Are you looking for the job of your dreams? You may already be building it


“Was this your dream job when you were in school? »

As the City of Chicago’s first Director of Sustainability, I’ve been asked a version of this question many times. And the simple answer was actually “no”. Not because it wasn’t absolutely amazing work. It was. The role just didn’t exist when I was in college or getting my MBA.

And I am far from alone. This summer, I caught up Amy Francetic, general partner of Bouyant Ventures, a new climate-focused venture capital fund. I talked to Garry Cooper, CEO and Founder of Rheaply, a circular economy technology company. And I sat with Bonnie Leithe first head of environmental justice, employee engagement and ecosystems at Microsoft.

Neither of their jobs existed when they were in college. Each charts a new course in newly created areas to transition the economy.

New roles, new bridges to build

Inspirational new job titles are popping up across the board. Sustainability directors are almost the norm when we think of the C-suite; ESG managers are also emerging. These roles have new and distinct areas of expertise – and they are also bridge builders between organizations. Impact comes from both in-depth knowledge of the role and the ability to align, refine and amplify the work of an entire organization. Sustainability in the City of Chicago has come from many departments and agencies helping to provide clean energy, create efficient buildings, invest in better transportation options, and provide more outdoor space and many other initiatives. Through these actions, we support a thriving community in an inclusive economy to create a healthier planet.

But roles don’t have to be new to provide new benefits.

They are aimed at entrepreneurs building their organizations, intrapreneurs changing the direction of established entities, and policy makers.

While my title to the city was new, many of these “firsts” will use extended skills from a typical position. Francetic is an investor but its fund, Bouyant Ventures, focuses on “digital solutions for climate risk”. The results of his search for deals and due diligence will be financial returns for his fund – all processes and results expected for any investor – but also to reduce emissions and cope with the impacts of a changing environment.

Cooper has a Ph.D. in neuroscience while he is CEO of a circular economy company. In fact, he got the idea for Rheaply when he saw all the materials that were unused in some labs but needed in others. He now leads a fast-growing organization that recently raised an additional $20 million and, at the same time, Cooper has become a global expert on circularity. There was no plan to be the CEO of a climate tech circularity leader, so he created it.

Collaboration redefines opportunity

Lei began her role as the first head of environmental justice, employee engagement and ecosystems at Microsoft less than a year ago, but has been with Microsoft for more than five years. His first four years were spent leading global strategic partnerships for AI for Earth, which focused on accelerating environmental solutions through AI-driven partnerships. This work has been supported by grants awarded to hundreds of like-minded organizations. It builds fair partnerships, in particular with the Just Transition PowerForce. Working globally with multiple partners to co-create a more inclusive and healthy future is the anchor of a new role.

Every industry matters

These “first” roles are found in all sectors: for-profit, non-profit and government. They are aimed at entrepreneurs who create their organizations, intrapreneurs who move established entities and policymakers, who create fairer rules for people and the planet in the long term.

Some roles, such as engineering or candidacy, may have a more direct impact on carbon, but we need to foster a culture and economy at all levels – and that requires everyone to be involved. We have never charted a course to decarbonize our global economy. So we need roles in all sectors to deliver climate benefits for everyone.

What role will you continue?

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