Collected thoughts on finding jobs in climate change as a software engineer. Edits and suggestions welcome!
- Finding a job isn't straightforward! Climate change isn't one industry, but several different industries, which makes it difficult to know
- Where to start looking
- Which companies / organizations are a good fit
- general culture
- business model / mission
- valuing / centrality of software to mission
- impact (e.g., carbon mitigation or adaptation strategies)
- positions that use your skills / expertise
- How to research the industry area or organization
- How to make the link between one's existing skills and experiences and the jobs that are out there
- What the first (and next) steps should be
- It can be somewhat intimidating to "make the switch." Some thoughts that may come up:
- Is there a place for me to contribute?
- Do I know enough? Am I arrogant to think my skills can make a difference? (imposter syndrome)
- See Eugene Kirpichov's PAW Climate Talk that dispels some Climate job myths.
Some personal experiences
- "My focus now is more in the planting seeds through in person conversations, so rather than applications, reaching out to people and seeing if they're open to a conversation, even if they don't currently have a position, or even if my application was initially rejected. I'm also being a little more patient in the process now and considering doing a little consulting to start with the possibility of joining a startup full-time." @Matthew Hoffman
- "along the way, i have done a lot of reaching out to founders or current employees to have conversations rather than directly applying, as was mentioned above. i did and still do find it very difficult to tell exactly what a company is doing from the outside. many are iterating or pivoting on their product/service/business model, and i want to know specifics before i would consider joining. success with this strategy is not guaranteed, but folks have been open to conversations more often than not." @jakedouglas
Thoughts from @Cate Levey (chemist/materials scientist, Impossible Foods)
- You don't need to be an expert in climate to work at a climate-related company. Just as you don't need to be a climate expert to be an accountant at Impossible Foods, you don't need to be a climate expert to do pretty much any job at one of these companies.
- Reach out to smaller companies! They often don't have enough resources to do much recruiting, and if there is overlap between your skills and their needs, and you're passionate about the mission and email the CEO, it's likely she/he will talk to you. This is how I got my last 2 jobs.
- Examples of jobs: programming for websites, ordering systems/software, or other general programming jobs [that] many large companies need.
Food is definitely an area with lots of exciting things happening these past few years!
I highly highly recommend subscribing to the newsletter Food+Tech Connect. That's the best way I've found to stay up to date on new companies (who might be hiring) and ideas.
An area that's a possible intersection of software/data and food is food waste. I don't have good recommendations in that area but you should def go through the Food+Tech Connect articles on their website and look -- there are plenty of companies working on it. That's a HUGE climate low hanging fruit.
In general, food companies are pretty old school, and we don't use/need much advanced software. This xkcd comes to mind.
Even at the food tech companies like Impossible, we are doing experiments and making empirical observations -- not that much software. There are some companies that claim to use AI to formulate (see: NOT Co from South America, Climax from Berkeley). However, the people I work with who are knowledgeable about the area are pretty skeptical and we're fairly sure it's more marketing rather than useful tools. We have a lot of extremely smart PhD's with programming skills at Impossible and have consistently found doing experiments is more useful than programming. Science, especially the very creative science going on at most of these food tech companies, is an area that you just can't outsource or automate.
That said, the tools for data that most people use are pretty bad for even basic scientific data. For example, Excel and google sheets both will delete your significant! figures, and google data studio doesn't even let you do error bars!(!! wtf. Same with Tableau). So there is room for improvement in some of the basic tools - esp if you work at one of those companies, make it easier for us scientists! The barrier to learning new software is pretty high, though; most food companies and even food tech companies are very traditional. Some good tools exist, but they aren't very widespread due to the learning curve. If you could make changes to Excel or Google Sheets that'd be amazing.