I work as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at the Yarra Energy Foundation, a non-profit organisation on a mission to reach netzero in our community by 2030. I support the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), oversee marketing, media and communications, guide our business planning and commercial strategy and work with teams to deploy renewable technology like rooftop solar and community batteries.

By the end of my Year 12 (2009) at CGS, I was uncertain about what to do next. I listed the Bachelor of Environments at the University of Melbourne as my first preference because it seemed to align with my interests and it allowed me to take subjects from a variety of fields.

Initially, I considered environmental law and architecture as careers but neither felt right. By sampling a range of subjects I began to uncover the topics that truly excited me. I took classes on design, business and corporate law, history, geology, geography, contemporary art, politics, and international relations. Rather than narrowing my path, I felt my horizons widen. Little did I know I was on a road to becoming a generalist. 

Generalists are dabblers, explorers, and learners – those with a broad knowledge of many topics rather than a deep knowledge of a few. Typical specialists, on the other hand, include lawyers, doctors or engineers. Generalists are more likely to find their callings later in their career through a meandering pathway, which some say is essential to building success from loving what you do.

After my bachelor’s, I got a job as a science communicator in the horticulture industry. I never imagined myself working in a role like that, but the opportunity seemed too good to pass up, and I learned a lot about how to make science more accessible through strategic communication. I left the company after eighteen months with a desire for more knowledge and a sense that the job wasn’t fully aligned with my values, so I enrolled in the Master of Environment at the University of Melbourne, with a focus on sustainable cities.

At this point, I still didn’t have a firm idea of what I wanted to do but I knew I was interested in the environment and climate change. My time at Camberwell Grammar School shaped my life in significant and unexpected ways. Tim Cross’ geography class was one of the most memorable. Geography seemed to gel with my growing fascination with the world beyond our bubble. He laid the foundation for my broad interests in ‘how the world works’ – in environment, sustainability, economics, and politics – and my readiness to step into a career in sustainability. Thanks Tim!

Marita Kelly’s art class was the most engaging and revelatory education I’ve received. Through her teaching, I discovered a love for painting and for abstract expressionism. I remember my shock when Ms Kelly got excited, not about my painting which I had spent all summer on, but about a small piece of scrap canvas from my experiments pile. I had painted a fat white streak with dabs of black, which I called the “piano caterpillar”. She loved it. And it took me a while to understand why, but that moment was a lesson about how to look at art, professional work, and life. It helped me to see value in things that might otherwise have gone in the bin.

To current and future students of CGS: I urge you to nurture your creativity and trust in the value of experimentation and exploration – that you might find your passion not by accident, but through deliberate and consistent explorative learning. ‘Do what you do as long as it aligns with your values’ is what my time at CGS taught me. This led me to finding a job that I am deeply passionate about. It led me to meaningful relationships with people that I love. The world is more complex than ever and so it needs people, like you, who can embrace uncertainty and be successful by collaborating with others. If high school isn’t about building your capacity to help others and shape a life that makes you happy, what else is it for? Thanks to all the staff and my parents for the opportunity to be a CGS Alumni. Spectemur agendo.