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Sustainability Leaders at Harvard: 3 Questions with Alum Ling Lin

Harvard Alumni for Climate and the Environment (HACE)

Written by May Jung, REP

Ling Lin is a member of the Harvard Alumni for Climate and the Environment (HACE) group, mainly helping tech startups connect with climate tech investors. In 2012, Ling graduated from Harvard College with a degree in Environmental Science and Public Policy.

Ling is based in San Francisco and works as a Product Manager on Meta’s Climate Team, focused on Energy. Previously, she co-founded a renewable energy startup, worked on a video coaching startup, and spent a decade leading consumer technology products at Google, Amazon, and Intuit.

*Interview has been summarized for length and clarity.

Could you tell us more about your work in climate tech? For those who are unfamiliar with the space, could tell me a little more about what “climate tech” means?

Ling Lin: For my actual title, I’m a product manager. Right now, I focus on energy and electrification in consumer and consumer products.

Regarding climate tech, I would say, broadly speaking, there are two big buckets. There is one bucket that enables climate activities to happen, but more from a demand side. So, what does that mean? On the back end, we have sustainability program managers at Meta who will procure renewable energy, who will invest in renewable projects. We do this because we believe in corporate social responsibility. That is one arm, not the arm I am on.

On the other side, you have people who work on products for end consumers that are in the sustainability space. For example, when the product they are selling to people is something sustainable. What I am currently working on, that will soon be available to users, will be in the climate tech space. Specifically, for me, it will be something related to electricity and energy. Essentially, helping consumers in this space switch from fossil fuels to electricity-based products. For Meta, it would come out into the products that people use, such as the family of apps that Meta owns, like: Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Broadly, those are the big buckets.

What is your role in the Harvard Alumni for Climate and the Environment Shared Interest Group (HACE), and how did you decide to get involved?

Ling Lin: I had always been involved with Harvard since graduating from college. I was president of the Harvard Club of Seattle, Vice President of Activities, and I just wanted to keep staying involved but no longer wanted to plan events. I wanted to do something involving my personal interests. Like do a hard pivot back into climate tech. I found out about HACE through Daniel Bicknell, with whom I had classes. He was one of the co-founders.

Then, I later found out that we were launching something with Harvard Innovation Lab, the Climate Circle, which is a pretty new, mini incubator for startups. And that is when I was like, ‘Oh, this is interesting to me because it is a startup space. This is a natural fit for me, and it fits my interests.’ So that is how I got involved there.

Although I do not plan many programs for HACE, if the group wants to partner with the Climate Circle on doing something related to the startups, we have slightly more than 60 that we have incubated and incorporated into our program. Then, whether it is planning a pitch night, connecting people, or publicizing the startups in some way, that is when we would partner.

Do you have any tips for students interested in pursuing a career related to sustainability or climate tech?

Ling Lin: I would say become an expert in one field. It was not until I became an expert that more things started falling in place, more of the puzzle pieces. Because climate is such a big space, just purely your academics and what we learned in the textbooks is not enough. And I think that was one of the challenges I had with finding a full-time role. You have to get deep in the weeds in one space because it is rather difficult to progress in this area as a generalist. I would say choose a space, invest deeply in your own knowledge, your own brand, reputation, everything there, and then go from there.