Interviewed September 2006
Shashank Khandavalli is a second-year MBA student at Kenan-Flagler — recently returned from a summer internship with GE Energy where he worked on developing the marketing strategy for GE's next generation of natural gas turbines.
Shashank lived most of his life in India. He developed a passion for physics at an early age — manifested by a childhood dream of building his own windmill and later, by his earning a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Osmania University in India. Shashank's particular interest in sustainability topics also developed while living in India. He says, "Growing up in India I hated summers because they meant exams, water shortages and power outages. Since a significant portion of India's energy came from Hydro-power plants, water shortage in summer resulted in frequent outages. As a result I had to literally burn the midnight candle to prepare for my exams." Convinced that there must be a way to prevent these circumstances, Shashank became sure that agricultural waste could solve India's energy problems.
Seeking greater options for education and careers after graduation, Shashank moved to the United States where he earned his MS in Computer Science at UNC-Charlotte. Afterward, he worked as a CGN & Associates consultant for several Fortune 500 companies and then as an independent consultant for Duke Energy, working as a business analyst in their nuclear engineering department. It was during his tenure at Duke Energy that Shashank decided that the best way to direct his career back toward his primary interest — energy generation — would be to get an MBA. "Combining my [engineering] experience with an MBA," Shashank remarks, "would equip me to take on the energy challenges facing the industry." Shashank believes that it is possible for "nature's energy to be harnessed while its beauty is appreciated" — a belief that continues to drive his interest in the alternative energy industry and sustainable business solutions.
He chose to attend UNC Kenan-Flagler for his MBA education both for its superior combination of finance and sustainability programs, and for the university's long standing commitment to environmental responsibility. While at Kenan-Flagler, Shashank has learned that "to ensure sustainability, managers need to assess the value and long-term impact of each of the five capital assets: natural, human, social, manufactured and financial — not just the economic value added by the project." This is a lesson he will take with him into his future career — hopefully for a company committed to making environmentally-safe products.
Until that time, Shashank continues to pursue his interest in sustainable energy generation. He chose to intern with GE Energy specifically because it is invested in eco-friendly energy solutions — a commitment evidenced by GE's ecomagination campaign. While at GE, Shashank learned about technology advances in energy generation, but also learned that finding the right energy solution for a market requires consideration of the particular needs of that market, not just a knowledge of what has worked elsewhere: that global problems may not all have a global solution.
Shashank is currently leading a practicum project though Kenan-Flagler tasked to assess the financial feasibility of generating energy from hog waste compared to obtaining energy from natural gas. As part of the study, his team is analyzing the most efficient way of using the waste from hog farms in eastern North Carolina to generate electricity for UNC's planned Carolina North campus. If Shashank and his team find that using alternative energy from hog-waste is economically feasible and sustainable, it will not only provide a viable option for meeting Carolina North's energy needs but also help solve eastern North Carolina's waste disposal problem.
Nominee for Sustainability Superstar:
Novozymes has been leading the way in incorporating sustainable practices. A visit to the Novozymes' plant in Cary, NC showed the company's commitment to make products that make detergents environmentally safer, animal feed nutritious and organic waste a viable fuel source.