Want To Make An Impact? First, Find Your Passion.
Written by Johnny Nguyen, BSC Associate and CEO of SBSA
My name is Johnny Nguyen, and I recently graduated from NC State this past Spring 2023 with a major in Business Administration, concentrating in Marketing.
For most of my life, I didn’t have a passion for anything. Born and raised in Vietnam before moving to the United States in 2014, I was that kid who always followed the rules, did things because that was what everyone else was doing, and tried to not stand out. I never really had a sense of autonomy or direction. Coming to NC State in Fall 2019, I still had that same mindset, and you could have easily missed me in the background. Additionally, NC State sent everyone home due to COVID, and I wasn’t even physically on campus from Spring 2020 to Spring 2021. One day, I was bored and went down a rabbit hole about climate change and global warming.
I felt terrified seeing how Earth is currently on a path to absolute catastrophe leading to 2050. As a 19 year old, I am definitely going to be alive in 2050. Everything about extreme natural disasters, extinction of species, and increased costs of mitigation, etc. were all alarming. Why was no one doing anything about it? Climate change is going to affect me personally. If no one else is doing anything, maybe I should do something about it. I wanted to lead the change, and I decided to make a career bet to do so. This was my goal when I came back to campus in Fall 2021.
Going into my Junior year, I felt ENERGIZED. With the new interest in sustainability, I had direction, passion, and vision for what I want to do for the very first time. I took classes that sounded interesting, joined various sustainability-focused organizations on campus, and took any chance I could to learn from the experts. Although I discovered a lot, I felt there was still a gap of knowledge. As a business major, I felt there was a clear opportunity to advance sustainability at a macro level through businesses rather than at an individual level, and I wanted to learn more.
After scouring through the NC State’s website for weeks, I stumbled on this group called the “Business Sustainability Collaborative.” WHERE HAVE THEY BEEN ALL MY LIFE? Immediately, I reached out to Jessica Yinka Thomas, the director of the program, to express my interests and excitement about getting involved. She happily accepted me on the team by my senior year in Fall 2022, and I saw this as an opportunity for me to make impact a part of my career. Through BSC, I got to really see how businesses have been getting involved in sustainability, how there has been a nationwide movement, and how much impact a person can actually make. I was excited to join such a movement.
All of these led to one of my proudest moments at NC State: right before Spring 2023, I formed the Student Business Sustainability Association (SBSA), an organization dedicated to inspire the next generation of business sustainability leaders. From the very first moment the club went public and throughout our time, the amount of people of all backgrounds, organizations, and departments who immediately rushed in to learn more about how they can get involved with the club was so exciting. Personally, I got to meet so many similarly passionate people throughout my single semester tenure, and I learned so much professionally. There is no denying that it was a lot of work as the CEO (I never expected a ridiculous amount of emails I have to write everyday), but every new interaction I made with the community made it all worth it. I highly encourage you to check out the club to learn all about what we do!
Being a student who was about to graduate, of course I wanted a job. Since I wanted to continue with my commitment to sustainability, my search was narrowed down to the energy industry, because I believed I can advance the future of clean energy. But hey, with all these experiences I got and knowing my “worth,” this should be easy, right? Here are the stats after 6 months of searching: 70+ positions applied, 6 first round interviews, 2 second round, 1 third round, and 1 offer. The constant rejections were, in no denial, discouraging since they happened so often. The offer I got ended up being the last company I talked to. It was from Sunrun, one of the biggest solar companies in the world.
Getting to join Sunrun was possibly pretty much everything I could have asked for. I will be an Analyst with the Asset Management team, where I will play a major role in supporting the company to obtain financing for ongoing and future solar projects. The tasks I will be doing are all the things I am already good at and have enjoyed doing. The team seemed incredible, and they were all able to vouch for the supportive work environment. It was easy to accept the offer, and I am excited to continue to support our planet (while still making money *wink wink*).
Unlike many success stories you may have heard from, I did not come from a flashy background with specialized talents. My first two years at NC State were generic and nothing exciting. My mindset only changed after I found an interest in sustainability, saw the possible career path in it, and believed I can be a part of it. It became some of my biggest motivations to do more, even if it was something completely outside my comfort zone. Taking a career path risk is not for everyone, and I won’t recommend you to make the same bet. My best advice for you is to first understand yourself, know your strengths, find an area that you have passion for, and take charge of your destiny to be a part of it. My time at NC State showed me how many opportunities there are for anyone to make a difference, and it can start with you. The best time is today.
If you want to learn more about my experience, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn!