Germany and United States
Social Sciences & Arts and Humanities
Can you describe the work you are doing now?
I am currently a Sales Manager at a Berlin-based startup called Plan A, where we help companies measure and ambitiously reduce their carbon emissions to become climate leaders in their industries. The company was founded in 2017 and it has grown a lot since last year. I manage all of the requests that we receive from German-speaking countries and some from around the world, as well as proactively reach out to companies to convince them that they should act on climate, using our software and our services. We also help companies communicate about their efforts and report on their emissions, while avoiding greenwashing. There have been so-called sustainability consultancies for many years on the market and big consulting firms have offered similar services as well. However, Plan A focuses on building software for a more automated process, which makes it more manageable for corporations and SMEs alike, as opposed to more manual methods of carbon accounting.
How did you enter your current position?
I first decided I wanted to move to Berlin. So I booked my flight, came to Berlin without a job, and started looking for roles in the climate tech space, which was a new, but very popular field of work in Berlin. Initially, there were not too many successes. But then, because of my Capstone project tackling sustainability at Minerva, I was invited by an alum staff to join a panel discussion about climate change with a few other members of the Minerva alumni community involved in sustainability. After that panel discussion, a Minerva student from the Class of 2021 reached out to me saying that she knew the CEO and founder of a startup in Berlin and would like to connect us. Within a month, I had the job. So it was very much a mixture of the existence of the Minerva network, overlapping experiences, and a panel about topics we cared about, that led to a position. It definitely helped that Plan A was looking for people who think outside the box and have had international experiences. In that way, I was also able to be a good culture fit thanks in large part to my Minerva experience.
What professional development experiences at Minerva stand out to you?
During my second year, a few of my classmates and I worked with the Buenos Aires city government to help improve the living conditions in the city's largest slum. Our focus was looking at international examples of urban improvement projects turning into gentrification and how we might avoid the pitfalls of gentrification. We had to ensure that we were improving the slum residents’ quality of life without creating conditions that would inevitably lead to eviction, higher housing costs, and gentrification into a neighborhood targeted to the professional class. It was an exciting project in that it felt like we were not replacing the locals’ expertise. Rather, we were bringing in our international experience, our research abilities, and our data analytics abilities from a variety of courses and translating that into insights that would be helpful on a local level in Buenos Aires. That was quite a formative experience.
In the second semester of my third year in Hyderabad, India, I was involved in a project with a local nonprofit that also focused on urban planning. We built a survey assessing the quality of life of Hyderabad residents, bringing in some of our knowledge from class around survey creation and data collection. We also flew to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to represent the nonprofit at the United Nations’ World Urban Forum - the highest-level conference organized by UN-Habitat on urban planning which brought together hundreds of mayors, urban planning professionals, and companies to discuss urban planning, urban development, and mobility. On a personal level, I was excited to have that exposure and to represent a company in that setting.
Lastly, in my senior year in London, Minerva did a great job of identifying different topics that students cared about and connected us with local partners in the city. Being passionate about urban planning and mobility architecture, I joined a group of students linked to Foster + Partners, one of the leading global architectural engineering firms. This venture turned into a few great meetings where we visited the HQ of Foster + Partners and met with some of the senior partners. The experience was enriching as a means of getting exposure to a field I am interested in, being treated as an equal by these experienced architects, and discussing engaging topics. These three professional experiences were highlights of my time at Minerva.
What are some learnings from your Minerva classes that you find yourself applying to your life or work now?
The Minerva curriculum has definitely influenced me in a lot of ways. What we learned in our foundational year and then built upon in the rest of the semesters are the Habits of Mind and Foundational Concepts. You may not explicitly think about them all the time, but through practice and spaced learning, they have become embedded in how we view the world and how we approach the work that we do. When I look at the way I approach a certain task, the way I think about the audience I am speaking to, the way I frame a message, the way that I target specific individuals within an organization, or the way that I access information, it was all influenced by my Minerva education.
Can you talk me through your Capstone project? In what ways do you think your Capstone work informs what you are doing now?
My Capstone project was the first effort to estimate Minerva’s carbon footprint, identify ways to reduce emissions, and offset unavoidable ones. The goal was to explore how Minerva could become a carbon neutral university and set the example for authentic sustainability leadership in higher education. After three years, I can say that it has been very heartening to see the extent to which it has been implemented. Many of my early suggestions focused on capacity building, so that Minerva could, through work-study students and staff committees, build up the capacity to implement sustainability initiatives. Now that that has happened, they are starting to implement suggestions around gathering flight and energy consumption data and figuring out ways to reduce and offset those. I tried to make my project not just a sustainability report, but a very Minerva-specific report where I looked at its ethics as well. With Minerva being such an international community, any prescription that you make around sustainability has to take into consideration ethical debates around who is responsible, who should pay, and what would be a fair way of implementing sustainability. Therefore, I also focused on implementing the philosophical learnings from my Minerva philosophy classes.
I found that my Capstone helped me to get my current job and to feel like an expert in my position, such as when I am talking to companies that are asking me questions about Scope 1, 2, and 3 Emissions, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, and carbon dioxide equivalents. It has also made me more critical when I notice greenwashing or when I hear people talking about sustainability topics, having dived so deep into the topic. At times it makes me more cynical because I see how much the mark is missed, but at other times it motivates me to improve those conversations.
What part of your Minerva experience most significantly informed your current perspective on the world and the way you approach what you are working on?
There are many aspects of Minerva that I still carry with me, like the hope it has given me from seeing how many smart, bright, motivated people are out there. There are also more granular elements, like the curriculum. Many concepts from the Foundation Year curriculum about systems thinking and incentive structures still impact me, from being able to think critically about the information I consume and convey to the influence that I can have on people. One other part of Minerva that informs my current perspective a lot is the international exposure. On a very practical level, I feel that in my job when we are dealing with companies from around the world, I always find something in common, whether I am talking to someone calling us from a company in India, Argentina, China, Japan, or the UK, there is always some commonality about a place we have been to or a cultural element. That has really helped me connect with clients and with my co-workers. It also gives me so much context when I am researching different industries and companies. Truly, I think that Minerva has set me up to be a real member of a global community in a way that really helps me do my job well in a sales capacity and in an international business environment.
If you were inspired by Louis' story and are seeking a college experience that will teach you valuable pragmatic skills that will enable you to change the world, apply to join Minerva today.