Toby A. Tiktinsky
“A father, husband, entrepreneur, I’ve dedicated my career to environmental sustainability.”
Hometown: New York City, New York
Family Members: Wife, Hiam (married for 18 years), 2 sons: Khalil (11), Naseer (7)
Fun fact about yourself: Since I was 18 years old, I’ve played a West African drum called a djembe.
Undergraduate School and Degree:
- University of San Francisco, Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy with a minor concentration in environmental science. I graduated magna cum laude.
- London School of Economics, Master’s of Science in Environment and Development.
Where are you currently working? Senior Vice President, Business Development, Convergent Energy and Power
Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:
- As SVP of Business Development, I lead our company’s business development team, currently comprised of 13 people. I report to our CEO.
- Outside of work:
- I’ve served as Consulting Trustee for Manhattan Country School (where my kids attend primary school). where I’ve focused on helping the school apply for a conservation easement on the school’s farm to help raise money to upgrade farm facilities. (Note I’ve paused my work as consulting trustee during the EMBA.)
- I am treasurer for our neighborhood homeowner’s association.
- I’ve served as a member of the board for The Chain Collaborative, a nonprofit organization that co-creates opportunities and strengthens capacities for community-led change in the coffee growing communities. (Note my two-year tenure as member of the board concluded.)
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the work I’ve done as part of my Capstone Project, which is focusing on how a start up company can help decarbonize the world’s natural gas supply. In researching this project, I’ve identified an opportunity to create substantial value by capturing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. This is normally vented from thousands of facilities, and turning that waste product into a low carbon fuel. This work has laid the groundwork for starting a new venture that I intend to launch called RebelFuels. As part of this process I’ve identified prospective customers, technical partners, and funding sources, while receiving expressions of interest from industrial sites. This project feels like the culmination of my EMBA experience, it is precisely the outcome that I had hoped to achieve in attending HEC Paris.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In Fall of 2019, I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with my colleagues and representatives of Shell, my customer, to cut the ribbon on one of the largest customer-sited battery energy storage systems in North America. At 10MW/20MWh, the system would save Shell millions of dollars in energy costs, and it represented a significant milestone for my company. I had started at Convergent only 3 years earlier, when the firm was still an early start-up (I was the 6th employee and we now have about 80 employees). When I joined the company, we had only one system operational, which was 500kW/3MWh. Prior to joining Convergent, I had been working at another startup in the agricultural space. I left that role because I wanted to work in energy. I had strong experience doing B2B sales and business development, but I did not have experience developing energy projects. In leaving my prior role, I took a significant risk, but I believed I could leverage my understanding of complex sales to add value to this early-stage company pioneering an emerging technology. The project with Shell was one that I had originated after conducting a complex sales process that took two years and involved negotiating and executing several different legal contracts (including an unincorporated joint venture agreement). The ribbon cutting ceremony with Shell validated my belief in myself and gave me the confidence to continue building my career (which included applying to and attending HEC Paris). The project is highlighted in this video.
Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Laurence Lehmann-Ortega: she enthralled me with amazing stories of innovative business models. Her passion and excitement for business model innovation was infectious. The tools she provided in thinking about how to create new ways of creating value shed new light on the very notion of strategy. I really enjoyed the clarity with which she outlined the notion of synergy and economies of scope. She is super-organized, structured, and easy-to-follow.
Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Having completed a taught master’s degree outside of the United States, I had developed a deep appreciation of getting outside of one’s home culture and benefitting from different cultures, viewpoints, and teaching styles. I knew I wanted to study alongside students from all over the world and HEC Paris has a clear commitment to creating an international student body. I also liked the strong entrepreneurial culture the school fosters (“we want you to create the next Google, not just get a job at Google”). I also liked the modular program, having an opportunity to gather in person with my class mates every other month for a year felt manageable, but also fun and new.
