From AUBG to a Global Energy Company: A Route to Fueling Change

July 02, 2024 Douglas Barry
From AUBG to a Global Energy Company: A Route to Fueling Change

At first blush, it may seem odd that a graduate of AUBG would choose a career with a global energy company, one of the contributors to climate change. But on closer inspection, it makes perfect sense.

Raya Georgieva graduated from AUBG in 2008 with a double major of Economics and Business Administration. Currently she lives in the Netherlands with her husband Radu (also an AUBG alumnus) and their two daughters Mia (7) and Emilia (3). Raya works for Shell as a finance manager for low carbon fuels investments.

She studied English in the Foreign Language School in Sliven, Bulgaria. She and her parents knew that being fluent in English would be important for her further education and career options. “I remember now how one day staff from AUBG admissions office came to our high school to introduce us to AUBG, the programs it offered, the student life and the opportunities. After that first impression, I already knew this is where I wanted to study.”

Even back then AUBG had a reputation for providing high-quality education with an international focus and an American-style liberal arts education, emphasizing critical thinking and democratic values needed to supercharge and sustain change and development in the Balkan region.

Raya was excited by the different kind of college experience AUBG offered and to prepare herself for the application and a scholarship opportunity. She studied hard in her English language high school. Her parents could not afford the tuition for all four years, so like many AUBG students she had summer jobs in US to earn money for the next year. She qualified for a scholarship in her third year.

She also did a semester abroad at the University of Maine. “Truthfully, some of us, especially in the Balkans, had grown up with a bit of inferiority complex because we thought foreigners had a biased impression of us and our abilities. It felt good to prove to myself and others that we can be top talent academically and professionally.”  She was delighted when a professor in Maine asked her if she thought the exam for her course was too easy.

“I said no, but it probably was. AUBG really prepared us to excel, and I’ve always felt we did better than those around us. It was a huge boost for my self-confidence. “

Seeking an impact

Beyond academics, she has been always looking for ways to have an impact on the larger society, and AUBG taught her how to do this. “The culture of AUBG supports the students in developing leadership skills and to live a meaningful life that includes service to others—in your direct community and beyond. Make life better for people. Develop your capabilities to the fullest, embrace the entrepreneurial spirit, a learner mindset and don’t be afraid of failure.”

Does she have any business ideas?  “I have a few but I won’t pursue them just now.” However, she does paint as a hobby, and donates some of the proceeds from sales to AUBG for student scholarships.

Have a look at her portfolio: https://raya-paints.canvy.art/

Hard to fathom how she has time for her art being a full-time working mom and managing energy transition projects at Shell. She’s excited about the transition from fossil to sustainable fuels as it’s aligned with her values and AUBG-influenced beliefs about creating positive change.

“I remember that even back in 2008, I worked with two other AUBG students on a business plan for the future of electric cars and electric mobility, a topic even more relevant these days, and we won first place in the competition with our presentation.”

She says Shell is committed to this vision and its Energy Transition Strategy to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, transforming its operations and energy products and that she’d be working elsewhere if this wasn’t the case. “We need to embrace and increase the use at scale of renewable energy such as solar, wind, hydrogen, biofuels, and more. It’s not one solution fits all, but tailored to industry and geography. It’s truly exciting and inspiring to work on various energy transition projects such as building a biofuels plant in Rotterdam to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) from feedstocks such as used cooking oil and other wastes, producing renewable natural gas from cow manure…” (“Shell is using cows to drive trucks”), “…enabling planting of pongamia trees with the benefits of reforestation combined with biofuels feedstock.” The list goes on.

Can you take some credit for starting Shell down this cleaner, sustainable path? “It wasn’t me that I started it, but I’ve chosen to consciously and deliberately work on de-risking investments in biofuels and making them a credible and profitable business case.” Comprehensive and consistent government policies are a crucial part of the journey to net zero. With the right regulatory conditions Shell and other companies can sustainably increase their investments through the energy transition.

To further develop herself, Raya completed a master’s degree program in supply chain management from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, where she excelled, she said, thanks to the sound foundation of knowledge and skills from AUBG. She said another benefit was the global AUBG alumni network where she enjoys many close relationships with other grads living in the Netherlands, Bulgaria, US, UK and all over the world. Does Raya rely on them for business advice or for deal-making? “Mainly, it’s about coaching, sharing ideas and help with family life and children.”

Ah, the really important stuff.