A dream MSc Thesis – working at the United Nations in Copenhagen!

Montserrat Pitarch Ruiz

When it was time for Montserrat Pitarch Ruiz to write her Master Thesis for the MSc RENE programme, she wasn’t only looking for an internship – she was looking for an adventure. Montserrat wanted to base her thesis on real-life work experience, and her dream was to collaborate with developing countries to improve their lifestyle through renewable energy technologies. Many intriguing opportunities popped up during her internship search, but the clear winner was the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Copenhagen. They gave her an exciting new solar project in South Sudan to base her thesis on, and also put her in charge of more than 25 Country Offices!

We caught up with the very busy, but very motivated Montserrat to hear about her time spent at the UNDP. She was happy to share her amazing experience with us, to give us an insider’s perspective of working at the UNDP: the world-famous humanitarian organisation that “seeks to eradicate poverty and ensure that no one is left behind.”  We can catch a glimpse of their important work through her eyes.

Working at the UNDP

One of Montserrat’s many responsibilities is to design tailor-made renewable energy systems in the UNDP Country Offices globally, so her unit can assure that they have a 24/7 energy supply and proper communications in case of a crisis. Keep in mind these are developing countries, and some of them are unfortunately facing delicate situations, so they need direct contact and the ability to act immediately in an emergency. She adds, “The idea is to design solar PV systems with batteries (if required) to supply renewable energy to each Country Office, increasing their energy security and reliability.”

As for the work environment, Montserrat is all smiles when she says, “Our unit is like a family. We support and help each other whenever needed. We come from many different backgrounds which makes the work challenging, fun and rewarding.”

South Sudan Project

Montserrat has many interesting projects going on at the moment, from a business case in Zimbabwe to other solar projects in Nigeria and Nepal; however, her real focus has been in South Sudan. She explains, “The first day I arrived at the UN in Copenhagen, my supervisor came back from a mission in South Sudan Country Office where she had made a site survey to check the current status of the compound in Juba, and installed current sensors to see the energy consumption of the premises. It’s a big compound with many buildings, with one of the biggest energy consumption ratios compared to other Country Offices we work with. They wanted to install a Solar PV system to reduce their energy dependency on fossil fuels and to reduce their carbon footprint – to become a showcase to inspire other businesses with their renewable energy system.”

“This project means a lot to me as I fully developed the whole system. It will be my first Hybrid Energy System to become ‘real’, and it includes an energy efficiency analysis. This project has really allowed me to grow professionally, as I have developed many technical and management skills. I’ve also grown personally, as I have realised that developing these types of projects is what makes me happy. Although my internship will soon end, I know for sure that my colleagues in Copenhagen will keep me informed and show me the final results, as it truly means a lot to me.”

InnoEnergy MSc RENE Programme

Montserrat shares how her time in the MSc RENE programme has prepared her for this challenging work: “My RENE Master’s Degree gave me not only technical skills but also project management skills, both of them have been very invaluable during this internship. Also, facing real-life projects during the programme taught me how to effectively deal with them and manage my time – as well as deepening my technical knowledge. Their innovative programme combined a technical Master’s Degree with top notch business courses, so I gained very useful and diverse knowledge that I’ll for sure use all along my future career. Studying at two different universities and going abroad has also given me different insights to grow personally and professionally. It’s an absolute must in today’s global workplace. It’s easy to stay in one place, but it’s so much more rewarding to get out of the comfort zone of your home country. Although I think the first time shouldn’t be when you start working. Getting this experience while you study is really important and gives you a competitive edge.”

Life after Thesis

Montserrat’s last six months have been an exhilarating blur, juggling her many work responsibilities while writing her Master Thesis on the weekends. As she finishes up her last few weeks at the UNDP, she is looking forward to her return to Barcelona and will be looking for a job related to renewable energy when she arrives. She will have this incredible experience under her belt, and great friends she made at the UN who she knows, “will always be there whenever I need them.” As for future plans, she may not know exactly what she wants to do… but she knows how she wants to do it. “My goal is to create an impact in Spain by developing projects based on renewable energy… and I also want to help developing countries with these inexhaustible natural resources so that they can have a better quality of life. So, I just need to figure it out how to combine both goals. All I know for sure is that throughout my career I want to enjoy what I do and learn every day so that I can evolve and grow. I want to work hard to achieve my dreams since I am the only one responsible for my actions and the decisions I make. I don’t want to regret a single thing!” With this winning attitude, Montserrat has all she needs to be successful in her next career adventure.

Solar Project of UNDP Zimbabwe CO