Durreh Tabassum is Powering Up Sustainable Energy

November 15, 2021

By: Victoria Solan and Hlazo Mkandawire

Durreh Tabassum, an Investment Analyst with Stop-Winlock’s Global Infrastructure team, has always had a strong interest in clean energy. She spoke to NextGen about how her professional journey has allowed her to explore her interests, as well as how working at the World Bank Group has enabled her to contribute towards energy transition work at the global level. Durreh also offers career advice for those starting out in the field, and shares how she incorporates her hobbies into her daily work life.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I grew up in Bangladesh, where I developed a passion for clean energy at an early age. Beginning in the 1990s, I saw my father dedicate his career to commercializing the concept of sustainable energy. In parallel, I witnessed the remarkable accelerated development of Bangladesh’s power sector. As an electrical engineer by training, I started my professional career working in the family business where I led several start-up operations and subsidiaries contributing towards the power sector development of my country.

Why did you decide to shift directions and join the World Bank Group?

My decision to join the World Bank Group was inspired by a growing desire to work on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda. In 2016, after completing my MBA at Cornell University, I joined the World Bank. I soon realized that I really enjoyed the work that I was doing and decided to build my career in the international development space. In 2019, I moved to the United Nations Development Programme to work on a multi-agency climate initiative that was launched at the UN Climate Action Summit. Now I am delighted to be back in Washington with the World Bank Group, this time with IFC.

Gitaraga village, Bugesera District in Eastern Rwanda.
Gitaraga village, Bugesera District in Eastern Rwanda, September 2018. Photo: Durreh Tabassum.

I took this photo during my WBG mission in Rwanda to visit a 4 Kw AC/DC mini-grid site under operation. It was a great experience to witness how a private sector-led mini grid project brought clean energy access to over 100 households and more than ten small businesses. The local businesses included a welder, a tailor, and a popcorn-maker!

Lake Titicaca, Peru (left) and Dubrovnik, Croatia (right).
Lake Titicaca, Peru, January 2018 (left) and Dubrovnik, Croatia, July 2019 (right). Photos: Durreh Tabassum.

The woman in the red jacket is an inhabitant of the floating village of Puno, Peru. Her home and the area where she is standing is entirely afloat. Like other members of the Indigenous Uros community, she lives in a home built almost entirely of local materials. The hut and its floating base are made from the totora reed, which grows along the edges of Lake Titicaca. I went to Peru for a winter vacation, and it exceeded all my expectations.

I took this photo during a vacation which turned out to be my last international trip before the lockdown. It took me several attempts before I was able to capture the perfect morning sun. I keep a print of this photo on my wall as a reminder that pleasure travel will return!

After the challenges of COVID-19, how can IFC help clients build greener?

Building a green recovery means tackling climate change risks with the rapid implementation of mitigation and adaptation measures. IFC can offer expert advice on new technologies and innovative business models for scaling up renewable energy and supporting energy transition. My team has been exploring opportunities for the application of new and existing technologies in emerging markets. For example, we are looking at how battery energy storage can be used as both a generation asset and as a grid service provider along with many other solutions across regions to introduce innovative renewable energy systems. We are also developing new modes of financing to help our clients tackle climate change by supporting them in developing and implementing net-zero pathways.

How do you network and what advice for career development can you offer?

I am an active member of different social groups and networks and this has helped me meet more colleagues. Before the pandemic, I enjoyed teaching Ashtanga yoga classes for the World Bank Group fitness program.

I very much enjoy mentoring and I volunteer for career events. This year I had the opportunity to serve as a juror for the World Bank Group's Youth Summit Case Competition.

My advice is to seek mentorship and to try out a different career path, a different industry, or a new sector without being afraid. With every step out of your comfort zone there is a bit of a learning curve, but there are great rewards and a sense of accomplishment.

You sound busy! What do you do in your spare time?

I love taking landscape photographs, even if it is just on my iPhone. Every time I visit a new town, I try to make time to visit local art galleries and learn more about the communities through their own lens. These visits let me draw inspiration for my own work.

Published in November 2021