Want To Work In Climate Tech? Here’s How To Find A Job

5 minutes

When you’re trying to get a job in tech that fits your particular niche, lurking on LinkedIn or wading through endless job boards can often feel futile.

Climatebase co-founder Evan Hynes experienced this firsthand when he was looking to transition from a job at a tech startup to something in the climate space. “As a climate job seeker, I wanted to know: What organizations are mission-focused on addressing climate change? And who’s hiring?” he says.

This was the impetus to create Climatebase, a job platform that focuses on tech jobs at companies that are dedicated to climate mitigation in some capacity, A.K.A. climate tech. “Climate tech” is an umbrella term for any technology that addresses climate change.

Though the tech world is a hotbed for climate innovation, lots of folks have a hard time seeing how their background can transfer to other fields, explains Justin Hardin, co-founder and chief technology officer of Climatebase.

For example, Justin was a software engineer at established tech companies like Slack and Gusto, but it never occurred to him to look in climate. “I trained to be a software engineer for many years before I even realized that my skills could be applied to the climate industry,” he says. “I didn’t even know that [software jobs] existed in this realm.”

Since launching in July 2020, Climatebase has helped thousands of people get hired at climate tech companies and environmental nonprofits. (Climatebase carefully vets companies to ensure that they have demonstrable impact and aren’t greenwashing.)

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Users can browse positions by the climate sector (think: energy or transportation), the type of job, the organization type (like nonprofit or government) and size, or the role. You can even filter based on specific climate change solutions that interest you (for example, coastal wetland restoration or hybrid cars).

In honor of Earth Day on April 22nd, we spoke to Evan and Justin about how Climatebase was built, what you need to know if you’re pursuing a career in climate tech, and how to stand out to employers.

What inspired you to create a hiring platform for climate tech roles, specifically?

Evan: “I find that I do the best work when it’s something I care about, and I couldn’t think of anything more important than climate change. I was visiting my friend on his regenerative ranching project, sitting in his trailer on this beautiful piece of land, telling him, ‘How do I know what is and what isn’t climate?’ He handed me this book that he had been reading, called Project Drawdown.

Immediately as I was going through the book, I was like, I want to know every organization that’s working on this and I want to know who’s hiring. [My brother Jesse and I] basically started building out a list of organizations, primarily companies that were working on climate solutions. This list kept getting bigger and bigger — it got up to almost 1,000 companies.

We decided to host a climate career fair, because at this time, we were still job-seekers. We got 20 companies to commit to showing up in a building at General Assembly in downtown San Francisco and over 600 people came.

We teamed up with Justin, who was really interested in what we were doing, because this was not going to scale in-person. We want to take this online. Justin was working at Slack at the time, so he was mainly doing weekends and nights with us. About six months later, after carefully slowly building the thing out, we eventually launched Climatebase on Product Hunt, and we were the fifth most-upvoted product of the day.

So, what started off as my own job search, turned into a list of climate companies, which turned into the world’s first climate career fair, has then evolved into a platform that is far beyond just a climate jobs platform.”

What are the most in-demand positions or technical skills that climate tech employers are looking for?

Justin: “Senior full-stack engineer is our most popular developer position. Of course, having proficiency in JavaScript and any of the mainstream back-end languages is good. We see a lot of increase in Python on our platform, there’s a lot of Ruby jobs as well. I mostly recommend — even for new developers — to learn JavaScript, because we see it also proliferating on the back end, as well with Node.

But full-stack engineering is the job that I come across a lot, and it’s because a lot of these companies will require UI [user interface] components. Whether a job is in solar panels solutions or even utility companies, there’s UI attached to it.”

What advice do you have for breaking into climate tech without prior experience?

Evan: “If you want to find the right area of work within this very broad space we call climate, it does really help to understand that landscape of what’s happening in climate solutions, so that you can better navigate all the different opportunities and find the thing that you’re most excited about.

Employers are looking for mission-aligned candidates. If you’re a software engineer, one way of showing that is by writing a really nice cover letter. Another way is taking it upon yourself to do a project that highlights your commitment to this area.”

Justin: “One of the hardest things as a software engineer is coming up with portfolio projects to demonstrate your skills and attract employers in order to get a job. How do you just create something out of thin air? You can follow tutorials, create something that you care about, or even join a hackathon.

Something that I feel is extremely important, if you can, is to create something with a group of people, like a small open-source project. Employers would want to see that because it shows that you can collaborate. Or if you have a public GitHub, they can vet it. Especially within the climate space, there’s a lot of public data available for you to tap into those APIs and build small projects with. It just makes you stand out even more as a mission-aligned candidate.”

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