Q&A with Vicki Mak-Romo, a Houston-native and Energy Economist from the inaugural MEECON Class of 2017

Vicki Mak-Romo

Q: What attracted you to the MEECON program?

A: As someone who already had a strong foundation in energy and economic policy, I wanted to attend a program that would help me develop quantitative skills, with a specific focus on energy markets. Growing up in Houston, I saw how the boom and bust of the oil sector could bring both prosperity and instability. And in my travels, I’ve been in communities with limited access to affordable, sufficient, or clean energy. While the energy market has enormous potential to expand and improve livelihoods, there are human costs and knock-on effects to the environment and wider impacts on the economy. With such a complex operating context, I realized that I needed further technical skills to prepare me for more analytical and specialized jobs to shape policy in the energy sector. The MEECON program was perfect for this.

Q: What was your career like prior to the program?

A: Before the program, I worked for three years as a bio-energy consultant for the United Nations (Food and Agriculture Organization) in Rome, Italy. In that position, I assisted in developing a portfolio of analysis tools to help guide policy makers in conducting initial assessments of in-country bioenergy potential, while considering environmental objectives and economic feasibility. I traveled to Senegal and Croatia to help deliver technical workshops on these tools. I also researched and collated data for the energy country context and policies in place for both Egypt and Turkey in order to support the governmental decision-making process.

Q: What is your career now after graduating from the Master of Energy Economics?

A: I am currently working as an Economist with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC. I work in the Office of Enforcement and carry out forensic analysis of data relating to physical natural gas, electric power markets, and related financial products to determine if companies and/or individuals are involved in potential market manipulation schemes. If someone is found to have manipulated the market or behaved in anti-competitive behavior, then my team provides technical analysis for the lawyers within our organization to conduct an investigation to ensure fair play in the market. My team also assists Regional Transmission Organizations/Independent System Operators (RTOs/ISOs) in the surveillance of energy markets.

Q: What was the most memorable moment of your experience in the MEECON program?

A: My most memorable moment was the class trip we took to the South Texas Project – Nuclear Generating Station. Previously, I had minimal exposure to the generation of nuclear power except for some research into the massive changes in regulatory policies after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. It was extremely interesting to visit the facility and gain a better understanding on how nuclear power is actually generated, safeguarded and how it contributes to the electricity mix.

Q: What was your favorite class in the MEECON program?

A: This is tough, as I appreciated all of my courses. They each came with a new challenge! If I had to choose, I would say Geopolitics of Energy with Professor Krane. The course merged my love of international relations, energy policy, and data into one. I enjoyed that the professor kept us engaged by bringing in different speakers, giving us a variety of articles to read, and assigning an exciting project at the end that specifically catered to each of our interests.

Q: What would you say to someone who is considering leaving their job for about one year to pursue a professional master's program?

A: Make sure you understand the reasons you would like to pursue the program. What are your goals and expectations? Take a look at the description of your dream job and read the requirements – what are they looking for in terms of skills and qualifications? If you believe that the courses in the professional master’s program will help you obtain your goals, then you should do it! A one-year program goes by very quickly and it is totally worth the effort, as it can mean a lifetime of joy in the work you do!