Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Rob Chan, Senior Manager at Turo and former Head of Customer and B2C Growth Strategy at Zoomo, opens up about his transition from working in software tech to climate tech while moving across the globe. In this fireside chat, Rob shares his tips and tricks on pivoting into the climate space, making climate your career, and finding your “why.”
Here’s what we’ll cover:
As Rob shares his career journey, he highlights the importance of leveraging your passions and interests to find a job that brings you joy.
(Note: This fireside chat took place while Rob was at Zoomo.)
How did your climate journey start?
My climate journey has been very interwoven with my parenting journey. It really extended my view that it’s not just my lifespan but also future generations who will be here for a lot longer.
While I was in San Francisco, I used to work at Uber and I had the opportunity to see what happened when the world stood still in 2020, which seemed so long ago. I think that really created an ‘aha’ moment within me. I saw what can happen to the air when we stop moving and what can happen to our environment when we rethink life and society.
The choices we make matter like how we vote, where we work, and how we deploy our time, energy, and skills. I’ve been on this transition path––worked at Uber and then worked at a Series B company called Fast. Now, I’m at Zoomo and we build electric vehicles, e-bikes, e-cargo, etc for last-mile logistics. It’s a tremendously interesting space because electric vehicles are a great way to move around in cities rather than petroleum-based vehicles. It’s also a stretch for me professionally going from purely software to software hardware financing. It’s a lot more spreadsheets than I’m used to.
When did you realize you wanted to work a climate job?
I realized it when I was at Uber, but the next job I took wasn’t a climate job. It was a job to get me back to Australia and closer to my family. It made me realize that career transitions take time, especially if you have a family to juggle. I always hold that North Star of where I want to take it and have conversations with people in the community. Not many people are in the climate space, so talking to people that are passionate about it gets you down that rabbit hole. Joining different communities like Soapbox made me realize that climate is something I want to focus on.
What tools did you use to find a climate job?
I’ll start off with the Ikigai Venn Diagram. This articulates a framework that can be applied to anyone’s situation, which is knowing what brings you joy, what you’re good at, and what the world needs from you (at least your perspective on the world right now). Another thing to consider is what you can get paid for because we operate and live in a society that’s governed by capitalist requirements. This is the framework that I’ve been using to figure out what gets me out of bed in the morning, what’s my thesis on impacting the world, what the world needs from me, and what am I good at.
For example, the thesis that I identify a lot with is the fact that we have a lot of climate solutions in the world and we just need to deploy them in the community.
In the US, transportation is roughly 25% of total carbon emissions. If I take that as a thesis—electric cars are a great solution to decarbonizing transportation. New cars sold in America, or at least in California, are roughly 20% battery or electric. It’s roughly the same in London, but it’s only 2% in Australia (where I’m at). So I ask myself––How do we increase the adoption curve of electrified transportation? We know that it’s 70% in Oslo, so it’s not a question of whether or not the technology is there. It’s a question of whether or not we have driven adoption fast enough so that we can replace existing assets that are “stranded assets.” From my perspective, if I go back to the “where the world needs me” section, it doesn’t need me in early-stage research and development. The world needs me to drive commercialized solutions across society in a way that’s most useful.
I also researched all the Australian companies that were in the stage that I was looking at and looked at their mission, sector, and founder profiles. I tried to figure out if I would be happy working at the company.
Is there space for more people in climate jobs?
100%! Climate technology has seen a huge investment, so I think companies that are operating climate technologies are making changes in the world. They’re hiring pretty aggressively because it relates to other sectors. What’s difficult is understanding what is a climate company and if investors are interested in that climate solution. It’s hard to discern at first, but there are sectors across society that have companies experiencing this tremendous growth potential and looking for people that want to work on climate.
Where do we go from here? What are other resources that can help with a career transition into climate?
Climatebase was really effective. It lists job openings from different climate sectors. If you haven’t seen it, I would look at what jobs are available in a city near you. You’ll be able to see different pathways that you could take to work on climate. Once you open that door, you’ll realize that a lot of companies are listed in the sector you are interested in.
You can also join Work On Climate, which is a Slack-based community of people who are trying to figure out their transition into climate. Knowing there are around 10,000 people trying to get from Point A to B makes you feel less alone. There are also these channels that go into specific areas that you may be interested in learning more about. You can talk to industry professionals or hiring managers that are looking to bring folks into their company.
If we lived in a perfect, non-climate change world, what would you use your skills for?
I came out of university with a marketing and psychology degree. At the same time, I was also learning front-end design and web code. My first job at university was at a digital consulting practice. We tried to figure out what’s the impact of technology as it relates to consumer behavior, people’s lives, and business models. One case study I remember going through was Groupon—it was the fad when I graduated from university. So my biggest question was: Is group buying beneficial to businesses that have to reduce their offerings to get this volume of people? I was really thinking through that from a consulting perspective. It was useful to understand all the different levers around technology and business. It made me wonder: How can we construct something that is more sustainable and more ethical rather than purely just chasing the short term? I would be interested in working on this.
But also, probably for leisure like volleyball—it’s my happy space. If you’re playing volleyball, you can’t be on your laptop!
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