From Dante to Decarbonisation

Jack Straker

Published: 2019-10-23

Having left the world of science at school, I read medieval Italian poetry at university and thought to myself “finally – something I can study with real world application!” I slightly rued my artsy background when I took an MBA which involved some mathematics: the GMAT (“how is one not a prime?”), financial accounting (“how come income statements have expenses?”), Excel modelling (“how the IF does that work?”)… at least I was not being stretched beyond my academic limits in science.

And yet, this would shortly change – I am a glutton for punishment. I started at RIG knowing full well the deep dive into the scientific world this would require. I have tested the upper limits of the initial amnesty I have been afforded on stupid questions, where the clients with whom I am working push the boundaries of my formation in Physics and Chemistry. One company creates micro-grooves in film to use for energy storage & generation (“is a capacitor a kind of dinosaur?”), and another gasifies waste to create heat & electricity (“is syngas different from cosgas and tangas?”) – I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.

That said – having arrived slightly nervous at my new place of work, after a week on the job I am immeasurably calmer. Firstly, the mission, values and vision of RIG are much clearer. Furthermore, my understanding of the science behind the numerous technologies with which we work has developed: I am now beginning to grasp the extent of how much I do not know. Finally, and most importantly, I have been benefitting from collaboration with my colleagues, from MD to intern.

As for my colleagues, I could write about the strength of their characters and their sparkling conversation; however, I will focus on their striking professionalism. The quality and quantity of work they provide to achieve the tangible delivery of value to clients, the depth and breadth of their knowledge within and without the technologies of their practice space – they are practically SMEs in a wide range of fields from CO2 reuse to cadmium removal.

When the machines take over and try to decide whether or not to keep the humans, our main differentiation (and chance of survival) will be our creative verve.

Why am I not concerned about my non-science (nonsense? Ed.) background in this job? Partly meeting Scott Hartley (amongst other accolades, author of The Fuzzy and the Techie – worth a read!) at a poetry competition; Scott is a tech/science venture capitalist based in New York who studied Political Science at Stanford. He reflected on the value added to technical disciplines by ‘artists’ and compounded my belief that, when the machines take over and try to decide whether or not to keep the humans, our main differentiation (and chance of survival) will be our creative verve. But I digress…

The main source of my calm is my five-strong team working on sustainable technologies requiring considerable technical knowledge: all five of us studied humanities at university. RIG is a space where its teams’ members grow and learn exponentially. RIG’s competitive advantage is a proven commercialisation model combined with its people: a good balance of high-level EQ and IQ, and an insatiable hunger for knowledge. Based on the learning curve attested to by my teammates, I look forward to writing my next blog in a more technical than philosophical form.

E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle…