John Sanchez and I were talking about the pathways to careers in carbon removal. We've seen hundreds of people join the industry through the AirMiners community, Boot Up course, and the AirMiners accelerator. Inspired by this tweet from Erika Reinhardt, we mapped out common pathways to get to work on carbon removal.
We see three archetypes for working on carbon removal: you have a relevant technical background, business expertise, or you're somewhere in the middle.
Here's the map and tips for success for each archetype:
1. You have relevant technical background (chemistry, engineering, materials)
You may be able to build something using what you know, or maybe you already have something in the works. You're in AirMiners working on an idea in a garage or at a university lab as a professor or grad student. You have the seed of a carbon removal company already, go see what that looks like. Find someone to help on business, though they may find you instead. And check out AirMiners Launchpad accelerator and studios like Deep Science Ventures or Marble.
If this is you but you don't have an idea yet, dig into a few different topics where your expertise can be relevant. If you find yourself a few weeks in without something appealing, consider checking out option #3B below.
2. You have solid business/executive experience (started a company, led an org)
Find technical people who already have things in the works (see above) and be their business person. They'll believe in you because you already have credible experience to strategy and planning. You may join up and create a solution together or they may license tech to the company you create. Climate Draft is doing something like this, maybe something like this for carbon removal?
3. You're in the middle, you understand both tech and business or have a non tech/biz skillset
3A. Find a job to get plugged in quickly. Aim to join a team, whether that's a startup, a policy org, research consultancy or something else. Sign up for the next AirMiners Boot Up to get a high level view on the industry so you know the lingo. Check out Climatebase and #job-postings on AirMiners Slack for job opps.
3B. Start something new. This is a super hard option. Here's a plan that we've seen work but takes 6+ months. Sign up for the next AirMiners Boot Up and start reading the curriculum tonight. Aim to graduate with one focus area you want to spend more time on. Spend 6 months talking to everyone you can find about that topic. Since you're a problem solver you'll start to see where the gaps are after a few months. You'll have to ask nerdy questions and understand problems deeply.
#3B is a longer pathway. It's not for everyone for many reasons including your personality, life experience, and resources. You have to deeply engage with the problems and be willing to dig into the science, read papers, ask questions, call 3 experts every week. You won't be able to dance around it. If done properly, you're a few months away from asking questions that no one knows the answers to. You can become an expert by reading and thinking and talking to everyone in the field. Eventually you will prevail.
Those are the three archetypes for getting to work on carbon removal in 2022.
ALL OF THESE OPTIONS ARE HARD (especially #3B). You won't figure this out after a week. You'll probably want to give up after a month. Keep going.
One takeaway for me is that unlocking people who fall into #3B is really important. There likely only a few hundred people in groups #1 and #2. But we need thousands of new leaders to succeed at gigaton scale carbon removal. Therefore the secret to unlocking gigaton scale carbon removal by 2030 lies in how well group #3B gets unlocked.
Are you looking to get to work on carbon removal? Which one of these options sounds like you?
If you already started a career in carbon removal, did you take a different path? Curious to hear about all possible routes.
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