How to build your career in a climate role

0:05 Sara Pawlikowska

Hello everyone. Welcome to Podcast. My name is Sara Pawlikowska. I'm the co-founder at And today my guest is Kris Kobi, who is the Associate director and the lead of the Decarbonization and sustainability team at Climate17. How are you doing, Kris?

0:20 Kris Kobi

Hi Sara. Very nice to be here. Thank you for your invitation. I'm very well, thanks. You?

0:26 Sara Pawlikowska

I'm very well. Good to have you here. So just before we dive into our topics, I have a warmup question for you. So is Bournemouth really the California of the UK, as they say?

0:38 Kris Kobi

It's a phrase that my friend used when I was living in Italy at the time. And he wanted to entice me to come and see Bournemouth. I absolutely love Bournemouth. I came here and, the best way to see how the place is, is to start working there from a very basic job. So even though I had some money put aside, I decided to just start working. Temporary jobs, moving things from one point to another. I got to know the culture of the place, all the local business owners, because I worked for temporary agency just doing very mundane jobs for the lowest average available rate at the time and very quickly then I was progressed to more. Customer service oriented roles then was invited to recruitment agency itself because I met some of the qualities like, being on time conscientious and perhaps speaking English well enough. But I got to know Bournemouth from the very base level to its elite levels now. And been an amazing experience. Bourmouth has a great vibe. It's very friendly place. It has beautiful culture. Lots of natural landscapes from forests to cliffs and a bit of a surfing scene as well. So it is a nice combination. It is a California of United Kingdom? Probably not. It's very unique though.

2:00 Sara Pawlikowska

That very nicely leads me to my next question as well. So I wanted to ask you about your interest in climate and sustainability. How did that develop over time and then turn into a career?

2:11 Kris Kobi

I was always interested in being aware of the impact that we make on the planet and environment and taking responsibility for it. And so this came naturally, I guess it stems from compassion towards animals and nature as well as looking after ourselves as a human race. This is a place where we live in. The better we take care of it, the better for us as well from a very selfish point of view. That all led me from, European Union projects as I started to organize them when I was a student, I was always interested in how people communicate. I studied social sciences psychology of social communication as a postmaster's degree. A philosophy of the mind and how the human mind works. That was my specialization at the time. And a few other things that made me very interested in those topics. then I developed a career in Poland where I'm from originally in the business coaching back in the days it was NLP, so neurolinguistic programming, hit the scene. It had some bad reputation at the beginning in some circles, but I think it's a great toolbox. It's a great toolbox to have in your mind if you want to improve life a little bit and that all sort of, when I came to Bourmouth and I started to work in basic jobs and naturally organically progress I was invited to work in a recruitment agency and I did not like industrial recruitment where I was originally placed. Because it was very transactional and didn't quite fit my attitude or skillset. So and when I thought recruitment isn't for me at all, I got a call from one of the local agencies that deal within climate change, and it turned out to be one of the foremost, agencies as well in the world. And then MD of that agency with the business development director created their own company in climate change recruitment. And then they invited me to come with them. And I agreed. And it's been an amazing journey. It's helping the companies to strategically align their processes in acquiring a very niche talent and to successfully progress and make an impact on global climate change. So we're working with a range of businesses there. It's very satisfying role and we're working with very good people.

4:26 Sara Pawlikowska

You already touched upon that. Could you just reiterate what the main mission of Climate17 is?

4:33 Kris Kobi

Climate17, you can say it's much more than just a recruitment agency. Of course we provide staffing solution and we connect the best talent to the climate change companies on one side,but we try to provide solutions. So we work in a consultative manner with global organizations as well as private sector businesses. And we try to see what is it that the companies are trying to achieve in the climate change recruitment, in their strategy, and then help to design processes that will allow them to attract and then retain the talent within that. So this is to make as positive impact as we can on the planet.

5:15 Sara Pawlikowska

So that's another interesting thing. I'm interested in both sides. Would you say that there's more people looking for jobs in sustainability, because of the raising awareness? And also do you think that companies are more actively looking for that kind of expertise?

