Dec. 2, 2016

Global Alumni Profile: Jessica Housden

Name and graduation year: Jessica Housden, MPP ‘10
Job Title: Senior Manager, Commercial Networks
Organization: UK Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem)

I graduated from Batten’s Accelerated MPP program in 2010, as part of the second graduating class and one of the first international graduates. I remember watching the school grow before my eyes, both literally (in the case of the Garrett Hall renovation) and figuratively, as new professors joined the faculty, the variety of academic opportunities expanded, and the Batten community developed a sense of identity. It always impressed me how much impact the students had on shaping the school. Now I’m a few years further along, I can see that Batten has influenced me in return.

I work for the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), which is part of the UK civil service and regulates the British energy market. I’ve been here for three and a half years now. Energy policy is an exciting area at the moment, as we’re in a real period of transition due to a combination of climate change, technological innovation and market reform. Within that context, Ofgem works to ensure that British consumers benefit from competitive prices, a secure supply, and the transition to sustainable sources of energy. We provide independent economic and policy analysis, oversight of the industry, and so that regulatory arrangements work to the consumer’s advantage wherever possible.

Ofgem has given me a lot of responsibility from early on in my career, and I like to think that Batten prepared me well for the challenge. I currently manage “OFTO Tender Round 5,” which is part of an innovative approach to regulating offshore wind transmission. We are running a competitive tender process for the transmission connections to five windfarms. With a combined value of over £2 billion, this is the largest and most ambitious round Ofgem has tendered so far. It feels great – if sometimes a little daunting – to be playing a central role in such important investments in the UK’s green economy.

My biggest achievement before moving into this role was acting as lead policy adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change on an EU law governing how electricity is traded between European countries. I was in Brussels when the 28 member states voted to adopt the law, and I’m really proud that the UK achieved all of our critical outcomes in the negotiation. The EU Law elective I took at Batten came in pretty handy.

Being an international student and now an alum has meant some challenges over the years. Some were big, such as when I realised that due to the visa I had, it wouldn’t be possible for me to have the policy career I wanted and stay in the US, even though by then I’d lived there for close to 10 years. Moving back was not an easy decision, but I think it’s worked out well (although someday I’d still like to come back to work in the US if I can). Other challenges were unexpectedly specific, such as the time I had to haul my two gigantic UVA diplomas into Ofgem’s London office because HR needed to see my official paperwork when they hired me – but it turned out that they didn’t fit into the photocopier!

All in all, I’m really glad I decided to go to Batten, and I believe that my MPP has prepared me for an interesting and satisfying career – both through the specific skills it gave me, but also the value placed on leadership. The biggest lesson I’m learning at the moment is that leadership, for me, means creating circumstances where the people in my team can shine, and then giving them the space and confidence to do so – which, in hindsight, is exactly what Batten did for me.