With the climate crisis rapidly worsening, many tech workers are recognizing they aren’t making any significant impact to better the world in their current roles, prompting them to leave the traditional tech sector to work for companies fighting the climate crisis. The tech industry is notorious for having one of the most lucrative job pools for its workers, though the majority of those jobs aren’t particularly glamorous, purpose-driven, fulfilling, or legacy-creating roles. In fact, some of the most common tech jobs consist of designing, engineering, and developing software such as mobile apps or operating systems, or assessing, analyzing, and evaluating data to help companies make better-informed decisions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us several times over that people expect the businesses they work for (and buy from) to take a stance for things that matter to them. And while tech experts may not know much about public policy, legislation, or environmental science, they do know a lot about data.
“It’s a data problem that we’re solving,” said Persefoni co-founder Kentaro Kawamori when approaching his business partner, James Newsome, about starting a SaaS to fight climate change, as reported by CNBC. A lot of tech workers in similar positions are feeling uncertainty regarding how to best make this career shift due to a lack of knowledge or experience around climate change. But their contribution to this work is not to be concerned with the science of climate change; it’s about managing and leveraging the data needed to navigate climate change.
Making The Shift
Dr. Soudip Roy Chowdhury, the CEO of Eugenie.ai, has witnessed this shift, as well, as more tech workers have looked to join companies with a mission that makes a positive impact on climate change. Dr. Chowdhury hired Narayanan Subramaniam as his CTO because of Narayanan’s dedication to living sustainably over the past 30 years, and because of how he could use his cloud-based technology expertise to impact climate change.
Dr. Chowdhury cautions tech workers on their career move to the climate change industry. “While the industry needs more workers, you do need to be passionate about climate change and technology in order for it to be satisfying work,” he says. In fact, some tech workers have taken serious pay cuts from huge six-figure salaries to average $60,000 salaries. He also advises to look at what type of technology one wishes to be part of developing.
Climate tech, as a niche industry, has skyrocketed due to several recent changes. From 2020 to 2021, climate tech has seen an 80% increase in investment. The industry’s worth is now estimated at $56 billion, with energy and power companies having seen the most significant growth. When other industries climate tech touches are brought in — for example, transportation, agriculture, food, or logistics — the investment in climate technology increases to over $114 billion, with two-thirds of investments going into mobility and transportation.
Finding The Big Impact
Overall, there is no shortage of job opportunities in climate technology, and while a lot of workers seemed to have taken significant pay cuts, investments into the industry have boomed. The most important thing to know when considering a shift to climate tech, however, is whether or not one is truly passionate about the work involved in mitigating the global impact of climate change. Without that passion, as Dr. Chowdhury mentions, the work may not be enjoyable.
When it comes to companies making the most impact, the biggest thing Dr. Chowdhury says that needs to be considered is scalability. A wide variety of climate tech companies are working to analyze climate change and understand how it needs to be addressed, but the tech industry isn’t the only industry that’s been affected by climate change. “As a technologist, we need to start thinking about scale and how our technology can not only address specific problems for a few industries, but across all industries,” says Dr. Chowdhury.
This is where using the notion of digitization will come into play. Dr. Chowdhury sees digitization and the innovative products it creates — such as the metaverse — as a prime opportunity for climate change and tech experts to collaborate and test out new, emerging technologies. With the metaverse, new technology being developed can be evaluated and tested to see the level of impact it will have in fighting climate change. And according to Dr. Chowdhury, Eugenie.ai is already accomplishing this.
“We are working on providing digital twin technology, where we help companies create a digital version of their processes and machines. This, of course, will help them to see how they can improve their output, but also how to follow certain process prescriptions,” says Dr. Chowdhury. These prescriptions are determined using simulations of data with a company’s past knowledge, combined with Eugenie.ai’s own research, as a blueprint. By following the prescription, companies can improve their sustainability KPIs, while maintaining operational throughput.
Dr. Chowdhury shares that his company is already partnering with some companies to test out this digital twin approach in the metaverse. “We have tested our digital twin today by applying it to some oil and gas mining companies. We’re helping them to reduce their production wastage by 2025 by focusing on fugitive emissions. The goal is to reduce their emissions close to 7-8% on a annual basis.”
A Glimpse Into Sustainable Business
Companies will now be able to more accurately estimate how their technologies will impact climate change upon launch. In turn, companies like Eugenie.ai can develop prescriptions that will rapidly accelerate the developmental stages industries will have to undergo when adopting new climate and sustainability technologies. With opportunities to develop life-changing climate technology becoming more available and in dire need, it’s no wonder that an increasing number of tech workers are looking to change careers and find more meaningful ways to utilize their expertise.
While many data scientists and software engineers are working at great companies at Google, Amazon, and other tech giants, not many of them can say they’re working on technology that will help to drastically shift the way other industries function. This isn’t to say that their jobs aren’t important; tech giants like Google and Amazon need to understand that tech is not entirely about understanding and optimizing consumerism.
In fact, consumers are more likely to support sustainability efforts as long as they understand the methods and meaning behind them. However, it’s going to take more workers to leave their big salaries at Google to help the rest of us understand the data necessary to recognize the severity of our climate crisis.