Sasha Sankar | WWF South Africa

Sasha Sankar

Posted on 01 January 2015
Sasha Sankar is a Masters intern at WWF.
© Natasha Prince/WWF-SA
Sasha Sankar is an example of what is possible if you only believe it is. While completing her studies at UKZN, Sasha was struck by the devastating impacts on our planet and saw this internship as an opportunity to lead the change.

Here’s her story:

1. What inspired you to pick a career in this sector?
I wasn’t always what you would call “environmentally conscious” but I always had a soft spot for whales – Orcas, in particular. While dillydallying during a study session for my final BSc Applied Chemistry paper, I came across a video of the Taiji 10 on YouTube. It really hit home for me and I couldn't get past it. A few weeks later, after passing my BSc degree and convincing my parents that wanting to save whales and get paid to do it was a feasible career option, I got consent from the UKZN Science and Agriculture Faculty Dean to register for third year Environmental Sciences for “Non-Degree Purposes” before chasing an honours degree in Environmental Sciences.

2. What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on during your internship?
It would have to be coordinating the SPAR Future Warriors Conference. I am involved in the marketing and securing of freebies for the winners that will attend the event in October. This conference is a platform that Spar uses to educate the next generation and encourage sustainable thinking. It’s open to children between the ages of 10 and 15. I have spent a lot of my time organising this and have been actively involved in the national in-store campaign, social media, management of the event and developing activities for the children I am most looking forward to seeing the children’s reactions, many of which may not have been on an airplane or seen the ocean before, when we show them what’s in store.

3. What value has this experience brought to you?
I have gained invaluable networking experience, become more confident in approaching other professionals and sharing information and skills. I have also gained a lot of understanding around sustainability.

4. What have been the biggest/most valuable learning experiences?
Networking has made me more comfortable and confident. I am now able to give my opinion in meetings and speak with confidence, knowing that what I have to say has value. I feel like I present myself differently.

5. What value has this experience brought to you?
I have gained a lot of experience and training that will no doubt assist me in reaching my future goals. This includes helping Spar with:
• The GRI principles - a global reporting framework monitoring sustainability measures being integrated into the organisational strategy by taking into account environment, social and economic developments.
• The Carbon Disclosure Project (carbon footprint) reporting.
• Water Footprint Reporting. 
• Working with the SASSI team which has given me a new understanding of sustainability.

6. What is the strangest thing that has happened to you during the internship?
During the early stages of organising the SPAR Future Warriors Conference I was asked to test renewable energy toys that would be used to demonstrate the various types of renewable energy to the children. I spent a few weeks assembling and playing with numerous toys within the SPAR Central Office hallways to decide which would be the most appropriate for use at the event. This drew a lot of attention to the sustainability department and myself and ended up endearing me to the other staff members. It must have been a strange sight!

7. What is the most challenging thing you experienced?
In the beginning of my internship I found networking and having to travel to different provinces very challenging. It was mentally and physical exhausting as I was not the most confident driver but I am happy to say that I have surprised myself and conquered my fears and doubts of being alone in an unfamiliar city. Traveling has become second nature and I now look forward to these trips, even venturing out on my own in my free time to explore.

8. What’s the single most important piece of advice you would give to a young person planning to enter the environmental sector?
You need to be passionate. You will be faced with a lot of people that do not take the sector seriously but it is SO worth the challenge.

9. What do you think makes our environmental future so bright?
I think the brightness of our future lies with those that see the potential of our country and are willing to do as much as they can to build on that while still conserving the uniqueness and diversity of South Africa. This is something that doesn’t just exist in the environmental sector and that’s what makes it special.
Sasha Sankar is a Masters intern at WWF.
© Natasha Prince/WWF-SA Enlarge