5:30 Kris Kobi

From the perspective of climate change, it's always been in the back of the mind of many organizations, and we've been aware of it since, 1800s even. But then what the renewable energy projects have never been fully, taken up by companies who could do it. The biggest change I think happened more or less five, six years ago. Because if you go even 10 years ago or 20 years ago, there were very few even energy turbines. There were professors going around companies and universities telling people that renewable energy can never be a thing because of instability. And so they can never be more than one or 2% of the grid. Nowadays we have the whole, cities and huge parts of countries are being are being supplied by renewable energy. A lot of things has changed very quickly, which means that companies are right now looking very, for a quite experienced talent and the senior talent, and there isn't many people with the right skill sets, there's a lot of people with willingness to join for the right reasons as well, companies who make an impact in this area. And that's great to see and we help them as well. But we mostly focus when we can make an impact by adjusting processes so that companies can attract and retain this senior talent that that is quite rare because, there weren't that many opportunities in the market to participate in those projects and to get your experience so there is a big uptake. In services I suppose, of people who are interested in climate change. One thing I would say is definitely that, 'cause a lot of young people come to me for an advice within that space, how to progress. One of the best thing I can tell people is to specialize as early as possible as well within that area. Because if you stay on a general level just, project manager, then this is a skill set that can very easily be. It's a very competitive market, whereas renewable energy and climate change has lots of niches. And once you go into a company, develop your interest, being in carbon markets, being renewable energy being, policy making advocacy whatever it is that you do, try to try to go mile deep, and an inch wide.

7:50 Sara Pawlikowska

That's very interesting. 'cause definitely I can also see there's much more interest in those kind of roles. But from what you're saying, we are looking for something more specialized and preferably with more experience. So then it is hard for younger people who are interested just because of the right reasons, but don't have that background just yet.

8:13 Kris Kobi

A lot of opportunities for younger people as well. if you're right now finishing a university with a relevant degree there will be plenty of opportunities for you. If you want to transition to the climate change space also, especially you show your interest and you do an additional course or two in climate change topic relevant to your profession, then that will definitely attract people the companies and that will help you with your CV. But there has been a big interest in that area. It's one of the biggest growth areas as well in our economy. Not that it's the main driver for people to work there.But throughout plenty of difficult things that happened to our world recently, in the UK, Brexit, before pandemic as well. The, war, energy crisis, all those things happen and yet the sustainability in climate change markets and companies seem to be growing constantly and an increase, and their importance seem to be increasing as well. For many good reasons because of both customer pressures, investors pressures, as well as, because this is genuinely the right thing to do. It's not a political issue. Parties can change left or right, but. Ultimately is about humanity. And humanity being left in a better condition. And so we can develop renewable energy sources that will be cleaner that's better air that we breathe, that is a cheaper and more distributed way of using energy, which is a very very much resource in demand. So it's it's a very much democratic way of using and distributing energy as well, because the sources that we can develop and then use are also distributed and the, our grid will become more distributed in that way.

9:59 Sara Pawlikowska

So now just to shift gears a little bit, you mentioned on your profile that you used to coordinate the European Union projects. Could you give a little context to that?

10:11 Kris Kobi

Oh, yes. I was always interested in international environments and bringing people together towards a shared objective. A one goal. One of my first projects, I did not know what I was doing. I was just invited as a participant I was shocked by how, great of an experience it is when people from different backgrounds religions, cultures, ages, can come together and work together on a project that is relevant. It was from a youth for action at the time. There was an initiative in European Union program. And and it's amazing eye-opening experience and about how we are all one. I don't mean to get all, to, to too spiritual, but it's just about how we all are one human race how we can all, the right attitude and with the right mindset, we can act like it. And that's, that can bring benefit, I suppose to everyone.

11:06 Sara Pawlikowska

That's very beautiful what you're saying about everyone being on the same boat. But what is the biggest obstacle since climate change is obviously a global issue, so what would you say is one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to reaching that agreement?

