• Green Office

UvA Alumni Portraits: Old Co-Manager Satyam Kathpalia of the UvA Green Office

Updated: Dec 7, 2021

Alumni Portraits, where we interview UvA alumni who are pursuing sustainable careers to inspire you to do the same!

 

Introduction

Satyam Kathpalia currently works as a Sustainability Intern at Beerwulf. Beerwulf is an e-commerce beer retail company that is looking into ways of improving their approach to sustainability. During his studies at UvA, Satyam undertook 10 sustainability-related electives and worked for the UvA Green Office as the Office Manager.


Read the whole interview to learn about his experience at the UvA Green Office, what his current position at Beerwulf entails and how UvA, especially the Green Office, helped Satyam during his path towards a green career.




Part 1: General and UvA Green office related questions

Chelsea (Interviewer 1):

To start us off, how did you become interested in the field of sustainability. Is this a field you had wanted to pursue for a long time? Or is it something you discovered whilst studying?


Satyam:

Sustainability is something that I became interested in as a child already. Having lived in New Delhi I was exposed to the consequences of pollution where I was literally coughing up black particles. So, I learned about the negative consequences of excessive and unsustainable extent of human activities from an early age and since then sustainability has been important to me and a part of my life.


Chelsea:

Could you perhaps tell us more about your experiences on partaking in the early stages of the Green Office? What were the Green Office's greatest achievements?

Satyam:

I joined the Green Office the year after it was established. When first joining there were not a lot of resources available on hand to follow the project and also the Green Office lacked visibility in the sense that not a lot of people knew about it and what its role was.


Therefore, our first mission was to figure out what we stand for and what we aim to achieve. The second part of that aim was to gain visibility across UvA. We wanted students to know who to approach in terms of sustainability at the university, that goes for staff members and all bodies across the university. We also put in place volunteer recruitment procedures. Which enabled us to gain more resources and funding as well as reach a higher place of authority within the university’s organizational structure.


Overall, as the Green Office Manager I was trying to understand what were the most important goals to process in order to increase the Green Offices’ visibility at UvA but also determine how we should shape the Green Office for it to have a good impact on students and their environment in general.



Part 2: Career-related Questions

Rebecca (interviewer 2):

Tell us a bit about what you are doing as a Sustainability Intern at Beerwulf?

Satyam:

At the moment my internship is about researching and implementing sustainability solutions across Beerwulf. That includes waste management catering and employee involvement for example. I also work towards making the supply chain more transparent which involves finding better delivery solutions and better warehousing solutions. I also partake in sustainability communications which undertakes carbon emission reporting and general sustainability reporting, meaning, using sustainability standards such as the GRI and incorporating the UN Sustainable Development Goals there. Additionally, I work on sustainability communications which involves creating blog posts and stories so that our Beerwulf consumers can see the point of impact within Beerwulf. For example, writing about waste management after consumption is finished.


Rebecca:

What is a typical day as a Sustainability Intern? And how do you find their approach to sustainability so far?


Satyam:


A typical day in the life of a Sustainability Intern is going into work and trying to have some conversations about the topic of sustainability. Meaning, trying to start the conversation and trying to plan meetings across different departments within the company. To be able to make the company aware of the sustainability impact that they could have across their different departments within the entire organization of the company.


At the moment it's a lot of researching and writing. For instance, researching across competitors to find the most sustainable form of e-commerce retail. It is also about making recommendations to the company so, in essence, going to the management team of the company and giving recommendations based on other companies and based on the best practices across the industry. I also make recommendations as to what they must incorporate in the next 10 years to make sure that sustainability is considered as a priority within the company and that consumers know that the company and employees are taking it seriously. What my day to day comes down to is to make sure that everyone is making sustainability a priority on their list, which can be a bit difficult at times.


Rebecca:

What do you find most difficult as a Sustainability Intern and as a person who would like to encourage the transition to a more sustainable future?


Satyam:

To be honest, I'm having a tough time sometimes to enforce sustainability at Beerwulf. Usually the biggest conversation topic is how to get to an optimum, sustainable position in the company while developing it organically. This entails, not pushing or forcing it on people but rather getting people to start the conversation and to maintain that conversation organically. This is what I'm finding very difficult right now. Similarly, that's also what I found very difficult at the Green Office, throughout my time there it was challenging to have people enthusiastically be involved in sustainability and wanting to stay involved in it.


Rebecca:

What did you find challenging or different about working life when compared with student life? And how have you had to adapt?


Satyam:

While working I'm having a hard time coming to terms with working every day from 9am until 5pm. I am quite a flexible person and so often I like working in the middle of the night. Getting used to the fact that you have to wake up at the same time every day, to do the exact same work and sign yourself out by 5pm is challenging. So, adapting to a new environment isn't the most difficult thing but it's the persistence I think that's the issue for me.


I'm getting used to the new environment and I'm able to work the way they want me to but I think most people working there are way more used to the working manner. I believe that students from the UvA are more accustomed to the academic format of working, so they are really good and very critical but not as practical as compared to the HvA students who are given training to work more in the practical hands-on manner.



