Rabia Abrar

On Purpose London October 2017 Fellow, now a Project Lead at Hubbub, the social enterprise arm of Hubbub, an environmental charity.

Rabia Abrar

Rabia wanted to combat Climate Change. She wanted to combat Climate Change not just in her personal life but professionally:

Can you tell me about your background and your career prior to On Purpose?

Following my undergrad degree in International Business, I worked in Canada’s largest telecommunications company as a management trainee and a marketing specialist. I had a variety of roles in the operations division, each rooted in data analysis and a mix of strategy development and project management.

Prior to starting the On Purpose Associate Programme, I did the Climate KIC entrepreneurship summer school and a Master in Sustainable Urban Management in the Netherlands.

What are you doing now?

I am now a Project Lead at Hubbub Enterprise, the social enterprise arm of Hubbub, an environmental charity that creates playful campaigns to inspire people to make healthier, greener lifestyle choices. A core part of my role at Hubbub is designing and delivering employee engagement programs which promote greener behaviours.

This work feels important because people spend much of their time at work and can take green behaviours they learn at work into the rest of their lives.

How did you feel in your work before you decided to make a change?

I enjoyed my role as a marketing specialist — problem solving, testing solutions, measuring impact and sharing learnings. I felt satisfied making tangible improvements and achieving targets.

But I felt very restless. I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t enough for me to make changes in my personal life to combat Climate Change. I wanted to do so much more.

At what moment did you decide to make the change?

I knew it was time to make the change when I noticed the marked difference in the enthusiasm I felt for my projects at work, compared to the passion I felt for learning about how to cut my personal carbon footprint during my personal challenge: #100DaysofClimateAction.

Why did you join the On Purpose Associate Programme?

80,000 Hours, the social impact career advice website recommends minimizing the time cost of career experimentation. The Associate Programme seemed like a great way to do just that.

I wanted to not only test out the fit of two different roles in social enterprises, but also get support from a career coach for longer term career planning. The discipline of a structured programme with other motivated colleagues on the same journey felt like a good way to make sure I prioritised my career transition, while working full time.

What was the most difficult thing about making this change?

As I had just finished a Masters programme where I wasn’t earning a salary and moved to London, I initially found it challenging to manage expenses on the On Purpose salary. Luckily, the programme and the other associates had great tips for how to live frugally.

Can you tell me more about your placements?

My first On Purpose placement was at SystemiQ, an environmental advisory and investment firm, with systems change principles at the core of its operations, to improve sustainability in key environmental systems. My experience with both of my projects, the ‘Energy Transitions Commission’ and the ‘Cities & Circular Economy for Food’ enabled me to develop a strong understanding of systems thinking and problem-solving.

My second On Purpose placement was at King’s College London, in its Widening Participation department. I developed a communications plan for the department and led staff through processes to define a new departmental brand and adopt a new data-driven approach to social media engagement. This placement gave me experience in facilitating change management.

What’s the most important thing you learnt during your year as an Associate?

An impactful and meaningful career can take many forms — there’s no one way. You can get as creative as you want in not only designing your career to optimise for impact and satisfaction — but also your entire life.

What support did you get along the way?

The entire On Purpose network was an incredible support system. My mentors and my coach gave me countless pieces of advice that I’m still using today. They helped me re-frame my thinking in ways, without which I wouldn’t have the clarity of understanding about what a meaningful, impactful career means to me.

My cohort was filled with really fun and kind people — great listeners, problem solvers and creatives who helped me clarify my thinking on what to do / question / test every week. I particularly valued ‘Big 5’ sessions, which were voluntary meetups of smaller groups in the cohort to discuss progress in our career transition research, planning and networking.

On Purpose Fellows were also great resources — making time to have coffees and discuss their own experiences, learning and advice.

How did your year with On Purpose set you up for your new career?

Going into the On Purpose Associate Programme, I had a few hypotheses about the type of organisation, function and causes I wanted to work on.

Having had the opportunity to test out these hypotheses with On Purpose, I came out with a clear understanding of the social enterprise sector and a good idea of what I was looking for in my next step.

What advice would you give to others in a similar situation?

The 80000 hours advice: minimise the time cost of career experimentation.

If you’re feeling unfulfilled in your career, use your analytical skills to problem solve. What’s going well, what’s not? What does meaningful work mean for you? What would need to change for you to make more impact / feel you’re doing meaningful work.

Create a hypothesis — then find ways to quickly test it out (side gig, volunteering, online courses, attending events, informational coffees, google it!, etc).

What do you miss about your old career, and what don’t you miss?

I sometimes miss the smooth-running machinery of a big corporate.

I don’t miss feeling restless and wondering if I could be making more of a positive impact on society through the work I do.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

My alarm — and the understanding that my job helps me work toward my personal vision to ignite the power of people as citizens to change the world for the better; starting right in their own communities, and specifically around responsible, healthy and sustainable consumption behaviours.