This article is dedicated to author Rozita's mentor, Sanjivi Sundar, in memory of his guidance in transitioning into climate work and in honor of the continuing cycle of climate mentorship.

I describe myself as the green sheep of my family. Hailing from a family of doctors, I chose a path less traveled.

I pursued my bachelor's in journalism and later was inspired to shift gears and pursue a masters in Sustainable Development Practice (which was a unique course at the time, it launched for the first time in India back in 2010!).

What does an unconventional career path look like? I believe I have been leading a life of a true multi-disciplinarian. I find this to be a powerful path to tread on, and once a multi-disciplinarian always one! Especially since, in my belief, working on climate change requires an approach that borrows and learns from variety of disciplines. As a sustainable development practitioner, my vision and contribution has been in terms of "connecting the dots" wherever I go and breaking the culture of silos in working towards more collaboration.

Many of you fellows starting your journey (and others looking to start their climate career) may be thinking, "why am I doing this?" or "what will I get out of it?". I am happy to share few lessons from my own journey.

Making the Leap

When it feels scary to jump, that is exactly when you need to jump, otherwise you end up staying in the same place your whole life.

After spending four very productive and inspiring years at my first workplace (where I was a researcher working in the space of climate resilient cities), I began to feel the stagnancy. It was not sudden, it was gradual. It was also a time where I felt I was not being challenged enough and the role had become too mundane.

This was a time where peers around me were leaving the organization, either for better job opportunities or for higher education (Ph.Ds). I on the other hand felt one inkling/calling, my inner voice telling me, "Take the jump when it's most scary! Renew myself and upgrade my skills and most importantly GET OUT of my comfort zone".

So quite literally, I not only moved out of my comfort zone, I also moved out of the only city where I had grown up and later worked. I worked hard to receive a full scholarship to pursue my second masters program. Everyone at that stage advised me against it. They said it would not add any value, go for Ph.D instead. But I did not listen since my mind was set. This is also the time I took off some time and spent one month in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil as part of a sustainability leadership program! Can you believe it is here where I received my scholarship news? To this day I am thankful to have followed my heart truly. The three years I spent in Netherlands from 2016-2019 changed my life completely.

Do not be afraid of being an activist.

Be a voice, not an echo.

There was a time when activism was seen as a very niche area, one which was often adopted by NGOs and other civil society organizations to lobby for a specific area or belief. The Oxford dictionary definition says, "the activity of working to achieve political or social change, especially as a member of an organization with particular aims".

When I was studying journalism, a powerful quote stayed with me: "information is power". For me, this phrase gave me new a meaning and ideas, and later in my career trajectory I adopted my own ways and means to instill activism for the causes I believed in. For instance, in 2013 I started a movement in my city–New Delhi–on promoting composting in urban households through a Bangalore based organization called Daily Dump. Till date, despite several hats and roles in different domains, I am still known as "the composting girl" in my network.

Over the years, I have realized that one should not be afraid of being an "activist" and in fact it should be complimented and supplemented with hard core research, facts and a communication technique that makes the information or cause understandable and easily accessible to all. This is an emerging area of priority for many organizations and it has also received a term called "science communication".

We need diversity, optimism and multidisciplinary teams to fight climate change

We don't need a handful of people practicing sustainability perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.
- Ann Marie

Along with communicating about the science of climate change, particularly its impact and sources, it is also important to recognize that there is no one discipline that can claim expertise or success for fighting against climate change.

The problem in my line of work is: We are in the decade of action (the deadline is 2030 to achieve the outlined sustainable development goals) and we are far away from the finish line. To address this, we must remove previous baggage of expert knowledge and silos working and move away from competition to collaboration.

The mammoth task in front of us is to fight the perils of climate change while also fighting rising inequality–and doing all this while keeping away our cultural, regional, conscious and unconscious biases away. Therefore, we must join hands and call practitioners from all walks of life to contribute whether they are engineers, social scientists, ecologists, economists or journalists, artists, policy makers or just plain citizens with no titles!

Be your own superhero

The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.

We often have a tendency to say, “when I become so and so, I will do this”, “once I reach a certain position/age, I will do that”. I believe that we must drop our obsession with titles. Don’t wait for a title, follow the philosophy of ‘leadership without title’, which implies that you lead from wherever you are, whichever sector, whichever role.

At my first job, I started off at an entry level position where I was a Research Associate. This did not stop me from continuously proposing new and innovative ideas or different ways of working where I saw an opportunity to my seniors.

Today, I am the Head of Solutions Mapping in the newest unit of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) India called Accelerator Lab.  This is a three member team, and we have our clones/counterparts in 90 additional Accelerator Labs across 114 countries! Together we are leading change to accelerate the most cutting edge innovations to solve the modern day challenges (some of them even unforeseen and complex). Yes, I am now in an influencing/decision making power. Does that change my beliefs, ways of working or core philosophy of who I am? No!

My specific role entails scouting for innovative solutions that are available across the private sector, public sector, grassroots and civil society organizations. Most importantly, not reinventing the wheel! I.e., learn from what exists and collaborate with diverse range of stakeholders. Together as a team we then experiment and scale up portfolio of most impactful solutions. The beauty of it all is, I deliver results not based on my capability alone, but through the power of teaming up!

Remember there is only one unique you! And your strengths and skillsets matter. Are you not happy with your skill sets? Then upskill, find new opportunities, face your fears and always keep a learning open mind. ‘Progress not perfection’–always!


Grit is sticking with your future day in, day out & not just for the week, not just for the month but for years.

Last but not the least, do you know the most sought after trait that employers hunt for these days? Its not passion, not hard work but GRIT, which I define as perseverance + passion + resilience. If you have chosen the field of sustainability, know that there will be ups and downs! I always say this, there will be gloomy days where it may seem the world will end anyway, despite all your sincere efforts. Well, this my dear friends is an occupational hazard. You have to accept it and move on with grit, and that is my fuel, which keeps me going.

Rozita is a mentor and leads solutions mapping in UNDP India as part of the Global Accelerator Lab Network. Rozita’s journey in sustainability began in 2009 when she was selected as an International Climate Change champion by British Council. She holds a bachelors degree (B.Hons) in Journalism and masters degrees in Sustainable Development Practice and Urban Management and Development (Netherlands Fellowship Program Scholar). Prior to joining UNDP, she was Project Manager of Circular Economy at Royal Philips Netherlands in their Global Sustainability office, a Strategic Sustainability Advisor and an Associate Fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi, India.