Kathryn Anne Stausebach
We caught up with Kathryn to find out just how she maintains this pragmatism:
1.What inspired you to pursue a career or to study in this sector?
I was a general ecology and zoology undergraduate student when I participated in a course called ‘Business in Biology’ presented by Dr Ivan May, a founding member of the Nedbank Green Trust. Ivan encouraged us biologists to look beyond the lab and fieldwork, and step into the business world. We were told to stop letting accountants do our job when it came to environmental consulting. This fantastic series of lectures inspired me to take more courses related to business and the environment.
2. What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on during your internship?
Working on transactions where conditions could be made stipulating that a client had to improve social and environmental aspects of their business in order to receive a loan has been very exciting. Being in the financial industry provides a great deal of leverage to influence business activities in South Africa from a social and environmental perspective. This has also helped to keep business in the fold and accountable.
3. In what ways have you grown during this internship?
I have grown my confidence in decision-making and the correct decorum when interacting with clients and colleagues by observing senior staff. I have learned to organise large amounts of work to meet deadlines on time – no small task!
4. What has been the most valuable learning experience?
I’d say learning about how best to influence client operations positively in a way that is still competitive as a bank. There are many ways to ask a question but one should think carefully about how you approach someone for information to get the best results.
5. What value has this experience brought to you?
Being able to choose an organisation that you would like to work for and then get hands-on experience there is a rare opportunity. I have learned that I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of working in the financial industry and I feel that this industry is the centre of the economy from which I can help influence more social and environmentally responsible business practices in South Africa.
6. What is the most challenging thing that’s happened to you during the internship?
Being in meetings with some bankers who do not care much for environmental and social issues, and having to explain to them why they need to ask their client to disclose social and environmental information has been a major opportunity for challenging hard-held perceptions.
7. What’s the single most important piece of advice you would give to a young person planning to enter the sector?
Prepare yourself for a marathon, this is not a sprint. Working in the environmental field is challenging but extremely rewarding. Bear in mind that you cannot change the world but you can change aspects of it. So find a niche that you are passionate about and look for a job that will let you make a positive change in this dimension.
8. What do you think makes our environmental future so bright?
The environmental field is still relatively new and is growing rapidly. In future there will be new job titles that we haven’t even considered. The ability to be a part of hopefully building a more sustainable culture that will protect the environment is extremely exciting.