Lessons Learned Pivoting into Climate Tech

February 15th, 2022

If we spend 1/3rd of our waking life working, then why not work on something that matters?

This simple question drove me to reevaluate my career and long term vision, convincing me to leave my job at Robinhood and dedicate my career to fighting climate change. Finding my next role was harder than expected, so I wanted to write down some lessons I learned along the way in case they could be helpful for others.


Shout from the rooftops!

Just make sure not to jump

Let everyone know you’re interested in fighting climate change. Not only will your announcement encourage people on the fence to join the movement, it will also notify your network of your future plans. Members of your network that are already tackling climate change will want to reach out and help you along, as everyone understands this existential crisis is an all hands on deck moment. As a concrete example, when I told a friend I wanted to work on climate change, she instantly connected me to Tammy, a data scientist who recently joined Watershed.

Have a clear criteria for your next role

The climate tech space is big enough that you can grow your career in the way you want while still combating climate change. Having clear requirements for your next role significantly reduces your search space and the number of suitable opportunities, preventing decision fatigue. Quickly filtering out companies also saves everyone time; you won’t waste time talking to a company you won’t join, and the company doesn’t waste valuable time it could be spending fighting climate change. Personally, I wanted my next role to allow me to stay in the South Bay Area, to be technically challenging, to have a fair work life balance, and to have a small high quality team. I ultimately joined Glacier, which checked off all those boxes (shameless plug, we’re hiring!).

Join a community!

Make sure you’re in the right flock!

There’s a reason why humans are sometimes compared to sheep. The allure of social approval and groupthink can drive humans to follow the herd. Take advantage of that internal wiring and join a community so the sheep around you naturally influence you to do the right thing. I personally joined Breakthrough Energy Sciences and Work on Climate, both of which are slack communities that welcome climate focused people with open arms. Along with these communities came a wealth of resources and extremely intelligent people who were willing to extend a helping hand.

Keep an open mind to different solutions

Some of the first articles I encountered early in my climate journey led me to believe that agrotech, influencing consumer behavior, and crypto were all unfeasible solutions and a waste of resources. It was only much later after watching Regrow’s tech talk, learning that a sizable chunk of greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced via known consumer behavior change techniques, and reading Si Chen’s exploration of crypto in climate tech, that I realized these are all reasonable approaches for taking on climate change. If people are able to take their own interests (such as agriculture, social sciences, and crypto) and pursue them while tackling climate change, they should be celebrated and encouraged.

I hope these lessons can help with your transition into climate tech–we need all the people we can get! Be sure to email me at hi.george.tong@gmail.com if you want to chat about climate, tech, skiing, dogs, or really anything; my door is always open.

Helpful Resources

I found these resources personally helpful on my journey:

Breakthrough Energy Website - Good overview of the climate problem and the major obstacles we face

Work on Climate - A fantastic slack community that offers support and resources

What can a technologist do about climate change? A personal view. - A thorough article on how a software engineer can contribute to the movement

PAW Climate - Multiple presentations by companies that use advanced technology to tackle climate change

Emissions by sector - Our World in Data - A thorough breakdown of carbon emissions by sector, allows you to quickly eyeball how impactful a solution could potentially be

Doughnut Economics - A novel take on how modern economics led us to the climate problem, and what we need to do to fix it

I also want to give a sincere thank you to the following folks who helped me along the way. I highly recommend talking to or working with any of them:

Abe Botros

Abhik Pramanik

Oli Hall

Brian Noguchi

Kaspar Mueller

Areeb Malik

Tammy Tseng

Nikhil Saralkar

Jolene Ho

Keenan Johnson

Yixing Xu

Robert Murphy