An interview with David Goldwyn *86, president of Goldwyn Global Strategies, LLC, an international energy consulting company. Check out his LinkedIn profile here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-goldwyn-62227438/. Interview was conducted by Jason P. Mulderrig '18.
JPM: What did you study at Princeton? What did you do outside of class? What was your senior thesis about?
DG: I was a J.D/M.P.A student at the Woodrow Wilson School, concentrating in Field Two, Development Studies.
JPM: What is your current job title?
DG: This is my 15th year as CEO of an eponymous consulting firm, specializing in international energy. I maintain strong think tank connections as Chairman of the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center. My Princeton education has been indispensable. My firm analyzes geopolitical and domestic policy developments and predicts and assesses their impact on energy markets. Understanding how policy is made, how long it takes to develop, what kind and quality of data are required to persuade a government to act, and how a carefully considered change in policy can accomplish the government’s goals with minimal adverse commercial impact are the key skills of my work. The Woodrow Wilson School taught me how to analyze policy, use data and write persuasively. I use those skills every day.
JPM: Tell us about the day-to-day for your job?
DG: I start each day reading the news: multiple aggregations of energy market developments, and the New York Times, Washington Post and Financial Times. I attend policy workshops and events both to listen policymakers and experts and to communicate with peers. The rest of my day is spent thinking and writing, developing my insight and analysis based on the mosaic of information I collect and the questions I ask. I’m very fortunate. I spend a lot of time in think tank world, speaking and writing about energy policy trends, from Mexico’s energy reforms, to the impact of Venezuela’s default on energy markets to understanding which countries are implementing their Paris agreement targets and which have not started their energy transitions. When I see a lacuna in US or foreign government policy, I write about it and communicate with the policymaker. Sometimes they even take my advice. My clients pay me to be insightful and informed, so for me every day is like graduate school.
JPM: What has your overall career path been like? Why did you make specific pivots/switches in your career?
DG: I went to the Woodrow Wilson School to pursue a career in public policy and I have been blessed to have served nearly a dozen years with the US Department of State and Department of Energy. I started at a law firm (Paul, Weiss) to work for Ted Sorensen and pay off my undergraduate and law school loans. I thought working at Paul, Weiss would be a path to government service but the political process defeated me. I shifted gears and joined the State Department as a civil servant in the Office of the Legal adviser. 13 months later (just before Bill Clinton was elected) I moved to the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs as a special assistant for economic affairs and then got a field promotion to chief of staff. It was an immersion course in international diplomacy. Four years later I served as UN Ambassador Bill Richardson’s Washington office head and his deputy on the National Security Council. When he became energy secretary I left the civil service and served as his Counselor, then Assistant Secretary for International Affairs. It was a crash course in energy but I was able to bring diplomatic experience to issues like Nigeria’s transition to democracy, and Venezuela’s turn towards autocracy. After the 2000 election returned me to the private sector, I spent eight years consulting and co-edited a book and wrote many task force papers on integrating energy and foreign policy. I returned to the State Department as Secretary Clinton’s first Coordinator and Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs, where I was able to put my policy ideas to work, including creating programs on energy governance and designing the new energy bureau.
JPM: In what ways did Princeton prepare you for what you are doing after graduation?
DG: Princeton taught me how to be ready to master a new policy area – how to understand the issue, weigh the data, create policy options and understand the political, economic, cultural and bureaucratic context. I also met amazing friends and colleagues who I have worked with and remained in contact with over the years. Princeton taught me how to work in groups, and how to use analysis rather than rhetoric to move to consensus. The subject matter has changed over time, but the Woody Woo approach was always about teaching skills not content. I appreciate that approach now more than I did then.
JPM: What is the most surprising thing about energy that you have learned about since graduation?
DG: I did not learn much about energy when I was at Princeton. What has surprised me most is how integral energy is to economic growth, how much political development impacts the prospects for reform, and how helpful technology is in reducing the political pain and cost of energy transition.
JPM: Is there anything in energy that currently excites you?
DG: Energy markets are driven by technological change and geopolitical disruption. These days every day is exciting. But more than anything, I am excited by the potential for battery storage, digital technology and distributed energy technology to transform economic development and climate change. Politics can be dispiriting but technology gives me hope.
JPM: Do you have a recommendation/tidbit of advice for current students?
DG: There are many interesting careers to be had in energy, from engineering and geoscience to green finance, project management and country risk. But whether you are speaking to a Minister, a CEO or a bank, or designing a reform strategy, the key thing you have to understand is how markets work: power markets, oil markets, gas markets, or carbon markets.