Thanks to the persistent vortex of doomsday narratives in the media, it’s understandable that many talented engineers are feeling uneasy about life at work (and life on earth more generally).
If you find yourself on the receiving end of a layoff—or feeling existential dread more generally—the timing might be right for a major life change.
Remember that for centuries, in times good and bad, philosophers have provided humanity comforting wisdom that even though it’s impossible to control the external world, you can control your own thoughts, intentions, and actions. As a technologist with agency, it’s well-within your control to seek out a job that is personally fulfilling and makes a positive impact in the world.
If you’re stuck in a job that lacks purpose, maybe now’s a good time to start thinking about switching up your career to one with more potential for good. How about climate tech?
So what could a career in climate tech look like?
The answer to this question is pretty straightforward. It’s a lot like the job that you already have, even if you do not have a background in sustainability, environmental science, or an adjacent field. Your skills are more transferable than you may realize.
Consider the experience of Kevin Cianfarini, a 27-year-old senior Android developer at Octopus Energy, a renewable-energy supplier.
- He didn't have to take a pay cut
- He received multiple offers with higher salaries compared to his prior role at a fintech company
- It was a sense of meaning and purpose that inspired him to join Octopus—something that he did not experience at the fintech company where he previously worked
- At Octopus, he earns $185,000 a year plus a $40,000 stock option grant that vests over four years
As another example, Cassandra Xia left her software engineering job at Google where she worked on projects related to click-through rate predictions, according to an article in protocol. A year after leaving her position, she joined Evergrow, a climate fintech startup, as the head of engineering. What energizes her about the position is that climate “is a problem that’s not figured out, and there isn’t really an interactive solution,” in contrast to Google where “the problems have already been picked over.”
Cianfarini and Xia aren’t alone. According to Justin Hardin, co-founder and CTO at the job board Climatebase, more than 500,000 people have used the platform to seek out and apply for a climate tech job.
You won’t know what interesting opportunities are out there unless you look.
A climate tech economy is starting to take shape
It turns out that the foundations of a climate tech economy are starting to form, thanks to investors who are realizing the importance of committing capital to the problem—despite the overarching trend of a venture funding downturn.
“Climate tech funding in 2022 represented more than a quarter of every venture dollar invested in 2022, even though the market is not yet efficient at meeting climate objectives,” explains PwC.
“This represents aggregate funds raised for climate tech since the start of 2018 of US$260 billion, over which more than US$50 billion has come in 2022,” explains the report.
Specifically, PwC observes increased investment in carbon capture, removal, utilization, and storage.
Catherine Boudreau, a writer at Business Insider, interviewed several VCs who explained that “a new era is underway because of the passage last year of the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes some $370 billion in federal subsidies over a decade aimed at expanding renewable energy and boosting manufacturing in the US.”
"Climate is like the internet in that it's going to disrupt every corner of the global economy," explained Andrew Beebe in Bourdreau’s article, the managing director of Obvious Ventures, which has more than $1 billion in assets under management. "It might be like a dirty little secret in Silicon Valley that some of the best targets for venture capital are where governments will regulate the fastest."
Where there’s growth, there is a likelihood of new opportunities emerging.
Focus on signals—ignore noise
You might also be hearing contradictory perspectives about a downturn in VC climate tech funding.
Remember that stories like these are created by humans (and sometimes AI). One explanation for these varying perspectives is that reporters may be analyzing data over different time horizons. There may also be differences across data sources that analysts are using. We may never know the reason, as financial paper trails are ultimately in the decision-making hands of VCs choosing to fund companies. All we know is what we can see and what we are told. TLDR: Who knows what’s up, really?
No matter what macroeconomic data you’re examining, whether positive or negative, it’s a good idea to look beneath the surface —to discover signals in the midst of noise, overall. Even in areas where funding may be stagnating or slowing down, you can still find data points that are relevant to your job search.
“Funding for climate tech was relatively flat from 2021 to 2022, compared with investment slowdowns in other sectors, but a more granular look at the data suggests that resources have begun to shift away from previously dominant segments like transportation toward emerging technologies, according to Climate Tech VC (CTVC),” explains one article in Tech Brew.
Despite these macro trends, remember that your goal is to simply finda job. So make your own judgment calls.
Final words of empowerment
The economy feels larger than life sometimes. That’s because it is. After all, there are eight billion people in the world—and a large number are transacting with each other in some way on a regular basis. Yes it’s true, according to the United Nations, that “that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet.”
Despite how massive (and out of control) problems seem sometimes, remember that your mind has the power to shape reality. Brain formation travels at 268 miles per hour, according to researchers, with a storage capacity that’s unlimited. Imagine the power of putting that intellect to work to solve the climate crisis.
After all, the IPCC says that despite the potential for doomsday scenarios, the 1.5°C warming limit is still attainable.
As Yoda would say, “Do or do not do. There is no try.”
Maybe with enough brain power from the tech sector, humanity can achieve this goal.
Next week, we’ll publish a part two in this series, sharing practical, tactical tips to help you find a role that’s right for you.
Climate tech is a new industry, which means that you’ll be responsible for building technical architecture from the ground up. Learn how Stack Overflow for Teams can help support problem-solving at your organization.