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Introduction: Thoughts on a walk to work — a Journey

Hello to the big wide world of the Internet. Currently sitting here at my brand-new desk in Somerset House, cautiously tapping away so as not to disturb the rare, serene moment of silence that envelops the Volans office. Like the eye of a storm, these quiet moments are fleeting and I’m sure too soon they will be swept away in the exhilarating hustle and bustle that comes with working in a compact, fast-moving team.

Before I go any further, I should take a moment to introduce myself, as this is my first foray into Medium. Hello! I am Nathalie. I’m the newest full-time member of the Volans team, having recently been hired straight out of university. I’m 22, rapidly approaching 23 (which I may well be, by the time this goes live) and have recently graduated with a BSc. in Environment and Development from the LSE.

Me at graduation; freshly churned out of the academia production line.

How I ended up at Volans and in the environmental/sustainability sphere is a bit of a convoluted story, but the condensed version is that I took a trip to the jungle when I was 17, where I witnessed the dramatic deforestation taking place on the island of Borneo. Since then I have felt increasingly concerned about the state of the environment. This led me to switch paths from Psychology, which I initially wanted to study at university, to a degree in Environmental Policy instead.

Through a lot of different internships that took me on a zig-zag road across the industry, from health and safety auditing, to conservation and CSR, I found myself last summer living in Cologne, interning at plastics giant Covestro in their Corporate Sustainability division. It was here that I finally found my niche: integrating environmental concern with corporate strategy.

Having always had a strong interest in understanding people ­– What drives us? What changes our behaviour? How do we connect with one another? — I was over the moon when I finally found other people who saw sustainability as a strategic change management movement. This was my Eureka! moment.

Unfortunately, I had to return to London to finish my last year of undergraduate studies, but before I left Covestro, I managed to convince some lovely friends to send off my CV to a small company which I knew had influenced Covestro’s own thinking on sustainability a lot. It was then a case of pure serendipity that the Volans office was a mere stone’s throw away from my university campus and they needed some extra help.

I managed to squirrel my way in to working part-time while I finished off my studies and somehow became a part of the furniture that they never asked me to leave…

So that is how I ended up here, in this crazy, fantastically brilliant, small but mighty company without any clue of where I’m headed or what I want to do next. Except for a cemented belief that I want to make the world a better place and I’m certain this is the right place for me to begin that voyage.

I told Louise (Roper, Volans Executive Director) that I wanted to work on my writing and boldly proclaimed that my Medium debut would be a scathing piece on the mess that current C-suite members are leaving for future CEOs by asking them to solve the world’s problems without giving them — or us — any formal guidance or direction.

I do still want to do that (and at some point I will), but after a little more reflection I realised that I wanted to use this space to do something a little different.

In this office I’m surrounded by wonderful, creative, thoughtful writers: Richard (Roberts, Inquiry Lead) has a marvellous way of simplifying convoluted concepts into tangible, comprehensible stories; John (Elkington, Founder and Chief Pollinator) writes in such an awe-inspiring way that even through a screen he manages to convince thousands to follow in his footsteps. And Louise binds us all together, she digests everything we collect and shoots it out in bite-sized pieces so everyone knows what our voices are trying to say in the big wide world. So that makes me wonder where I fit in?

Maybe the fact I’m not quite sure yet is part of the gloriousness of it all? I’m at the very beginning of my journey and I have this opportunity to figure it all out, at my own pace. I came in this morning and had a chat with Yinka (Awoyinka, Office Manager) and she said to me, “What are you waiting for? Just get it out. Anything. 50 words. Just post it!” And she’s right. What am I waiting for? Like that illustrious Chinese proverb states “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

So that got me thinking, I walk to work every day, and it’s a lovely walk. Half an hour of quiet reflection through Farringdon, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, across the Strand and it seems like the perfect segue to get my writing juices flowing.

I love being in the outdoors, and living in London I rarely get to spend much time connecting with the natural environment. I wouldn’t say that trudging along the A40 (Chancery Lane) in the pouring rain is “connecting” per se, but it beats standing in a cramped tube and it most definitely feeds my inner outdoorsy-ness.

Me, having a rest along the John Muir trail in Yosemite earlier this summer.

I use the time in the mornings to gear myself up for a busy day, and the walk back home in the evening gives me time to decompress. I usually fill it with the babble of my own thoughts, sometimes calling a friend or my family to tell them what I’m thinking about.

It’s usually nothing really focussed or connected. Just little tidbits of things that have caught my attention during the week — stories that interest me, observations, things that stood out to me. And then I thought, maybe if I start putting these musings down on (virtual) paper I’ll slowly start curating my own portfolio of interests.

So that’s what I’m going to do. Starting somewhere small. A few paragraphs each week, telling you about my reflections on my walks to work and the interesting and inspiring things that go on each week at the Volans office.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey.



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