11:23 Kris Kobi

There's so many problems in climate change, sustainability the skepticism. There's very little good information that we can rely on. Climate change is a huge issue. So it's a global issue. It requires specialists from very different areas to work together, and so to understand fully its impact. There are in the world who can do that. Therefore there are organizations like, for example, science-based Targets initiative, that aim to translate the climate change science to target setting for particular sectors, for example. This is the mission. But for people like you and me who don't have that background, at least me, I don't have a background technical engineer, engineering. I don't understand the electricity grid, the biology, the geology, the climate science. I have to rely on authority figures on one side and on information publicly available. And there you have sources that contradict. It's not that easy to understand why is this a good idea? So on, on one hand, there is this development of integrated explanation of climate of why are we doing what we are doing? And there's multiple angles you can go about it. Even if you are a skeptic it is easy to see that that oil and gas, they're limited resources on the planet. And they're expensive and they are polluting as well so even all those things aside, if you can just agree that if we had energy from, huge nuclear reactor, which is the Sun that is always present for free and we can learn to utilize it, in the comfort of your own home through solar panels and battery storage. And if that technology becomes cheaper, that's just good for everyone. It's cleaner air, it's safer, it's and it's gonna be much cheaper because it's directly just transmitted to you for free, basically. Minus the materials of course and costs. But there's multiple challenges with that. The biggest one I suppose now on COP recently that was addressed was support from policy makers as well. We need some unified strong front, from policy makers to incentivize business. To then create technologies and develop projects in renewable energy. And if we address that, then the private business, private sector will take care of it naturally by itself as well.

13:47 Sara Pawlikowska

That also leads me to the question just out of pure curiosity. So how would you reply to someone who is absolutely convinced that climate change is not real?

13:59 Kris Kobi

I would ask first and foremost, what evidence would you accept from me that climate change is a real issue because if there is nothing that I can show you, nothing that I can say, no scientists that I can quote or show you the article from and that can convince you otherwise then there is really no ground for conversation. So I suppose I would question first and foremost is this person open enough to even have the conversation those opinions about climate change, people have very strong opinions are not so much about facts and it's, it seems to be exactly, some people politicize the issue unnecessarily. So first I would check if the person is even open to a conversation, if the person would accept any form of, proof, or of argument of, because if the answer is no, then really we should probably just talk about weather or something else.

15:00 Sara Pawlikowska

I would definitely agree that making conversation and staying open-minded it's a skill and we could definitely learn how to do that a little more efficiently. But just now to finish off. What is one thing that you did or didn't do or read or anything that had a major impact on your career and that you would recommend someone do as well?

15:25 Kris Kobi

One thing that had the biggest impact on my career is the birth of my daughter really. And that's a big part of my commitment to climate change as well and to making positive impact on the planet, to leave the world a better place for her and also for my. Motivation to do work and and the quality of it. And so that's a major driver in my life in terms of books what have I read? I really like Frank Herbert Dune, and nowadays it's been made into a movie. I think a new part is coming out soon, but the books are absolutely amazing. There's plenty of good quotes in that book. One of them is if you seek freedom, you will find only emptiness. If you seek discipline, then you find your freedom. That's probably one of the first quotes from the book that really hit me pretty hard. Plus I'm one of those unfortunate people who fell in love in poetry. So there's, If by Kipling is one of my favorite poems that really influenced my attitude towards difficulties in life. And that's put me through some difficult times, for example.

16:33 Sara Pawlikowska

So recommending poetry, then.

16:36 Kris Kobi

Yeah, it's a dying art, I think in some ways, unfortunately. I hope it's not, but not many people, even from my generation, are interested in it. I meet very few people from younger generation than me who are, But yes, it's absolutely lovely if somebody can use the words in this specific way that can entice, create strength in you sometimes that you didn't know you have, or create appreciation of beauty or compassion. It can be used in a good way.

17:05 Sara Pawlikowska

Very beautiful. Kris, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today.

17:10 Kris Kobi

Thank you very much, Sara. It was a pleasure.