Alumni Highlight: Nick Silbergeld '04, Director, Hannon Armstrong

Alumni Highlight: Nick Silbergeld '04, Director, Hannon Armstrong

Our alumni carry the foundation of their Friends School education with them throughout their lives. Not only did their time at Friends prepare them for college, their professions, and the real world; they think critically, make room for reflection, work collaboratively with their peers, and thrive having learned “freedom within structure.

We recently sat down with Nick Silbergeld ‘04 to talk about his career and the impact of his experience at Friends for the most recent edition of Friends Magazine

How he got here: In my senior year of college I undertook a research project on the 2008 financial crisis for my economics major. I got interested enough to investigate careers in finance, only to be told by everyone that I had the worst possible timing. I eventually found a job through an old internship connection, and over the years found my way to New York to work at a large Wall Street bank. I quickly realized I was unhappy with this career path and started plotting my exit. Some pro bono work I had done led to an opportunity in Central America, and I moved there for two years working first on a sustainable tree farm and then managing a birding lodge. I loved the work and people there, but I knew I would eventually move home. Through this role, I found a position in sustainable investing back in D.C. This was a good marriage of my experience, and a few years after starting I enrolled in a year-long clean energy program, which then led to my current role where I’ve been since the start of this year.

Current work: Big picture, Hannon Armstrong invests in climate change solutions. What that mostly entails is investments in renewable energy projects – think solar and wind – as well as energy efficiency projects that help reduce energy usage. I focus on the latter, helping companies, governments, and non-profits lower the carbon footprint of their buildings by financing retrofits of energy and water systems. Sometimes this also entails building new projects with efficient designs and equipment, while other projects address physical infrastructure needed to adapt to climate change, and recently work associated with electric vehicles. We try to take a broad view of what’s necessary to create a more environmentally sustainable economy while ensuring each investment has a positive impact. 

Impact of your Friends education: Friends has had a big impact on my career, from open-mindedness to the ability to learn in uncertain environments. One specific skill I’ve found useful in my career is remaining patient and analytical when discussing an issue within a group, and really listening to what someone says. I trace that back to Meeting for Worship and the practice of centering, giving space after others speak, and carrying those skills over to the classroom.

Notable Friends School experience: In my freshman year, Coaches Tom LaMonica ’67, PE Teacher 1973-2010, and Michael McVey, Upper School Music, had me starting on Varsity football for our opening game at Boys’ Latin. In the lead-up to the game, Coach McVey told me all the upperclassmen on the team had confidence in me. We barely lost the game, but I remember how proud I felt as a part of that team and stepping up to be a contributor.

Memorable Friends School teacher: Senior year I was in two history elective classes with Nick Fessenden H’10 and the format felt so different from other classes. We would read or watch material, and then he stepped aside and let the students discuss and debate with little structure. It gave me a sense of maturity as well as confidence in preparation for college, and it was a proper culmination of all the years of schooling at Friends.