From Meetup, Spotify and Intercom, these people explain how and why they moved into climate tech
And why you don’t need to be a scientist to find a job you love
Climate tech is attracting some of the best talent
Climate solutions are expanding into all areas of tech - from the supply chain, to food to fashion. It’s now something that cuts through every single job: from creating products with lower impact, to increasing product usage, to reducing energy intensive processes. In a UK survey, 3 out of every 5 people would leave their job for a more ‘sustainable’ role. Smart and ambitious people are starting to abandon traditional tech for the climate movement, choosing to dedicate their five days a week to build and scale tech solutions for the climate crisis.
But it’s not always easy to know where to start. What actually is a climate job? Do your skills fit the jobs available? And will you even enjoy it? We spoke to Martin, Sílvia and Fiona from our portfolio company Overstory - who are reducing the risk of wildfires and power outages - to ask them about their experience and advice to those thinking of making the switch.
Why did you start thinking about moving to work in climate tech?
Martin, Sílvia and Fiona moved from Spotify, Intercom and Meetup. For Sílvia, who moved from a product role at Intercom, it was about wanting to use tech to power change: “I love the speed and innovation of the tech world, and the customer value of product thinking”, she says, “but I came to a stage in my career when I started questioning: how can I use my skills and knowledge to make this world a better place?”
Martin joined Overstory as an engineer from Spotify - previously working with AI to do content recommendations - and shared Sílvia’s drive to join a mission: “I was growing more and more aware and concerned with the environment, and I quickly realised that my job was not helping society in this way. If I was doing my job well, some people might consume more content. If I did it wrong, they would simply not consume as much. When you start to realise this, it's hard to care in the same way and have the same motivation for your day-to-day job”.
Fiona left her role as COO of Meetup a year after the acquisition from WeWork to spend some time with her kids, and later joined Overstory. She wanted to continue working on a mission that she believed in with a great team. “It was during the time with my kids that I began to look around me and realise that no one I knew was working to help solve our climate crisis. I wanted to be able to tell my children that I did everything I could to solve this hugely important problem”.
This sense of ‘if not me, then who?’ is something a lot of people feel when deciding to jump into a career in climate, and Martin feels the same: “There are so few people that care about this issue compared to the colossal impact it will have on everyone. If even I, who is very aware of the problem, do not spend 8 hours every day on this topic, who will? We need all hands on deck.”
What did you originally think a career in climate would look like?
“At first I thought I needed to become a climate scientist to work in climate”, says Sílvia, “considering I had zero domain expertise in climate or any ecological field, I started exploring masters and formal education programmes”.
Fiona, who had worked at The New York Times and Meetup, originally shared the same concerns: “I was worried about the fact that I hadn’t studied science since high school… It wasn’t immediately clear how my experience would translate”. The fears were unfounded, though, says Sílvia: “I learnt much faster than I thought. I realised my functional expertise and my strong drive to learn were enough”. Imposter syndrome is common when moving into climate tech, but increasingly there are roles and companies with high impact that don’t require knowledge across every vertical and that need the very skills you have.
How did you approach finding a role in the climate space?
Fiona has made two big career changes in her life, and approaches them like a reporter: “I wanted to start out by just learning as much as I could. I talked with a ton of people (about 150!) to figure out where I should focus in order to have the biggest impact. Then I did some consulting work to learn more. I knew that finding the right team to work with was most important to me.”
Sílvia and Martin approached it slightly differently to one another. Sílvia started broadly, learning all about climate change and then narrowing it down, Martin started inversely: defining his criteria and then looking for companies that fit it.
Working in climate is similar to any tech company, they say, but there are two core benefits: the purpose and the people. “You feel a sense of purpose and internal alignment that is hard to describe” says Sílvia, “knowing I’m applying all my energy and knowledge to something bigger than myself. Knowing I’m helping the world to progress in the right direction”. After all, says Fiona, “Climate depression is a real thing”, and to be authentic to your values you need to act. “It helps so much to know that you’re working on real solutions to real climate-related problems”.
For Martin it mattered to be around people who understood the scale of the problem too: “belonging to a company full of people that realise how much and how quickly things need to be done is truly a morale booster and it helps you stay engaged and active”.
The people who are working in climate see the world differently too, says Sílvia: “they believe in collaboration over intense competition. They understand the importance of being kind and human in the professional world. They are visionaries and unconditional believers that we have the power to make this world a better place.” Overstory was no different: “waking up every morning to work with the truly wonderful team at Overstory is a gift”, says Fiona.
What advice would you give people who are thinking of moving to work on climate solutions?
Be smart when analysing climate impact, advises Martin: “Many times I stumbled on a seemingly interesting job, but when I thought more about it, I realised that it isn’t actually helping - it may even make the problem worse. Ask yourself: do they sell a product or a service while looking after the environment? Or do they look after the environment by selling a product or a service?”
Sílvia advises you to take your time, too: “Don’t rush into applying to a bunch of positions. Transitioning to climate is not like your typical job search, it is also a search within yourself. What do you love? What are you good at? What does the world need? What is real and what is ego? Make sure you give space and time for this self exploration”.
Figure out the right fit, but don’t spend too long deciding - urges Fiona: “Working to solve the climate crisis is the most important mission of our time, so don’t wait. Don’t worry that you don’t know enough or that your experience isn’t relevant. Climate touches everything, so all experience is relevant. Find a team you love that is working on a problem that is interesting to you and dive in!”