What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Fundamentals of leadership was revelatory for me. I had always suffered from imposter syndrome, fearing I didn’t belong or that I wasn’t skilled or smart enough to be doing what I was doing. In leadership, I learned to embrace myself, to be honest and open with my opinions and fears – and that many other people felt similarly; I came to understand we were all committed to doing our best and advancing as a team. I think the EMBA let me step into my skin and focus on making things work (rather than fearing the outcome may be better without me there).
Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? The first two modules of the program (two weeks in January and two in March) I had to attend via Zoom. Being in New York, I was six hours behind, meaning I had to alter my entire sleeping schedule. To accomplish this, I moved into a separate part of my house, went to sleep at 6 pm, woke up at 1 AM, joined Zoom class from 2 AM to 12 noon, then I pivoted and worked my day job until about 5PM. I had an hour to say hello to my family before going to sleep. It was exhausting, but my family supported me, my job allowed me to take the time to attend classes, and my classmates cheered me on.
What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Although the program provides a lot of skills and tactics for finding a job or changing roles, I think the power of the EMBA rests in the tools it provides students to construct a new reality. Dream big, try new things, and think about this as a platform from which you plan to launch your shuttle to the moon.
What is the biggest myth about going back to school? That it would be difficult to balance class (and class preparation), professional work, and family life (especially with kids, I have two primary school age children). In reality, you make time and less important things (like watching shows) fall away. When you have your family and work on board with your goals, you can absolutely balance work, home life, and school.
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Aminata Kaba. She is a public servant, focused her capstone on a business plan that would serve youth in her country. During our program, not only did she live through a coup, but she was appointed Minister of Telecom for Guinea. She is fierce yet humble, focused and driven. I enjoyed getting to know her and look forward to seeing great things from her.
What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I really liked the idea of going to class in two-week stretches, it gives one an opportunity to dive into the material and learn it in a focused stretch of time. I would much rather go deep into a subject for a concentrated period of time versus stretching it over many months.
What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to launch a startup business that I grow and scale into a global company that makes a meaningful impact on humanity’s effort to halt climate change while improving peoples’ lives.
What made Toby such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?
“I am the professor in charge of the Innovate Like an Entrepreneur Specialization, which Toby chose as part of his EMBA.
He was a very active member of the cohort, bringing interesting and valuable contributions to the class as well as to the teams in which he has been involved. He shows action as well as reflective skills; indeed, the project he developed with his team was very interesting as well as the thorough analysis of an innovative situation he has developed as an assignment for the course.
His background, experience as well as his soft skills and human qualities were remarkable.”
Professor Sihem Jouini
“Toby is a purpose-driven and strategy-guided leader, boasting a sterling professional track record. He complements a sharp business sense, honed by a breadth and depth of top-line business experience worthy of any executive board, with deep intellectual curiosity and genuine humility.
Toby is one of those rare participants who doesn’t just want to do well, but who wants to put what they learn in the classroom into immediate motion.
Why waste time, after all?
In my class on Business Environment— with its heavy emphasis on managerial economics— he demonstrated an almost uncanny ability to zero in on meaningful insights that would prove most relevant for his company and for his industry. His takeaways ranged from the granular to the abstract, and he impressed me with his ability and indeed enthusiasm to articulate both.
Perhaps what is most remarkable about Toby his almost boundless energy. This was most readily demonstrated during the height of the COVID lockdown; he achieved top marks in my class despite having to joining us in the wee hours of the morning on the East Coast.
When COVID regulations permitted him to join us in-person, he was even more impressive. Not all participants are capable of being this active so early in the day. Those who are almost never as alert as he was. And even if they are, they are most certainly not the ones volunteering to turn in the group work every single time.
Toby is that type of person.
This is a testament to the type of mind he possesses. It’s not just intellectual talent; it’s the willingness to make every aspect count and make it meaningful.
I have welcomed Toby’s active participation in the HEC EMBA program and wish him every success.”
Professor Jeremy Ghez
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