Whitney Hayes - Mountbatten Program

Whitney Hayes

Whitney Hayes

Alum Of The Month

Program: London

Intake: August 2011

Current Role: Senior Research Analyst at Elevate, a climate action nonprofit


What and where did you study before your Mountbatten internship?
I majored in English at Virginia Tech before my Mountbatten internship.

What made you apply for the Mountbatten program?
My primary motivation for applying to the program was the appeal of international work experience. At the time, I was still very unsure of which direction I wanted my career to move in, so it was immensely appealing to get the chance to live and work in London.

Describe your sponsor company and your role within it.
I worked for Deutsche Bank as a Business Analyst, though I wound up with an eclectic series of duties throughout the year given that our team began restructuring shortly after I was hired.

What was the highlight/most memorable moment of your working experience during this year?
Working at Deutsche Bank, I had some exposure to the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility division which really opened my eyes to different types of impact that companies can make. For instance, you don’t have to be a nonprofit organization to do really meaningful work, and that awareness remains with me to this day.

What was the social highlight/most memorable moment during this year?
I think one of my favourite memories from that year was when a gaggle of us Mountbattens all donned Santa Claus outfits and attended the Santacon festivities in Trafalgar Square. Christmas is already my favourite season and so to have the opportunity to celebrate that with my fellow Mountbattens in a really fun and silly way, will always hold a special place in my memory. Particularly Christmas carolling in the Tube!

Please share a little wisdom/philosophy that you acquired during your internship
Keep an open mind to what your experiences illuminate for you. Be present during conversations. Hear your own reactions to those conversations. These reactions will teach you what you are passionate about and what you should pursue. Also, careers do not have to be linear! All work experience will be useful in some way that might not be clear at the time. It took me a really long time to understand exactly what I wanted to be doing, but I was patient along the way and found value in every role I had.

Upon reflection, what do you consider has been the biggest impact of your Mountbatten year?
Living abroad and meeting people from all kinds of backgrounds helped me to understand how passionate I was about writing. While my role at DB was certainly interesting, what I loved most was how many wonderful people I was exposed to via that position. I had so many wonderful and meaningful conversations throughout that year, and it really stoked the curiosity in me that has now been fully realized in the type of work I do and strive to do.

What happened after completing the year – what did you do next?
Once I returned to the States, I pursued my Masters of Fine Arts degree in Creative Nonfiction. After working as a full-time content writer for less than a year, I realized there was something missing in my career: impact. So I returned to school to develop another set of skills and after six long years, have finally completed my PhD in Sociology. All of my education has given me the tools to conduct meaningful research and to successfully communicate my findings. Not everyone can marry the creative with the analytical so even though it was a unique road, I have positioned myself to do really interesting work.

Where are you now in your working life and what do you do?
I honestly feel like my career is just taking off. Not only do I have a slew of skills now after almost a decade of education and training, but I have purpose as well as passion. I stumbled into the climate sector and have since grown to love this work and the potential for impact that my research can make. The climate crisis is not going anywhere, and we are really starting to see money come in from various entities (government, philanthropic, etc.) to help us find solutions. Additionally, I have a focus on equity in my work and really seek to understand how we can make the transition to clean energy equitable for a diverse range of communities, including those who have been historically disenfranchised and impacted by extreme weather due to climate change. While I do enjoy my role at Elevate now, I also feel like the world is my oyster when it comes to my career. I’m open to new ventures and seeing where my passion leads me!

Do you have any future plans that you would like to realise & what are they (career & social)?
Now that I am finished with my doctorate, I plan to travel regularly again, both internationally and domestically. My partner and I are openly childfree, so when I am not working, I make space for my activism (I run a reproductive rights group in my city of Roanoke, Virginia). I also want to return to my creative writing now that the dissertation is complete. Career-wise, I can see myself eventually working for myself– likely consulting on behavioral energy research.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I think people would be surprised to learn that I grew up in rural Appalachia, especially given how liberal my values and politics are now (and the fact that I don’t have a Southern accent).
Additionally, apparently I always forget to tell people that I have a great singing voice!