I am a problem solver by nature. I know it’s an engineering cliché, but I have always been interested in how things work. With this curiosity, and exposure to engineering, I developed the tools and the mindset to say, “OK if you want to be curious about how things work, here is a structured way to get the answers.”

I’m hungry to make an impact greater than myself. I come from a town where, as an African-American, only a small percentage of us are expected go to college, let alone graduate. So when I had the opportunity to exceed that expectation: going to college, graduating and working for an international company, that was my way of making an impact, by setting an example for my community. It’s the same in work: I started out as an engineer at Siemens but that’s not what I do now because with time and experience I have developed as an individual and as a professional.

When I was a kid, my older brother couldn’t explain what students at the engineering academy did — all he told me was that everyone who enrolled went on to college. I had no clue how to do that. On my first day of high school I told my teacher. “I want to get into this engineering academy.” She told me what requirements I needed to get in, so that’s what I aimed for and the rest is history!

Whatever my aspirations are, my race hasn’t been an issue — it’s actually been a unique advantage. About 20 years ago, Siemens had a mass exodus of women and minority groups, so they organized the Diversity Inclusion Council, a focus group to help them understand the problem, and I am very proud to have been part of the council’s lasting legacy. Working on the council and contributing to its growth, there are now nine employee resource groups which focus on topics ranging from gender and ethnicity, to sexual orientation and environmental sustainability. It’s helped me develop core skills and pursue a career path in sales and marketing.

If you can come to work and are able to be your true self, then you will be happier and make a greater contribution to the company. That’s how I think the diversity council makes an impact. It’s an outlet that strives to help people grow and aims to eliminate barriers by raising awareness about issues and hosting to activities to encourage employees to make an impact.

In my sales interview, I didn’t talk much about my technical role. I mostly talked about all the transferable skills I developed outside of my normal role. For example, volunteering with the Diversity Inclusion Council meant I developed my business acumen and leadership skills by running the resource group as if it were my own business.

I find it refreshing that Siemens allows me to pursue my passion on the clock. Outside of sales, I’ve also helped develop an app: Siemens Own Your CO2. The app addresses the question of how to motivate employees to contribute to global sustainability in a way that fits in with their busy lives. So, our team thought if we made an app that is easy to use and gives people credit for taking action, it would incentivize the act of being sustainable by turning it into a friendly competition with prizes. By slightly disrupting the behavior of people’s lives, it’s a nice easy way for them to contribute in a way that doesn’t seem like a burden.

We’re hoping that Siemens Own Your CO2 will demonstrate how small lifestyle changes can create a big impact. I’m really looking forward to the next challenge, in recognition of World Environment Day 2018 in June. It’s open to all Siemens employers, so hopefully we’ll make a great impact. Since launching the app in 2016, across two challenges including Earth Day 2017, more than 550 participants logged 21,000 sustainable activities. 26,400 kg of CO2 was deterred (58,202 lbs), 1,459 kg of waste was diverted (3,217 lbs), 188,600 liters of water was saved (49,823). By bringing my unique skill set and experiences to the table, I am able to contribute as a team member and make a lasting change.

The idea came out of participating in the One Young World Conference in 2015, the largest gathering of young people anywhere in the world. With participants from over 190 countries, it’s on the same scale as the Olympics. Every year, Siemens sends young leaders to attend so it was quite an honor to be asked to participate. I heard some very sobering stories, which made me realize that working at Siemens means I have the access to networks, tools and resources, to make a difference. That’s when our team came up with the idea for Siemens Own Your CO2.

Born in Louisiana, Christopher Conley has worked at Siemens for the past ten years and is now Head of Long Term Program Sales and Marketing, Oil & Gas — North America, in Texas. Find out more about working at Siemens.

Christopher is a Future Maker — one of the 372,000 talented people working with us to shape the future.

Words: Caroline Christie
 Illustration: John Hitchcox