Should I start with sustainability, or where do I begin?
There, right at that moment. At least that is how it was for me.
In this photo, I was with a friend. We had just bought our tickets for the exhibition EXPO-2017, in Astana, Kazakhstan. We were about to enter.
There was one week until my graduation, the heat was typical of July, and poplar fluff kept falling everywhere. Everything around was habitually yellow, despite the attempts of landscapers to water the plants. I looked at the crowds of people going to the exhibition. The thought swallowed me — I had grown up, and even graduated from university; I had time to work. I had chosen to become a Russian language and literature teacher as my bachelor, but I still did not know who I wanted to be. A longing hungered me, but the only consolation I could find was the presence of the wind, which weakened the heat in the middle of the steppe.
I was born and raised in Kazakhstan, and moved a lot, probably affected by the memory of nomadic generations long past. A year before, the site of this exhibition was an empty fenced space. Now, there were more than fifty pavilions for the countries and companies participating.
Until now, I still remember that day well
In the background, it was not the Death Star, but the Energy Pavilion—Nur Alem Museum. All eight floors were devoted to various sources of renewable energy: water, plants, wind, the sun, soil, space, and kinetic. On the ground floor, there was a museum focusing on the history and culture of Kazakhstan.
On each floor, there were information panels and stands, in which volunteers and robots talked about the achievements of science in these areas. It was also possible to conduct small experiments on each floor; for example, I launched a tornado in a flask and felt almost like Aang from Avatar.
It was a space where hundreds of countries shared their best practices of sustainability for securing a green future. The Finnish pavilion, almost entirely made of wood, represented many different things, including its famous baby box. The Dutch had assembled a building full of bicycles and windmills. Koreans were showcasing the potential of digitalization, handing out tablets for each guest; and Russia had even brought a real iceberg!
At the end of the exhibition, I felt wildly tired—we had only gone around half of the pavilions. That was just half of the work made by the hundreds of countries participating. After the light show, we went home, agreeing to return there the day after my graduation. Leaving the gate, I realized that protecting life for future generations is what I truly wanted to do. In other words, I wanted the sustainability.
I have gone to the Expo many times after that, to marvel and think of new opportunities.
And so I took action
After this life-changing experience, I applied for a double diploma program at the G.V. Plekhanov University to study international business. A year later, I left for Finland, to study Sustainable Development, Strategy, and Innovation at the Lappeenranta University of Technology.
My relatives and friends were, to put it mildly, surprised. But after two and a half years, I successfully obtained these two diplomas and gained much knowledge in the area that I wanted to shine in. I made a sharp pivot in my life, and it took a lot of effort, as well as an incredible amount of work. Still, in all this time, I have never regretted my choice.
Studying ended unexpectedly for me. Graduation passed, and when the most uncertain day of the year, February the 29th, came by, I realized that I seriously needed a new environment, not only to work but also to develop my ideas. After three months of searching, doing dozens of job interviews, and going over a million LinkedIn job posts, I came across the one for Fairforce. My fiancé saw the title over my shoulder, read it in passing, and said: “Vio, this is the perfect place for you”. Today, I can confidently say he was right.
This place is ideal for those whose values lie within embracing sustainability for development and continuous improvement, as well as for those looking forward to finding (and becoming) supportive colleagues. If you consider yourself among them, then Fairforce might just be where everything will begin for you.