The 2020 CUEN Energy Web Series came to a successful conclusion in mid-May. It was the first ever online format of the annual energy conference by the Cambridge University Energy Network, or CUEN, a student-led group at the University of Cambridge. The Energy & Environment Special Interest Group (SIG) at CJBS have been supporting the CUEN in organising the conference every year for a number of years. This year, five Cambridge MBAs – myself, Henry Lau, Alan Sternberg, Kei Koshigoe, and Lava Agarwal – from the SIG were actively involved in the organising committee. The 2020 web series had the title and theme – ‘New Energy Landscape: Opportunities and Challenges’. Two presentations took place each day over three consecutive days. The virtual event was a resounding success, we welcomed online over 300 participants, from 34 countries across the globe. While the journey to this event was long and challenging; nonetheless, it was rewarding to see the event come to its final fruition.
We started planning this event back in October last year, when we first met our CUEN colleagues. Over eight months, we learned to juggle demands from the intense MBA programme, alongside meeting the organising team weekly to make key strategic decisions regarding the conference’s theme, content, marketing, fundraising, and logistics. We decided to organise a mix of presentations, panel discussions, and start-up pitches at our (initially planned) one-day conference. By late March, we had already lined up most of our presenters and panel speakers and had secured a venue. We were well ahead of schedule but then the tides turned.
Within a matter of days, the COVID-19 outbreak forced the world under lockdown, including all university institutions across the UK. We were advised that any conference should be postponed or cancelled. That week, our team had a difficult decision to make on the prospect of this conference – in addition to dealing with the extensive disruption of COVID-19 on our personal lives. The team remained passionate and determined to press forward with the conference. As students of a world-class institution at Cambridge University, we wanted to demonstrate our resilience and adaptability to a crisis. Most importantly, we felt the global energy transition cannot come to a grinding halt over a global pandemic, and neither should this conference. So, we opted for a third option: to transform the conference by going digital. Renaming it the Energy Web Series, we decided to make it a three day event and adapted the content, logistics, and marketing accordingly. The weeks that followed involved re-organising the team’s priorities and executing with haste. This experience was, without any shadow of doubt, one of the most memorable moments of our MBA year.
One of the speakers, Sanjeet Sanghera, is a CJBS MBA alumnus (2018/19) and he was a member of the organising committee for the CUEN conference the previous year. I would like to close this blog post with a message of thanks from him.
‘I’d like to thank the organising committee of the 2020 CUEN Energy Web Series for putting together an excellent event in the face of a challenging situation. Having organised this event in the past, I know how much work it is within a regular Cambridge MBA year. The question and answer sessions were particularly engaging with differing views coming in from all over the world, highlighting the strengths of an online format. Navigating the energy transition requires us to find global solutions and identify new ways for co-operation. It is through information sharing and discussion that we will arrive at these solutions. This is precisely why it is so important to continue the conversation through events like this. I am certain that next year’s Cambridge MBA cohort will be inspired by the dedication and perseverance of the Class of 2019/20’ – Sanjeet Sanghera (MBA 2018/19)