08 Jul 2020

TEM Stories: The road less travelled

The road less travelled, Guy Ballard

When Robert Frost decided to take the road “…less travelled” in his famous poem “The Road Not Taken”, was he inspiring people to strike out towards parts unknown or was he merely contemplating the impact of the multitudes of small decisions that lead us to where we are now?

Whether through daring adventure or through the grind of the mundane we are all the result of every choice we have made throughout our lives. Think about it… Every choice, every day, for all of our lives. That’s a lot of potential and a lot of outcomes.

I chose to start my professional life as a wide-eyed biology teacher, set on achieving immortality by making a memorable difference to the lives of the students who had entrusted me with their education. For several years I thrust myself headlong into my role, setting aside dreams of sportscars and world travel in place of the meaningfulness that comes with enlightening young minds with the marvels of nature and watching your proteges go on to make a difference of their own.

But then things began to change and the beauty of the “web of life” that I had so long espoused slowly succumbed to the economic temptation that my other skill set – computer science –  could afford me. And after five years I left my plants, my fish and my lab coat to begin my climb up the corporate technology ladder. Over the next two and half decades I scrambled from plugging things in, to programming, to computer sales, to analysis, to management; all the while clinging to my original sense of direction by trying to stay with organisations that offered some social reward.

Gradually, I joined the grind of the mundane and turned an ever more blind eye to any options outside my sphere of enjoyment. I consumed and disposed with little thought of consequence, counted my possessions, and trudged from one payday to the next. The paths I had taken, the choices I had made had drawn me off course from my original destination. I felt I was safe and warm – but I knew I was somewhat lost.

Then one day I came to a fork in the road…

One path led me to the relatively familiar surroundings of the past twenty years and the other led to a new personal and global challenge, a new way of thinking where commercially sustainable could also mean environmentally sustainable; where my skills of the old world could help to create a new, and where the challenges of the new world could help to create new skills.

As with all things new there is uncertainty and with uncertainty comes risk. But this was a chance to head back towards where I had originally intended to go, a chance to make a difference, a chance to contribute to a future that could fortify the wellbeing of our planet.

The words of Barack Obama started ringing in my ears,

“We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.”

Combining those words with the analytic techniques that had successfully led me through my career I realised I had been gifted by TEM an opportunity to be part of a much bigger picture (and very cool technology). Most of us in our society have the luxury of choosing what we can do to improve our present and sustain our future; from changing our shopping bags to changing our careers. I had been given a path to the latter and a chance to head back towards the destination for which I had first set out.

It’s been nine months since I started at TEM and the learning curve continues to climb. But I now think more carefully about the impact of my purchases, my consumption, my travel and spend my working days with purpose and hope amongst people expert in their fields and unquestioned in their good intent. I want to contribute to their efforts to make both our business and our environment sustainable but beyond that I want to take their example and become the same to those around me – through all of our collective choices and actions we can make a major difference.

So, I don’t know exactly where this will all end up but for now I do feel the better for having taken the road “less travelled”.

Guy Ballard is TEM’s Chief Technology Officer; digitally transforming the carbon offset industry with a supernatural ability to get people excited about APIs.