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Advice to my younger self
Washington, DC partner Serena A. Rwejuna

March 2024: Serena A. Rwejuna is a partner in our Washington, DC office, where she is a leader within the Energy Markets & Regulatory practice. She is also co-head of the Firm's Global Green Policy, Regulation and Incentives Strategic Specialty Area. Serena was recently named as one of Hart Energy's 2024 Influential Women in Energy honorees. Here are her reflections on her career to date.
You have to be intentional about your career—but also open to opportunity
I'm the only lawyer in my family. I went to business school and worked in leadership and finance before law school. I originally planned to be a corporate attorney because that's the kind of work that I knew lawyers did, aside from the type of litigation I saw on "Law and Order," which I knew wasn't my path.

My first project as a junior associate was an energy regulatory matter. I immediately knew it was a critically important practice, and I was fortunate to be invited to join the group. I encourage students to be open to working in areas of the law that they may be unfamiliar with or that are quickly developing, because you may be surprised where you find your passion.

I see law as a helping profession
I always wanted to use my skills to help people and to empower communities. So how does working in energy do that? Think about the impacts of energy security, energy poverty and environmental justice on communities; think about the fact that every single thing that we do, no matter what part of our life it is in, personal or professional, is ultimately tied to energy—I like to think of it as the great connector. I love what I do because I get to play a part in making sure that we have a system that is as efficient, resilient and reliable as possible for our generation and those to come.

My passion is for learning
I earned my fourth degree in law school. When I graduated, I promised my family that I wouldn't go back for another degree, but by working in energy, I'm able to still satisfy that deep intellectual curiosity and love of learning. I'm still learning every single day, between staying up-to-speed on technological advancements in the energy sector, to tracking emerging policies, and advising clients on complex regulations and laws that are constantly changing, there's no shortage of opportunities to learn and grow.

Pause, acknowledge your feelings and celebrate your successes
The lack of representation, combined with the myriad of challenges that Black professionals face, many of which are unique to our experiences, can really be daunting and overwhelming. While navigating these challenges, we often fail to pause and appreciate what we've already accomplished.

It's important to remember that the talent, strength and determination that drove our ancestors to continue to fight in the face of adversity is that same power that lies within each of us; and it's our outstanding accomplishments that have gotten us this far, so they won't fail us now.

Inner strength, talent and dedication alone are not enough
Especially as Black professionals, we have to surround ourselves with champions who are going to use their own political capital and influence to advocate for us, including when we aren't in the rooms where decisions are being made.

Representation matters—if you can't see it, it's harder to be it
Only 1 percent of US law firm partners are Black women. I've worked in places where there wasn't anyone who looked like me at the most senior levels. It can be hard being "the only." Even now, I think there are only five Black women who are energy regulatory partners at US Big Law firms, and we all know and support each other. That community, even though it's small, has played a big role in my professional journey, and I hope to play a role in seeing our community grow.

Find a role model, and be a role model
I have an amazing role model. She was the first example that I saw of someone who looked like me who had achieved my dream in this profession. What really stood out, and why I'm still so close with her, is that beyond her many professional accomplishments and example of zealous advocacy, she is truly dedicated to empowering the next generation of Black energy leaders.

Build a personal board of directors
My call to action to every Black professional, including the next generation of lawyers, is to develop a personal board of directors. Invite people with different expertise and life experiences to agree to be your sounding board when you're weighing major decisions. None of us can do it alone, and we need others to help hold us accountable. I personally never make a major life or professional decision without consulting my personal board of directors.

It's critical to have a community that will authentically support you
Your personal board of directors doesn't necessarily have to only include people who look like you or share your same experiences. Look for people with skills or experiences that you want yourself, or a perspective that's different from your own. Finding those people who are committed to you, who can do those things, is really critical to your success, your happiness and, hopefully, making your career sustainable.