Rebecca:

How did your studies at UvA and your position as the manager of the Green Office help you in your current role and in your path as a professional?


Satyam:

As the manager of the Green Office, I remember we would agree on a specific deadline and genuinely end up finishing what I needed to do by the deadline. This was very convenient as after I would be free to either study or plan my personal life.


In addition, the sustainability-related electives that I chose helped me with the internship insofar that it increased my knowledge about sustainability and further fueled my interest in sustainability. Whereas, my position at the Green Office helped me since it required managing projects, researching and convincing individuals with authority of the benefits of sustainability. Which are all skills that proved to be useful throughout my internship. However, as I said, the environment that I am working in at the internship makes it hard to genuinely make sustainable changes. The internship is different in the sense that I feel my effort is not always reflected upon in the company.



Part 3: General Opinion and Advice


Chelsea:

What advice would you give to students that want to have an impact in terms of sustainability and don't know where to start or what to do next?


Satyam:

Being part of associations such as the UvA Green Office is I think one of the best places to start with. Especially for those who don't have too much experience with sustainability and want to see if it's something they want to pursue as a career.


Such associations also show how much fun sustainability can be when working together as a group which is in a way the essence of the Green Office. You will be working towards creating a better impact and making the world better together with people who you will call your friends in the future. In my case, I found people who were very dedicated, and giving towards the topic of sustainability and I really felt I had a really good team and group of volunteers at the Green Office.


Chelsea:

Are there any UvA courses or electives that you suggest taking if one is interested in doing something related to sustainability in the future?


Satyam:

Yes! Another piece of advice I could give is just to take electives or courses that are offered at the university. I would suggest that you check the institute of interdisciplinary studies. They have a few electives there for all students across the UvA and one of them I really recommend is called “Climate Crisis”. It takes a very interdisciplinary look at climate change and what's happening. You talk about climate change from a physical and philosophical perspective but also from a business and also political perspective. That's really helpful to see if climate change and sustainability is something that you wish to work on later in life, after your bachelors or during your bachelors. Also, finding a group of people that can motivate you to be involved with sustainability is helpful towards integrating sustainability into your life further.


Rebecca:

Do you have any advice for taking sustainability related internships? Are there specific or important requirements in order to take on a sustainability related career? As in, is it necessary to have some form of experience? Or take on internships?


Satyam:

In terms of finding an internship, it's really important that you are on the same page as the company you are applying for. In the sense that, you know what the tasks are but you're also confident that you will be able to do them. In my case, I think I got a little bit too enthusiastic about this sustainability-related internship. The sector of sustainability that I'm working in at the moment does not really go along with me and my personality. My presumption for my internship was that the company will have someone else as a sustainability person and who would be able to guide me. However, at the end of the day, it all comes down to me and there is not really anyone who guides me towards getting to the place that we need to. So, if that is something that is important to you, then you should watch out for it.


Chelsea:

Is there anything that you would like to add or highlight during this interview? Maybe some more general advice to the people and students reading this.


Satyam:

Yes! I would like to highlight the fact that the Green Office is the perfect place for anyone interested in sustainability at the UvA. If you care about the environment and if you have no idea what you want to do with your extra time you should definitely go and check out what the Green Office does and how you could contribute. It's not just about the university, you can do far more than just change the university, you could change the entire direction of sustainability in Amsterdam for example by working together with the municipalities or with the companies. It can really be beneficial not just for you but for everyone else.


Also going from a student culture to a working culture can be quite a shock. You don't always have a perfect match straight away and that's to be expected. The first place you end up working at is definitely not the last place you're going to be working at. So, definitely be open to the option that it will take a couple of tries. Also, try different kinds of environments, working styles and colleagues since then you realize what works best for you and not think that it's a failure. You cannot always be perfect in all environments so give yourself that freedom and don't blame yourself for it going wrong. Instead look at the facts very openly and figure out what works best for you.


For instance, what I took away from the Green Office is that it provided me with such a rich working culture and a really good team. I became accustomed to that and so the transition from a very tolerant and warm working culture to a relatively more work based competitive 9 to 5 corporate culture proved to be difficult for me. And so, I learned through the experience of my internship that working in this manner of corporate culture is not really for me. A balance is really needed. You need to find a place that makes you feel comfortable but also productive so that you're actually gaining something at the end of the day. Just remember that whatever you find is also what you were looking for in the first place.



Read the whole interview to learn about his experience at the UvA Green Office, what his current position at Beerwulf entails and how UvA, especially the Green Office, helped Satyam during his path towards a green career.

The Alumni Portraits Team would like to thank Satyam for his time and valuable insights. Check out these links if you would like to know more about Beerwulf.


Beerwulf: https://www.beerwulf.com/nl

Satyam's Linkedin



And a massive thank you to Rebecca Cornelius and Chelsea Guidi for continuing to produce such insightful and though provoking interviews.



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