A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with a colleague whom I respect deeply. We were talking about the nature of the work I do at Scope 5. At one point he looked across the table at me and, looking at his face, I could tell that he was debating whether to say what he was about to say. At last, he spoke, and he said “Yoram – I’m not sure how to say this without offending you, but let’s face it… the work you do isn’t exactly sexy”.
I thought about what he said…
I thought back on my career, first at Bell Labs, designing computer graphics hardware during the dawn of the PC, then at Microsoft, working on transmitting video and audio over the Internet during the dawn of the Internet. I was young, feeling at the top of the world. I was working at Microsoft Research during the kind of years that Microsoft hired Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones to promote Windows ‘95. I was jetting around the world negotiating computer networking protocols at big conferences with other technology leaders. I managed a development group in Redmond and our lab was full of monitors streaming rock and roll music videos over a simulated high-bandwidth network from the distributed video server that our group had designed. I was turning down head-hunters as frequently as I was turning down invitations to speak at tech keynotes.
Now that was sexy!
I thought about what I do today. Yes, I’m the CEO now. But when I deliver the elevator pitch describing our work, it goes something like:
We help medium to large enterprises, utilities and municipalities, get a grip on their sustainability data. That’s primarily, but not only, carbon-emissions. We do so by providing both a cloud-based software service and consulting to go with it.
Invariably, the pitch is met with a muted response. It’s not quite as sexy as:
We create leading edge technology that makes it possible for you to watch any movie or hear any music you’d like to hear from anywhere in the world, at the press of a button.
I responded after a minute, to my colleague.
No, you’re right. There was a time when I worked at, arguably, the leading technology research institution of its time, with the coolest leading-edge technology. That was sexy. Today, I work on technology that, at its core, crunches numbers to find patterns in sustainability data. But here’s the thing…
I went on to elaborate…
At Scope 5, we’re deeply engaged in the defining battle of our lifetimes – we are engaged in a battle to save the world from climate change. I have no delusions that we’re doing this ourselves – there are many people engaged in this battle and we are but a part of that effort. At this point, it’s not so much about sexy technology. We have the technological pieces we need to save ourselves from climate change. At this point, it’s about helping the corporations and governments and consumers that drive our unsustainable lifestyles to identify opportunities to make changes and to see that doing so ultimately makes them more profitable, more effective. It’s about helping our clients see that renewables are their key to a prosperous future. It’s about making changes and telling the stories of those changes. It’s about communicating and ultimately, it’s about changing hearts and minds and moving the world to a new paradigm.
This is not the sexiest work in the world. It would be sexy to be working on virtual reality and on the video games that my boys play, like Fortnite and Red Dead Redemption.
But this is the right work to be working on. It’s a slog to change hearts and minds. But our employees are young and smart and motivated to make the word a better place. Our clients are finding that they can make a difference and be more profitable at the same time. I go to sleep each night feeling that I’ve moved the needle in the right direction. This is the right time and the right work and there’s nothing I could be doing that would be more meaningful.