Female Founders in Climate Series
AN INTERVIEW WITH DR. KAMAL KAPADIA, CO-FOUNDER OF TERRA.DO
In our next feature, we’ll hear from Dr. Kamal Kapadia at Terra.do. Learn how Terra.do has created the global platform for climate change, with a network of caring community insiders and jobs with top climate employers across the world.
By Briana Tang
March 25, 2022
With a mission to help 100 million people start working on climate change, Terra.do is making big steps in creating a network to make climate learning accessible for all. They’ve been a global company since day one, allowing their learning fellows from 25+ different countries across the world to benefit from courses and job programs designed specifically to serve diverse constituents.
Kamal’s company is extremely focused on action. Their learning programs—all developed by experts with practical experience—are designed to support people working on climate, whether they want new jobs, are trying to add skills in their existing roles, or are looking to volunteer their time.
Overall, Terra.do is a community that realizes that caring for the planet is really a function of how humans relate and care for each other. Even as they scale and grow, everything is designed around an ethos of care because, in Kamal’s words, “boy, we could sure use more care in this world right now!”
Kamal had amazing insights to share as the Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer at Terra.do. We had the opportunity to hear more about her perspective and thoughts as a female entrepreneur working in climate.
Hi Kamal, we’re so excited to be featuring you and Terra.do! Could we start off by hearing about the origin of the company? What inspired you to start it?
One part of the story began a little over two years ago when I met my co-founder, Anshuman Bapna, who had just quit a very successful career in the tech industry to dedicate himself to working on climate change. My own background is quite different: I have about 25 years of experience in sustainability and climate work across academia, K-12 schools, advocacy, and start-ups.
When we met, Anshuman told me how he had spent six months trying to figure out how to apply his skills to climate action. He found it had been difficult to navigate, as climate change is so vast and he felt disconnected in the professional communities.
The other part was my own personal journey. For years I hoped that if we could somehow just get the policies and politics “right,” we’d be able to fight back climate change. In the few years before we started Terra.do, I had come to see this as very misguided. I realized that if we wait around for change to come that way, we were doomed. What we really need is for millions of people to be working on this problem using the skills they have because we need all skills in climate action.
So, putting Anshuman’s and my stories together, we identified two problems. First, we need all hands on deck to beat back climate change. Second, many skilled professionals are concerned about climate change and want to address it but don’t know how.
So we started Terra.do, a global, online platform and community to help people transition into climate work through learning, community, and careers support.
I find it so interesting how both you and Anshuman, with such different backgrounds, were able to connect through the need for climate action. This just goes to show how important it is to address it. Could you expand more on how Terra.do is leading the fight against climate change?
Getting millions of skilled people working directly on climate change across all sectors and countries should do the trick!
That’s amazing! It’s incredible that you’re able to make such a large impact across the world. With any venture, I’m sure there have been a fair share of good memories and challenges. What was something unexpected that happened throughout this journey?
As Chief Learning Officer, I started this journey thinking that there’s “stuff” people need to know about climate change to become empowered. I realized very quickly that the most powerful thing we were building was community.
So much more becomes possible for individuals when they are part of an engaged and caring community. Yes, the “stuff” does matter and it is empowering, but people get so much more out of content and access to expertise when they are part of a supportive, mission-aligned community.
Now, we are very clear on what we’re building: We’re building communities of action that are empowered through learning, jobs, and networking along with a culture of mutual care and support.
It’s great to hear that you were able to adapt and use this unexpected situation to better achieve Terra.do’s mission. As a woman, is there anything you wish people knew about being a female entrepreneur?
You need to truly embrace the strengths of being female. I am a 47-year-old female founder, and am also a wife and mother, and, well, I am a bit mothering. I genuinely see my team as my professional family. I care about them as fully-rounded people with struggles, worries, and joys.
Be your authentic self. This especially includes being vulnerable, à la Brene Brown. Maybe it helps that I’m older - I’m no longer trying to be different from who I am. I do really try to practice self-awareness and authenticity.
I am very conscious of how power imbalances in a company can affect you as a person so I try very hard to use my relative power intentionally and provide genuine support. Do I always succeed? No, for sure I don’t. But I pay attention to when I fail and try to learn from these experiences.
Being a supportive leader that can empathize with your team is crucial to the success of any company, and I’m so happy to hear about the things you’re doing to ensure just that! Is there a specific organization or group you’d like to shout out for supporting you along the way?
SELCO-India, where I worked for some years early in my career, was really formative for me.
Climate Lightning Round
Moving on to the Climate Lighting Round, where we rapid-fire climate-related questions at you!
What’s your favorite climate tech or topic?
Climate justice, 100% clean energy, and employee empowerment around climate.
Wind, solar, or hydrothermal - which are you most excited about?
I don’t pick winners! All are needed, all are renewable sources of energy. We also need batteries, hydrogen, electric cars, bicycles, green buildings, sustainable agriculture, and healthier diets with less meat. Most importantly, we really, really need to protect nature.
Is there a company you find particularly interesting right now?
Check out the nonprofit SELCO-Foundation in India. I had the great fortune of working with the founder, Dr. Harish Hande, at SELCO-India, many years ago. Both he and the organizations he’s built are truly inspiring.
What is your favorite book or resource about climate that you wish everyone knew about?
I love Carbon Brief - I use it to keep up with the latest science, developments, etc. Everyone should subscribe to their newsletter.
Also, this isn’t on climate, per se, but more on sustainability in general. I look forward to the announcement each year of who has won the Goldman Environmental Prize. It honors grassroots environmental activists from around the world. If you want to be inspired by incredible stories of courage and action, you should check out the winners. They remind me that ordinary humans can achieve extraordinary things when they put their minds—and hearts—to it.
Last question, is there any greenwashing you’ve seen that you want to set the record straight on?
Carbon offsets. It’s not a real solution except in some very limited cases. There are many, better alternatives.
That wraps up the interview! Thank you so much Kamal for sharing your thoughts with us.
With an impact across the world, Terra.do is making big moves to address climate change. This proves that the climate crisis isn’t just a local issue. People across the world need to—and want to—do work to solve this problem.
Thank you, Kamal, for your time! Stay posted for next Monday, where we’ll hear from Eliza Nemser at Climate Changemakers.
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