Growing up in Africa, Catarina Carvalho was impressed by how people’s lifestyles transformed as infrastructure developed over time. She wanted to be a part of that phenomenon. She pursued a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering at the Instituto Superior Técnico in Portugal. She then spent the following eight years working in telecom, transportation, and energy and water companies in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. She later moved to New York to further her studies at Columbia University’s Sustainability Management program (Class of ’18). In January 2019, she was appointed as the SUMA Alumni President.
Catarina currently works as a senior consultant at Arup, where she advises infrastructure projects worldwide.
What initially attracted you to the Sustainability Management program at Columbia University?
When I applied to the program, I had significant global experience in infrastructure, but I lacked a unified perspective on how to approach long-term investments from a sustainable viewpoint and make a difference in practice. The combination of the unified curriculum of the program with the high-quality leading practitioners and researchers as our lecturers created a unique opportunity for me to build those skills.
What type of skills were you able to build and improve on through the program?
As an engineer by training and a consultant by practice, I joined the program with a very specific goal — to learn the science behind climate change and learn how to build a business case for it. I also developed a systems-thinking approach to problem-solving that has been useful to me on all aspects of my professional and even personal life. That’s a hard skill I want to have.
How have these skills helped you succeed at your job?
I apply those skills on a wide range of industries and contexts, helping structure a business case for sustainability and deliver a win-strategy for clients. I also developed a real practical understanding of the effectiveness of different solutions in a broad range of complex business contexts, understanding of the implementation challenges, impacts, risks and costs of each one.
(Written by Danni Zhou, Content Specialist, School of Professional Studies and M.S. Graduate Student, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism)
The M.S. in Sustainability Management, co-sponsored by the Earth Institute and Columbia’s School of Professional Studies, trains students to tackle complex and pressing environmental and managerial challenges. Visit our website to learn more.