Real Leaders

My Journey Toward Social Impact

My previous experience with pivoting was scary. The world was changing fast, yet I knew nothing about sustainability and social impact. I knew these were crucial skills to acquire but didn’t know where to begin. Should I go back to school and take a sustainability course? How do I break into this strange new world? 

Once I’d identified a few strategies, it was simpler than I thought. I sought out groups in areas where I needed to fill my knowledge gaps and joined them. Once I was familiar with the basics, I offered my services as an advisor to tech for good startups, became a mentor to some incubators, and even a judge for some sustainability competitions. Immersing myself in this world of sustainable business was a way of absorbing information, experimenting with it, and developing my own insights and ideas on how I could become a part of it. Whether it was a Slack channel or a club or group, I slowly began to breathe the air of the space where I wanted to find myself. 

I’m also a firm believer in manifestation and kept repeating a phrase to myself: “I want to become involved in tech for good and social impact.” Gradually, I began surrounding myself with like-minded people, a journey that ironically led me back to someone I had worked with for nine years. She was further down the line than me on sustainability and was someone with whom I could deeply engage around social impact.

When I mentor young people today, I encourage them to dabble — often and as early as possible. Like launching a new product, you should dabble, experiment, and learn as you perfect it. Keep shortening the feedback cycles, learning from the failures, and highlighting the wins. Don’t overthink — just start doing.

The role of playfulness and fantasy is a very underrated and ignored practice among CEOs, yet this is precisely the realm in which many great things have happened throughout history. I spoke with a woman recently who’s building a thousand-story mall in the metaverse; the only limiting factor in today’s exciting world of technology is people’s imagination. The metaverse is a simulated digital environment that uses augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), blockchain, and social media concepts to create spaces for rich user interaction mimicking the real world. For companies struggling to create a new business model around sustainability, these new tools offer a perfect solution — you can start from scratch by building a sustainable version of what you might become in the metaverse, risk-free.

Imagination is one of the most underrated opportunities for CEOs today. However, you don’t have to go it alone. The skills needed to reinvent yourself will come through collaboration — weaving together multiple people, companies, and ideas to achieve your goal. Get creative around how you put these teams together; that in itself is a highly creative act. Our tagline at my new social impact venture, SustainChain, is further, faster, together. I’ve realized that collective action at scale is where the new business opportunities lie. Establishing a network of trust among values-aligned business leaders can create something significant. While you’re struggling with solutions to a business problem, there may be a completely unrelated business out there ready to scale that has the solution for you. The only way you’ll ever know is if you jump into the solution zone — found among impact entrepreneurs worldwide. You never know what you might find.

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