Ask CEMS graduate Denisa Valsová what she feels passionate about and she’ll tell you without hesitation: making the shift to sustainable energy. Ask her where her skills and experience lie, and she’ll say consultancy. And if you want to know what kind of role constitutes her dream job, she’ll probably tell you it’s the very one she has now.
Since 2019, Denisa has worked with, and later started leading small teams of sharp minds within energy multinational E.ON’s Inhouse Consulting organisation. It’s a position that keeps her very close to the action – helping to define strategy, benchmarking best practices and sharing and scaling new solutions across the company’s most critical priorities in digital transformation and sustainability. And it’s a high-profile role within one of the most exciting organisations in the energy space today, she says.
“E.ON is a CEMS Corporate Partner, so as a student the company was very much on my radar given my passion for energy. I got the chance to work directly with E.ON’s inhouse consultancy ECON during our skills seminar and I was hugely impressed with the personalised feedback and follow up they gave me. Here was a company that despite its size was still human, fun and intimate in its focus.”
Making the decision to go for an internship in 2018 wasn’t hard, she adds. The fit felt right, and the values, the culture and the people she’d met “sealed the deal.”
“The experience I’d had of E.ON as a student was replicated during my internship and on into my career in the company. I’m surrounded by smart, motivated people who are working together towards a goal that I am passionate about, and who have become my support network and my friends over the years.”
Being part of an inhouse consultancy, the work is very close to that of an external agency, she says, with one key caveat: alignment.
“What we do is the same as a regular management consultancy firm, except that our clients are mainly our colleagues. We work with different teams and functions across the group to bring solutions to the challenges and problems they face, but we bring that extra dimension of inhouse alignment, expertise and industry know-how which is a critical advantage.”
The work itself is hugely varied, says Denisa, and it touches a breadth of diverse functions and areas; from strategy to business development or transformation, across E.ON’s many functions and regions. She and her teams organise brainstorming and problem-solving sessions and workshops with a broad range of internal clients. On top of client work, they also engage in various internal activities shaping their consultancy, like recruitment, company-wide pulse surveys or organising summer offsite team buildings. No one day resembles another, she stresses, not least because consultants are proactively rotated on a regular basis from project to project.
“Our E.ON clients sometimes complain because they get to know individual team members and they like the continuity. But for the team, it’s important that we get stretch opportunities through exposure to different areas of the organisation and different business problems. It’s critical that we push ourselves right outside of our comfort zones, so we make it a priority to work on new projects – despite the pushback from our colleagues!”
In this sense, CEMS was a fantastic starting point, says Denisa. Being part of a diverse, international cohort and studying abroad at a young age prepared her well to take on new challenges and to maintain a learning orientation, however new or daunting the prospect. CEMS was also key in helping her build teamworking skills that she continues to put to good use on a daily basis.
“When you’re bright and a high achiever, it can be tempting to see challenges or problems as something you can fix better on your own. But CEMS really teaches you the power of teamwork, and how by challenging each other and questioning our thinking, we can achieve so much more as a group.”
CEMS also helped her build confidence across things like business acumen, communication and presentation skills and the ability to push herself forward and “speak up” when she has something to contribute – an attitude that she sees as critical to success in any field.
“The advice I would absolutely share with CEMSies looking for a foothold in the job market today would be this: be daring. Go for what you want and don’t be afraid to put yourself forward and to speak up for yourself. When you’re looking for the right fit for you, don’t go for second or third best. Be confident about your potential and don’t undersell yourself.”
Failure too is an “excellent tool” for learning, she adds. And it’s something that young people should embrace and normalise.
“CEMSies are bright students, and used to getting the grades and making the mark. But in the world of work, the rhythm is different and challenges come at you in all forms, all the time and from unexpected angles. With the best will in the world, there will be times where you get it wrong and the client doesn’t like your work. But these setbacks or mini failures are normal and they’re good for your personal growth – they are a vital opportunity to learn, to experiment and to try again.”
Working for ECON, says Denisa, means being in an environment that prioritises learning, experimenting and personal growth. It’s a culture where mentoring and feedback are key drivers of professional development. And where the focus from the top down feels “personal and close.”
“I’d absolutely recommend ECON to talented young people who want to make a difference in the energy transition space, and who want to do that while growing and developing as professionals. Ours is a company where you grow and learn on the job, and where you will be supported by colleagues who will quickly become friends for life.”