Alumni Q&A: Michael Rogol (F’94) on his time at SFS and his new documentary film “The Next 1000 Days”

Why did you decide to come to SFS?

My passion is energy, and the Science, Technology & International Affairs (STIA) program within SFS had a strong curriculum to deepen my understanding of energy issues within the context of international affairs and global business. The STIA program was ahead of its time and was the main reason I decided to attend Georgetown.

Did you have any mentors or advisors at SFS that made a big impact on you?

There are many mentors and advisors at SFS who shaped me as a student, professional and person. Professor Tim Beach exposed me to the intersection of science, technology and international affairs and shared his insatiable curiosity with me. His teaching style both inside and outside the classroom left a deep impression and formed the foundation for many personal and professional interactions over the last 20+ years. Dr. Edgar Puryear, Jr. encouraged me to apply for a Luce East Asian Scholarship and opened the door to many global experiences over the last two decades. I am grateful to Professor Beach, Dr. Puryear and many others within SFS for providing a strong foundation for learning and growing.

Who are your heroes in real life?

God is the ultimate hero.

On earth, my parents are inspirations for their consistent ability to provide love to family and friends despite challenges. My wife also inspires me with her passion for friends, family and food (she’s a chef).

Professionally, I have two heroes. One is hall-of-fame diplomat George Kennan, for his amazing ability to synthesize the essence of complex geopolitical topics. The other is Michael Jackson, for his ability to connect with audiences across broad ranges of age and nationality. In addition, my previous bosses Dan Yergin (founder of Cambridge Energy Research Associates and Pulitzer winning author of The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power) and Ernest Moniz (currently Secretary of Energy and formerly head of my PhD Committee at MIT) are heroes within the energy sector for their dedication to detailed analysis that drives insights and impacts. I also admire Michael Lewis’s writing style and Meredith Whitney’s ability to make the right point at the right time.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

As an analyst and policy junkie, I have admiration for George Kennan. If you are unfamiliar with Kennan, I recommend reading his book Sketches from a Life. He sat at the epicenter of geopolitics, watching the emergence of the Cold War with a ringside seat. His diplomatic position and curiosity enabled him to develop insights that had long-lasting impact, including the formation of “containment” and the Truman Doctrine. As an energy economist, I have been sitting ringside for 20+ years while a massive brawl has built over the future of energy. The fight for the commanding heights in energy has deep implications for our economy, policy and environment. There is urgency today in the energy sector, much like when Kennan wrote from Moscow in the late 1940, which is why we just finished the documentary The Next 1000 Days, to air on public television later this year.

What is your favorite memory of your time at SFS?

Most of my closest friends worked in politics or policy within DC, and there are many fond memories of Thursday evenings after work at the Tombs discussing politics (including the 1992 election) and other adventures.

Describe your current role and what makes you most proud about that.

I am proud of the work we do at PHOTON. The company’s core mission is to provide accurate information on the solar power sector. We do this through our magazines, trade shows, test laboratory and solar system finance activities. Our consulting business serves nearly all major companies in the solar power sector as well as traditional energy companies and governments. This is a global business that serves in a privileged position as a trusted thought partner driving insight and impact for many of the best companies in new energy.

What makes me proud is watching clients and teammates create and capture value. For our clients, this means driving volume up, price up, cost down and risk down. We have been very successful at helping our clients move these levers of value creation for nearly a decade. In addition, our teammates are constantly growing as professionals and as individuals in order to meet the needs of a rapidly changing energy market. Seeing bright professional (including many Georgetown alumni) set ambitious goals and live up to their potential is rewarding.

How did SFS prepare you for your current role/career?

SFS was a terrific place to build analytical skills across several disciplines while also gaining professional experience in policy and politics and exposure to global perspectives. Perhaps the greatest lesson I took from SFS was learning to balance across many different academic, professional and personal commitments. The complex mix of school, work, friends and family was solid preparation for balancing my family, business and community commitments.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Personally – Being part of a loving family across four generations is my greatest personal achievement.

Professionally – Reducing the cost of capital for the solar power sector by providing clarity to the capital markets about volumes, prices, costs and risks is my greatest professional achievement.

Have you travelled extensively? For work or for pleasure? What is your favorite place?

I have traveled to 100+ countries for both work and play. My second home is Seoul, a wonderful place for eating, hiking, working and learning.

Have you spent time in a conflict region? Were you prepared for this experience?

I have spent short periods in conflict regions, but nothing close to what the brave men and women in the armed forces face during time of war. My limited exposure to conflict includes being in Centennial Park when the bomb exploded during the Atlanta Olympics, watching a massive response of South Korean troops when a North Korean submarine surfaced nearby, observing a brutal attack by guards on a refugee seeking to cross the border into Vietnam, etc. These examples are humble reminders of the debt we owe the armed forces for keeping violence removed from most daily lives of citizens.

What advice do you have for current SFS students?

Learn how to build a net present value model in Excel, and then ask alumni in finance to review and suggest how to improve the model. Ask them to be brutal in their feedback because there is always room to improve. Keep striving and refining the model over time. This is a core skill for SFS students to add to their professional arsenal and make them even more potent as professionals.