Interview with Kyrin Pollock, a sustainable business engineer at Accenture!
I see that you pivoted from software engineer to sustainable business engineer, what made you make that decision?
I had a lot of engineering experience from college and my master’s and it really excited me, and when I came to Accenture there were so many different things to get involved in and I went back to my roots. Because when I was younger, I really loved the environment and sustainability so I did a lot with that and I joined the Eco Club out of the Boston office. That excited me to get involved with sustainability again. I then worked for a while on this project that was a sustainable technology. It kind of paired both of my interests. From there, I really fell in love with the sustainability side of the work and continued to pursue that even more. It’s how I made that pivot, it was organically.
What do you do as a sustainable business engineer at Accenture?
It's pretty broad. There is just so much work that is needed in all different areas of sustainability. I started off in sustainable technology so that was a lot of carbon accounting work - accounting for companies emissions through internal operations and external operations from their suppliers. The biggest challenges that we're seeing with society now is that we need to reduce our emissions and if you can't measure something, there's just no way you can reduce it so the first step for a lot of companies is to actually figure out how to measure the emissions that they're generating. I am working with Accenture internally trying to capture all of our business operations and measure the emissions that are generated from those processes. More recently, I’m doing sustainability strategy work. I’ve worked with an environmental NGO to help them come up with a climate positive strategy roadmap so essentially: getting an idea of what their internal emissions look like and recommending ways for them to reduce those emissions. Now I'm working with a development company as well and we're doing a big study to try to understand the state of sustainability and where a lot of companies are at and then we'll publish a report ahead of COP 27 in Davos coming up.
Why did you decide to work at Accenture?
I remember in all my career fairs I really loved the Accenture people because they are so positive and so easy to talk to. They also come from a lot of different backgrounds and I like working with a lot of different people. I also like that Accenture is (700,000 employees) now and you know you can find an expert in any area that you're interested in so that's really cool to me. I also wasn't 100% certain what I wanted to do so I found that there were many different paths you can take with Accenture and the skill set that you build as a consultant, no matter what you want to do in the future, is very beneficial for clients.
How has your academic journey been like to combine engineering and business?
Engineering coursework was pretty demanding so I wasn't able to take as many business classes as I wanted to, I did try to take some of the basics like Accounting, Finance, those types of courses. But then I really tried to get involved a lot with my extracurriculars as well. I felt like that's really where I learned the most because it's just hands-on experience where you're doing something pretty new. So that, like the VR company, and then I also was a senior director for a TED conference. But I just love that too and it kind of gave me this like operational Viewpoint and it's just a different perspective than what I was getting in engineering classes and I really love that too, but I definitely didn't want to lose the technical side which I was gaining through all the Engineering course work which is also why I've continued a Masters in Engineering rather than an MBA.
When/How did you know that you wanted to be in engineering/business?
I had the idea that I wanted to be a bit more on the business end when I was in college. There was an entrepreneurship seminar and I went to that because it sounds really exciting. It was also because I wanted to have a technical background while being able to apply it to the business world. I also helped start a VR company with a friend from college and so that's when I really got excited about the business side of things where I felt like I could make a really big difference while controlling the way my career went.
You’ve also been part of a VR startup! Describe your experience. When/how did it start? Why did you decide to stop?
One of my friends from chemistry lab is from Watkins Glen, New York and they have a big car race there every year. So, he wanted to see if we could practice racing the cars before they actually went on the track, to get a leg up on practicing it and so he's like what if we build a stimulator because there is a hackathon coming up. So we ended up getting our first simulator which was really hysterical. We saw that there could be a market for this because people are really interested so we branched out from there and started making VR-like tutorials for educational purposes. We kept going from there and it was a fun side project to have so that's how we got started. The reason why I stopped was that I wanted to get experience from people who have done a lot already and have some mentors who have been really successful. So I thought there was a lot for me to learn from actually being in business. He’s actually still going with the company and doing really well. It’s definitely a demanding lifestyle. It's a lot of risk in that you never really know how much you will be able to make and there's a lot of sacrifices, a lot of long hours, and I think for me I just wanted to experience other things and then potentially go back in the future.
What advice do you have for current high schoolers interested in business/engineering?
I would say, what I did worked out really well. Maintain the engineering coursework and be willing to work hard at it. It’s not just going to be given to you. I also took summer and winter classes to get all my engineering classes in and then make space for the business classes. You should also find extracurriculars. I think that's where I learned the most. Extracurriculars hone your skills and help you get more real world experience which is really going to help you.
What exciting fields do you see opening up in the future?
Well, I think the sustainability space is definitely growing, I know at Accenture it is growing rapidly with how many sustainability practitioners we have. Also, just by recent policy from the Biden Administration, carbon disclosure and sustainable practices are becoming increasingly more important as part of any company and business in general. In terms of technology, I think data and AI are definitely really big in a wide variety of industries.
What are your future plans?
That's a good question. I am planning to stay at Accenture for a little while. I really want to get more involved with the NGO and the development space. I feel like it can make a big difference. Accenture has this branch called Accenture Development Partnerships. It's a pro bono model so they do a lot of work with NGOs. Beyond that, at some point, I definitely want to become more involved with social impact projects in the environmental space.