretation of technical data. The program helped strengthen my problem solving skills, and equally important improved my ability to present the final analysis in a cogent and succinct presentation suitable for the business of technology.


How has collaborating with your fellow students in class projects benefitted you professionally and personally?

The collaboration with fellow students in the MSSM program has benefitted me both personally and professionally.  One of the best aspects of the program was the diverse background of students ranging from already being established in the field of Sustainability to having just graduated college and looking to get started.  Collaborating with fellow students opened up my perspective and way of looking at various issues.  It stressed the importance of working together and incorporating everyone’s experiences in order to produce the best result possible.


How do you intend to utilize your degree from the MSSM program to further your career?

I intend to add the experiences and knowledge gained from the MSSM program to my business and technology background as a springboard to upper management levels in the Clean Energy sector. I think the analytic and team management skills developed at Columbia will allow my career to take a path to a leadership role in what I see as the most important business of the next 50 years.


The M.S. in Sustainability Management, co-sponsored by the Earth Institute and Columbia’s School of Continuing Education, trains students to tackle complex and pressing environmental and managerial challenges. The program requires the successful completion of 36 credit points. Those credit points are divided among five comprehensive content areas: integrative sustainability management, economics and quantitative analysis, the physical dimensions of sustainability, the public policy environment of sustainability management, and general and financial management. Visit our website to learn more.

Science for the Planet: In these short video explainers, discover how scientists and scholars across the Columbia Climate School are working to understand the effects of climate change and help solve the crisis.
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