Re-examined: Thomas Kramer
- Name: Thomas Kramer
- Age: 45
- Where do you live: Washington DC
- Position: CFO @ Opower, Inc
- Year you started NHH: 1989
Why did you decide to study at NHH?
My history teacher in high school said it was a good idea. I was young and didn’t know any better.
Who was your favorite professor at NHH, and why was this person your favorite?
It would have to be a tie between Victor Norman and my Japanese professor, Henry Henne — both of whom told stories that made the topics come alive. With time, equations and tax tables disappear, but the stories remain.
What kind of student were you?
In retrospect, a very inexperienced one. Going directly from high school to NHH may be a study in efficiency, but I wasn’t really prepared for what hit me. You are better equipped to grasp the material if you have some work experience. Luckily there was Grafisk Senter and K7 Bulletin to help out.
What was the best thing with studying at NHH?
Did I mention K7 and Grafisk Senter? Student life is hyperactive at NHH, and it produces life long friends. This has been a great support for me while living in exile, as I still meet up with people I met during those years.
Tell us about your most vivid NHH memory!
There are so many, but the one that sticks out took me to Romania. After the fall of Ceausescu, the NHH student body collected food, clothing and money for humanitarian aid. I was asked for advice on what computers to donate to the student body in the city of Cluj, and somehow this morphed into me spending Christmas break teaching the Mac operating system to engineers in Transylvania. One of them later became a large Apple distributor.
Tell us about your career.
Accenture was kind enough to teach me the programming language Cobol after NHH, so when my girlfriend wanted to get an MBA in the U.S. I followed her and returned to school. Subsequent to business school in Boston, I moved to DC and worked for the Boston Consulting Group for a couple of years. During the first Internet boom, I left consulting and co-founded a cloud-based enterprise software company. Like everybody else, we thought Cvent would be bought or go public in 2–4 years. However, it would be a decade later when I decided it was time to leave my baby. I then went to work at Opower—an energy efficiency software company where we literally help utilities sell less energy to their customers.
What is the largest obstacle you meet in your job?
The world is different now. Not only do we have the millennials to deal with, but thanks to Silicon Valley, newly minted engineers can sometimes command salaries comparable to some CEOs in Norway. It takes talent acquisition and management to a different level.
Do you have any good advice to give NHH students about getting a job?
Follow your passion. If you don’t have one, there is always consulting or banking. That may sound flippant (and it is a little), but these organizations have very good training programs, and they help the transition to becoming a contributing member of society.
What are you reading right now?
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. It’s a historical novel, a fictionalized report on Thomas Cromwell’s rapid rise to power in the 1500s. Brilliant insight into the political intrigue that took place in Britain (and Europe) during the middle ages. I’m told it’s like a historically accurate Game of Thrones.
What TV-shows do you watch?
I only recently got Netflix and have been binge watching “House of Cards” and “Narcos.” “House of Cards” can be described as “West Wing” meets “Breaking Bad,” and “Narcos” depicts the career of Pablo Escobar. Both are highly addictive.
What kind of career would you choose if you could choose again?
I can chose again. We all can. Every day when I get up, I decide on the rest of my career. I love what I do. Climate change is the most important challenge facing humanity today, and I am privileged to be able to work in a job that has an effect on that. However, it’s hard to retrace the steps that landed me here. As Steve Jobs famously quipped, “the journey is the reward. “