In a notable trend, tech workers are leaving high-paying jobs with enticing perks to pursue a more significant calling: the fight against climate change. While some may accept a pay cut to make this transition, they emphasize that there’s more to life than a hefty paycheck and are increasingly drawn to addressing what they view as one of the most pressing issues of our time.
Sandy Anuras, who recently assumed the role of Chief Technology Officer at Sunrun, a home solar provider, believes that lucrative compensation packages, often offered by tech giants, come with a price. She explains that many tech companies prioritize profits over democratic values, prompting employees to question their alignment with such organizations.
Before joining Sunrun, Anuras worked at Expedia for nearly three years. While she found her work in the travel industry intriguing, it didn’t provide the same level of fulfillment as her previous role at Blokable, a startup focused on affordable housing. Anuras embarked on a job search with a clear intention: to work for a mission-driven company. Climate change emerged as the paramount issue she wanted to address, considering its existential threat to humanity, especially vulnerable communities worldwide.
Tom Melendez, a former Google software engineer, shares a similar journey. After five years at Google, he moved to MethaneSAT, an affiliate of the Environmental Defense Fund, which utilizes satellite data to measure methane emissions—a potent greenhouse gas. Melendez acknowledged the stimulating work at Google but felt disillusioned over time, perceiving that the primary motive was profit rather than making a meaningful impact. He reflects on the world he’s leaving for the next generation, which compelled him to seek a career aligned with his values.
Eugene Kirpichov, former Google employee and co-founder of Work On Climate, went through a similar transformation. Despite an intellectually stimulating role at Google, Kirpichov’s growing concern about climate change led him to reconsider his career path. He urged others with the privilege to make such a transition to do the same, emphasizing the urgency and significance of the climate crisis.
James Newsome, now the Chief Data Officer at Persefoni, encountered a pivotal moment when offered a climate-related role. Initially unsure if his skill set aligned with the climate sector, Newsome recognized the potential to leverage his data expertise to contribute meaningfully. Persefoni’s mission allowed him to align his personal values with his professional endeavors.
As more tech professionals consider transitioning to climate-focused careers, resources are emerging to support this shift. Climatebase, a climate jobs platform, has facilitated over 600,000 job searches, offering more than 40,000 positions at 3,000 climate tech and environmental organizations. Work On Climate, a non-profit dedicated to helping individuals find climate-related jobs, boasts over 10,000 members on its Slack channel, reflecting a fourfold increase in the past year.
The transition from tech to climate-related careers is gaining momentum, with professionals like Brian Lafayette, now Head of Business Strategy at Overstory, highlighting the need for a playbook to guide these career changes. Having made the shift himself, Lafayette attests that while the focus has changed, core business skills remain invaluable.
In essence, tech workers are increasingly drawn to careers addressing climate change, compelled by the urgency and significance of the issue. They emphasize the need to align personal values with professional pursuits and find fulfillment in contributing to a greater cause. While a transition to climate-focused roles may involve pay adjustments, these professionals prioritize purpose over profit, echoing a growing sentiment in the tech industry.