Since 2020, I’ve been deeply involved in mentoring founders and professionals within the sustainability, climate, and impact sectors. These engagements range from one-time consultations to recurring discussions, allowing people to bounce ideas off me. What I find particularly gratifying is when people tell me I have brought something new to the table each time we engage. This continuous evolution is all thanks to my unwavering commitment to constant upskilling.
I wouldn’t want to lie: I love it when people jokingly call me the ‘walking encyclopedia’ or the ‘idea machine’ or, as my mother generously puts it, ‘Why do you know so much about so many things but you’ve done nothing productive with it’? Or as my dad asks me every day, ‘I never have truly understood what you do; you either keep talking over the phone or tap away at the keyboard. Why don’t you be more productive?’. Or, as my mentor puts it: Nee ena panara nu oru-line-la sollu ma! (Tell me what you do in one short sentence).
Though it’s truly an honour to have such recognition for what I know (but don’t do, LOL) among my family and peers, it’s critical to recognise (and acknowledge) the motivation that fuels this status: a persistent desire to fight the ANXIETY of becoming irrelevant in an industry evolving at breakneck speed. Plus, battling an insurmountable imposter syndrome — courtesy: my family? — because I come from a family of high-achievers and married into another one, too!
The sustainability, climate, and impact sectors are more intertwined with every industry than ever before. Adopting a systems thinking perspective is crucial to navigating this intricate web effectively—an idea I consistently point out.
Spreadsheets are Bae!
I’ve kept a meticulously curated Notion database to keep learning (I can’t give free or paid access yet). This evolving repository has 150+ sustainability, climate, and impact sectors, complete with sub-niches and a comprehensive list of organisations and startups in each sector. Keeping this database up-to-date helps me structure concepts, identify patterns, and uncover gaps in solutions-market fit. So, I’m up-to-date with the latest innovations and trends and can predict when the next-big-what will drop to steal jobs (or sometimes, surprisingly, make our lives easier). And hey, quite a few business buddies who’ve taken a quick look at this database can vouch for its worth (or drop a few good words about me in the comments. No pressure)!
My learning journey goes beyond databases and textbooks. I actively chat with entrepreneurs, professionals, and folks from all walks of life. These conversations give me a real sense of what drives people to dive into this field and why some folks aren’t feeling it. You know what’s interesting? During these conversations, I often find myself slipping into an ‘idea-generation mode’ brainstorming various solutions for extremely diverse and specific issues, and it’s incredible how much I learn in the process.
Understanding the nitty-gritty challenges entrepreneurs and professionals grapple with in the sustainability, climate, and impact space is a big deal for me. These insights, especially those I hear first-hand about people’s lived experiences, add a layer of understanding you can’t get from passive learning. It is cathartic, helps with my elevator pitch or whatever, and I get to interact with actual people instead of bots (brownie points for a real-life introvert and a digital extrovert).
Staying informed is a non-negotiable aspect of my journey. I regularly attend webinars, workshops, summits, keynotes, and closed-group discussions. Any new Govt policy implementation or a soft launch of some global initiative will slip out here. Such closed-circuit meetings help me stay privy to industry secrets. Usually, top entrepreneurs in the space are part of the panel; you sometimes get to interact with your real-life heroes!
When in Doubt, I Reach Out
I seek one-on-one guidance from my experts/professionals/Gen Z and, generally, folks. I nag my mentors frequently. I spam most of the social/business networks with questions. The easiest way to get ideas instead of racking my brain for answers, no? Like, Autorickshaw Annas whine about how the Government pushes for electric vehicles, but there are hardly any charging stations available. Climate politics: spicy!
Doomscrolling for Good
I keep my motivation levels up by indulging in endless scrolling through YouTube, Instagram or OTTs, hunting for documentaries, innovations and solutions. I also make a habit of reading up on the incredible initiatives that people are launching. Plus, generally read reports/books (I should get a hobby like Yoga or swimming). You see, these innovations in my industry are like a ray of hope that keeps me going. A music collective has taught me how to do branding right…and a Gen Z kid taught me how being a non-conforming person could be a good trait for an entrepreneur.
Have Several Interests
Just the other day, one of my aunts mentioned, I need to get more sunlight and hang out with people (in person) and my obsession to work late nights or on weekends would gradually stop. I agree that is is important to take breaks and obsess about something completely irrelevant to generate fresh ideas. I recently learnt a couple of songs in Tagalog, Korean and Japanese. And binged a series on Netflix for 3 straight days without doing anything. I felt so refreshed! So, I constantly borrow ideas from other sectors like Anime, gaming, pop culture, or astrology and apply those in my sector.
I Learn When I Guide
I’ve explored various tools, from Spreadsheets and Trello to Airtable. Ultimately, I settled on Notion. I published most of the articles ONLY because of my hobby research! AND, I could guide my writers to produce kickass articles in various sectors. I have learned much about ‘how to teach’ while guiding folks; my writers are experts in their respective sectors so I am depending on them to hire me when all else fails (a fool-proof retirement plan).
My previous and current writers/consultants have written such beautiful pieces in the architecture, fashion, climate, intersectionality, equity and the ESG space. But this probably covers 10% of the list. I do my best to share what I’ve learned in different sectors through blog articles on ecoHQ’s Insights.
No, I am not giving you a peek at my database in exchange for email IDs. BUT, I can help build one.
If you’re a startup founder searching for strategies and customised databases to benchmark your venture and create pathways for your milestones, DM me. At ecoHQ, I offer personalised strategy consulting services at startup- and founder-friendly prices. Prices that would make you sacrifice one Swiggy meal a week at best! So, give this a try.