Careers in a changing climate
With applications for our 2020/21 Summer Vacation Program now open, we catch up with current and recent graduates Katherine and Vinati on why it’s an exciting time to be starting their careers working on climate change at Woodside.
Big decisions will be made by governments and businesses in the next ten years. Katherine and Vinati both feel they are working where they can make a difference.
“Right now, I’m seeing the most momentum in Australian companies around climate change and sustainability in the seven years I’ve been in the corporate sustainability field”, says Katherine, graduate climate change adviser.
“It’s a huge turnaround from when I started studying for my Masters in Sustainability. I remember wondering if there would be direct jobs in the field when I graduated.”
Vinati was motivated to start her career in energy after work experience during her chemical engineering degree highlighted the difference she could make:
“The sense of scale really blew me away when I started working for energy companies and gave me an understanding of just how critical energy is to our society. Not just in New Zealand where I’m from, but also developing countries. My family background is Indian, and I’ve seen that access to energy makes a big difference to moving out of poverty.”
Katherine is currently working on an initiative to enhance Woodside’s reporting for the Task Force on Climate-related Disclosures (TCFD).
“In my career, I’m motivated by implementation - how businesses interpret and apply sustainability concepts to achieve better sustainability outcomes. The TCFD work is directly related to my career interests,” she says.
“I’ll be presenting an update to senior leaders from across the business next week. You will definitely get opportunities as a graduate to be involved in meaningful work, and you will benefit from a lot of trust, responsibility and support to make things happen.”
Vinati has also had a lot of early career opportunities:
“In my role I quantify emissions from our current assets and future opportunities in gas and new energies. People might be surprised to learn that you don’t necessarily need an engineering or mathematics degree to do this well. The key thing is getting the underlying assumptions right. You can’t learn that at uni; it’s about knowing how to tap into a range of expertise and put the perspectives together.”
In terms of future areas of focus, Vinati points out the opportunities at end use, known as Scope 3.
“About 90% of emissions associated with natural gas happen when people burn it, not when it’s produced,” she notes.
“While we must keep taking action to reduce the 10% we control directly, doing things like supporting customers to consume gas more efficiently, looking at new markets for gas, and diversifying our portfolio into emerging sources of energy like hydrogen would offer impact at scale.
“With Woodside operating 6% of the world’s LNG supply, there aren’t many places you can work at this kind of level in your day-to-day responsibilities.”
Katherine adds: “It’s incredible to think that 2050, when companies like ours are aiming to be at net zero, will happen during my career.
“There’s so much that needs to happen, as governments, businesses and individuals are responding to rising expectations. Some big decisions will be made in the next 10 years, and it’s exciting to know I can be part of things.”
With momentum and expectations increasing, Vinati advocates looking for opportunities:
“I came across a term recently - eco-anxiety. It’s an interesting concept to think about. Are people going to feel so overwhelmed they think they can’t make a difference? I think if the conversation focused on: ‘this is an opportunity to make a positive change’, it could help more people channel the urgency in a way that is motivating.”
For students applying for Woodside opportunities, Katherine recommends focusing on skills and interests and not being too concerned about whether your field of study neatly lines up with oil and gas:
“You can’t predict at this stage the job you will be doing. The climate change team didn’t exist when I joined three years ago. I’ve found that every rotation I’ve had in the grad program has intersected with my interests in some way.”