In the latest edition of catching up with EIT InnoEnergy alumni, we spoke with Farhan Farrukh to find out where his journey into the broad world of the energy transition has led him.
What was the main learning you took from your studies? I had a diverse educational background with academic learnings from various parts of the world. My early education in the Middle-East gave me perspectives on the lifestyle of an oil dominant country and afterwards my Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering from my home country Pakistan, provided in-depth technical learnings for power systems. With EIT InnoEnergy it took my academic learning in sustainable energy one step ahead. It was, overall, a strong foundation for a successful career in the sustainable energy world, with complementary innovation and entrepreneurship skills gathered during EIT InnoEnergy eco-systems.
What was your first thought when you graduated? Did you feel prepared or daunted by going into the "real world"?
There were butterflies in the stomach and a slight uncertainty on how all the education, professional experience and network would help start my career in the European energy industry. However, the expertise and skills gathered along with a wide network of energy professionals did help in getting me more prepared for starting the career.
What was your first work experience after graduation?
I was fortunate to land the job a day before the convocation ceremony for the 2017-19 batch of InnoEnergy Masters. I started my role as a researcher for smart energy technologies at Smart Innovation Norway, where from day one I was supported and exposed to world class projects on developing the latest innovations aimed at enabling a sustainable energy system in Europe.
Can you share a tip on how you got this position?
I got the position by reaching out to my contacts from EIT InnoEnergy. One of my very good friends, an alumni of EIT InnoEnergy too, helped in reaching out to the correct people in the organization. My education and experiences in innovation and entrepreneurship projects helped in securing the position too.
Can you explain more about your current role and the company?
As a researcher for Smart Energy Technologies, my role demands various expertise from the energy value chain. One part of the role focuses on developing innovation concepts concerning the latest challenges set by the European Commission under the Horizon framework. For each innovation concept, a proposal is developed with various partners (universities, companies, startups, municipalities etc.) and submitted to the EC.
Once the project is funded, my role varies from Project Management to business development to Energy System deployment for various innovation projects focusing on sustainable energy. Apart from the main research and innovation work, my work also involves finding opportunities to commercialize solutions with new services, business models or developing new companies. This is where I have been involved in setting up a startup called ChargeBnB, which focuses on providing private charger sharing for electrical vehicle charging networks in Europe.
Which skills and experience do you need for your current role?
A diverse set of skills are needed for executing various activities in my current role, several technical expertises are needed such as knowledge about energy markets, flexibility markets, ICT systems, renewable energy technologies, Artificial Intelligence, energy efficiency, Demand Side Management and EVs. In addition to technical knowledge and expertise, my role also demands cross-domain knowledge, such as Project Management, business development, communications and dissemination skills.
What is the biggest lesson you learnt in the period after graduation?
Keep on improving and utilizing your available time to develop new sustainable solutions while focusing on developing your own skills. During recent times, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it clear that focusing on health and having a positive mindset is key to keep growing and improving as a professional and a society actor.
How has the pandemic affected you, did it make your work easier or curtail it?
It has certainly made it more challenging to live in a foreign country without family and to keep a positive mindset, while keeping working on things that are exciting and still make an impact in society. I kept myself busy and moving forward by developing new habits and focusing on various projects such as E-LAND, FLEXGRID, AURORAL and also in my spare time on growing the startup ChargeBnB.
What do you think will be your next step?
I would like to continue to improve and keep on developing new services and maybe new companies that help create sustainable jobs across the globe. Another aspect that I have been working on is to set up cross-continent partnerships between entities so there could be sustainable solutions in developing countries that also help other regions to contribute to the energy transition with the latest innovations.