My CEOx1Day experience at Carbon Engineering Ltd.
Around this time in March, I was waking up to the beautiful Squamish mountains ready to take on the most important day of my year thus far. My opportunity to spend the day at Carbon Engineering Ltd. (CE), an organization that had fascinated me for nearly a year, had arrived on the sunniest day I had seen in a while. I would be spending the day shadowing CE CEO, Steve Oldham, and learning about what it takes to scale CE's contribution to our planet’s future: Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology. Over 10 years in the making, this DAC technology is able to remove carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. To me, there is nothing more motivating than important work that needs to be done, and what could be more important than saving our planet?
‘Be mindful of the 6 people in the room’
The first hour of the day was set aside for Steve and I to become acquainted, for me to ask my initial burning questions and to discuss the agenda for the day. For such an overwhelmingly accomplished individual, Steve was surprisingly approachable. One discussion point (among many) that stuck with me revolved around perception and building your personal brand as a professional. Essentially, he explained that there are always 6 people in the room when 2 people are meeting: the version of yourself that you want others to see, the actual person you are, and the person others perceive you to be. In every meeting think hard about the way people perceive you and the energy you bring to the room because that is the only version of yourself that counts in that moment. I carried this idea with me into the meetings that followed that day, and every day since.
‘The power of passionate professionals’
My next lesson was one that can only be learned through observation. If you read the biographies of the CE executive team you will see that they boast over a century of combined industry experience. If I was to offer my own description of their collective competency, I would start by painting the picture of a room full of real-life professional superheroes who have come together to address our climate crisis. As a young professional, I was overwhelmed (in the best way) by this extremely rare opportunity to learn in this setting as a student. As a young individual who is passionate about actionable solutions for protecting the environment (including my nearby beautiful Golden Ears Provincial Park playground), there was this feeling at the intersection of relief and excitement. In every meeting, ideas flooded the room. Oftentimes the same people would attend most (if not all) of these meetings and consistently offer up new ways to innovate. If you have meetings all day, every day, you likely do your thinking on your own time. I couldn’t help but observe: What would it take to be engaged in your work to the extent that you could contribute countless new ideas all day? I thought their answer might reflect my own reason for being there: CE technology is trying to change the fate of our planet in this do-or-die decade. That is more than exciting, it’s important.
‘Trust in leadership’
Steve consistently circled back to the trust he has in his world-class team. By the end of the day, there was a common theme across every meeting. Leading the collective decarbonization effort was a CEO that you couldn’t help but notice rarely spoke first, and always came prepared to let his team lead with their ideas. At one point he mentioned to me the importance of holding back to listen. He was there to learn about his team’s progress, to give feedback, to ask questions, and to give them what they need to be successful. When you support a team of this caliber with the ‘if you have the idea, I will find a way to support you’ style of leadership, you get the results that I’d bet could move mountains and ultimately save atmospheres.
My day at Carbon Engineering, as well as the entire CEOx1Day program, far exceeded all of my expectations. Thank you, Tara Bojdak and Steve Oldham for organizing such an invaluable day for me at the Squamish site. Thank you to the Odgers Berndtson team from the bottom of my heart for believing in my fit for this experience, and a special thank you to Elaine Grotefeld and Kristen Ayres for helping me prepare in advance.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Cameron Lust.