Houston expert shares 5 tips for people looking to expand their career into climate tech
If hard times build strong people, then extreme weather events build strong climate tech ecosystems. Nobody knows this conventional wisdom better than Houston.
The past six years alone have seen the second costliest natural disaster in United States history (Hurricane Harvey), the longest power outage in Texas history (Winter Storm Uri), and this June, a heat wave that pushed the ERCOT power grid to record levels.
Combine our ever more volatile climate with a post-COVID-19 reckoning of what it means to work for what you believe in, and you get a recipe for the most significant workforce shift the world has ever seen. This workforce shift rules in favor of climate tech, and it will largely target those who’ve grown up, come of age and started their careers in the midst of this increasing volatility. Climate tech will no longer be considered a standalone industry; it will be baked into all existing industries, and those that don’t accept it will die.
I’m proud to be a climate optimist, but I’m also a realist. The truth is no matter what we do, our volatile climate is going to get worse before it gets better. But if extreme weather events build strong climate tech ecosystems, I can live with that.
To students and young professionals considering a jump into climate tech: There is no better place to be right now. Here are five things to keep in mind as you make that jump.
1. Meet as many people from diverse backgrounds working on as many different things as you can. You will likely feel awkward at first, especially if you don’t naturally gravitate toward conferences and happy hours. At the risk of sounding trite, just treat every stranger like a friend you haven’t met yet. Some of us could probably use more friends anyway.
2. The advice in the self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People, originally published in 1936, is timeless. Possibly the most useful (and most obvious) point is this: Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language. Whenever possible, repeat your new friends’ names when you meet them. Especially if you’re seeking a business development, sales or other external-facing role, perfecting this point should be your Holy Grail.
3. Depending on how new you are to energy and climate tech, you’ll hear lots of unfamiliar lingo. Ask questions, take note of what you still don’t get, and do your best to fill in the gaps on the side. Eventually, acronyms will become your best friend. For example: Have you seen what the ITC and the PTC from the IRA will do to the LCOE of PV according to NREL? IYKYK.
4. Coachability is key. You may feel like you’re getting rejected 99 percent of the time, but the way you respond to and learn from those experiences will ensure the other one percent makes all the difference. At the end of the day, climate tech is so vast that it’s impossible to become an expert in everything, and that’s okay. We may not know what’s going on 70 percent of the time, but I’ll take a .300 batting average any day.
5. It may be impossible to become an expert in everything, but you should proactively learn as much as you can, especially given how quickly the ecosystem is expanding. If you’re not embarrassed by how little you knewone year ago, two years ago or even five years ago, then you’re probably not trying hard enough.
These are only five of my takeaways over the past few years and I’ll be the first to admit that I have a long way to go in implementing them. In a way, that’s what makes this journey what it is. I just can’t wait to see what we build.
Ryan Davidson is business development lead for CalWave Power Technologies, a California-based company and Greentown Houston member that's focused on converting ocean waves’ hydrokinetic energy into reliable electricity.