Dr Vanessa Rauland is an entrepreneur and the Founder and Managing Director of ClimateClever, a company that provides advice to schools to help them become more sustainable. She is also a research fellow at Curtin University.
Vanessa attended a high school which was renowned for its music and sport. At school, she played a lot of sport.
In year 11 and 12 she studied Biology, Maths, Psychology, English and German.
I was pretty good at Maths but wasn’t that excited about it at high school. So while I didn’t initially follow down that track to begin with, I ended coming back to it. I think I originally wanted to be a biologist because I loved nature. But not being very good at it sort of threw a spanner in the works. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, except I knew I wanted to work in something to do with the environment.
I love the natural world and science – particularly geology, geography and biology. I remember not feeling like I was very technical or scientific or academic in high school. I had a great biology teacher who was very inspiring!
My family also instilled in me, from a young age, my love for the environment and nature, which has absolutely been the guiding compass in my career.
University and first job
While she was studying, Vanessa’s first job was working in a pizza restaurant answering the phones for take-away.
At university, Vanessa studied a Bachelor of Arts in Nature Tourism, which gave her a great grounding in sustainability. She loved the course because it was very hands on.
After this course, she thought she might be an outdoor guide.
Vanessa then travelled to Amsterdam and studied a Master of Science in Natural Resource Management, which gave her more technical skills and a better understanding of energy and economics.
It was a great experience studying abroad! I often reflect on how strange it is that I ended up doing a PhD and am now considered a scientist. I would never have imagined I’d end up in this career if I asked my 17 year old self.
Vanessa’s advice to students
Vanessa suggests to study as many diverse subjects as you can. Study what you are passionate about. You can always go back and take extra subjects later if needed.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can’t achieve. Ask for the opportunity to prove them wrong.
When I went to do my Masters, they told me I couldn’t do the ‘energy stream’ because it was too technical and I probably didn’t have the skills. I was pretty angry and upset that they had made that judgement of me. I challenged them and asked to do it anyway and they let me. I passed the degree just fine.
Vanessa says that the key personal attributes and skills that have contributed to her success are:
- being open minded and willing and able to take advice from others
- leadership and team building
- building networks
- knowing when to switch off
- being resilient.
Stop thinking about jobs and careers. These concepts are limiting. Focus on your lifelong learning, solving problems and creating positive social impact.
Becoming an Entrepreneur
Vanessa, along with her colleague, Samantha Hall, started SimplyCarbon back in 2012 after they helped a local Perth high school to become first carbon neutral school in Australia. After that achievement, many other organisations started to ask if they could help them to become carbon neutral. Seeing a budding business opportunity, they decided to ‘bite the bullet’ and start the company.
Their aim was to help more organisations achieve great climate and sustainability outcomes. The company has since changed its name to ClimateClever.
You have to constantly believe that you WILL succeed. As an entrepreneur, you constantly experience massive highs and lows – great wins and big falls. You need to be able to ride those waves of emotions. I think I do that pretty well. I’m a pretty optimistic person. There will always be doubts, but you need to squash them! Research has shown this is a key determinant of success!
Vanessa’s current job
Vanessa has two jobs. She works as a researcher at a university where she supervises Master and PhD students, conducts research, analyses data, explores the latest technologies to reduce consumption of energy, water and waste and travels the world to present at conferences and network with colleagues.
As an entrepreneur, she work with schools, develops Apps, develops her business by networking and identifying potential business partners and she manages all aspects of business administration including marketing, sales, budgets and finance.
I love working in the start-up space! It’s dynamic, fun, exciting and a challenge. I also love working with the university doing research – staying at the cutting edge and being on top of the latest developments. I love combining both, as I feel I can make the biggest impact by using the latest research and turning it into something that can be implemented on the ground.
One of Vanessa’s recent achievements was winning a $40,000 grant from AMP’s Tomorrow Fund, which provides people with an opportunity to pursue their dreams. This grant has allowed her to work on and further develop the ClimateClever program, to ensure it is a success in the first year.
STEM at work
There’s a lot of maths and number crunching when it comes to calculating carbon emissions and the consumption of electricity, gas and water I used Excel for most of this, as well as for all the finances for running a business.
I am now super excited to be building an App to make the whole data process easier and more streamlined for everyone. I wish I learned to code in school – I am utterly impressed, inspired and amazed by people who can code.