Like a boss

6 Tips from the Optimist Who Left Her Dream Job at Apple

by Claire van den Heever

This entrepreneur’s willingness to take risks opened the door to an exceptional career in sustainable energy.

04 Min Read Time

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Katie Hill wasn’t headhunted or recruited by Apple via her MBA program. She responded to an ordinary online job advertisement and took a leap, she felt, by accepting a temporary contract. Before too long, she had launched the company’s Manufacturing Clean Energy Program in 2015 with the ambitious goal of converting the technology and hardware giant’s entire supply chain to renewable energy.

Once again, earlier this year, she took another risk. She left her job at Apple and moved to Nairobi, Kenya, where she felt her skills could be put to better use in creating positive social change.

Today, Hill is the Global Director of Power Management and Strategic Initiatives at Liquid Telecom, which operates the largest network of fiber optic cable in Africa. Here she shares six of her tips for moving up in the world.

1. Raise your hand for tasks that could have a big impact.

Through a mix of hard work and serendipity, I got involved in the early analysis of what [it] would take to de-carbonize the supply chain at Apple. That was outside of the rails of my job description. It was a situation of taking on extra work but also seeing the potential for how transformative this could be.

Hopefully the stars align [in that] you are really inspired by the problem you’re trying to solve, you have [the right] skills that can help with that problem and then can put in the hard work [to achieve this goal].

2. Find ways to help those you admire achieve their goals.

For me, mentorship has been hugely important. I’ve sought out people who I feel have wisdom, whose paths and life decisions I admire. It’s important when building mentor relationships that you’re very respectful of people’s time and that they get some value out of the relationship.

You also need to make sure people know you’re doing good work. Make sure you’re visible.

3. Seek opportunities where you can make the biggest difference.

I’ve always sought out opportunities where I can be further challenged. And I’ve always been very mission driven. For me, this is a critical moment for building infrastructure around the African continent.

We’re going to see the population across Africa double in the next 30 years. If I can manage the power demand and infrastructure that enables something as large as data centers across Kenya, that’s going to help bring the power infrastructure up a level. And if we can source renewable energy, that’s going to help the continent stay on a lower carbon path.

Katie Hill at ReVision Japan

4. Weigh the risks and move forward.

My move to Kenya felt extremely risky. Just because there was a sentiment in my gut that this was what my husband and I wanted to do, that didn’t make it [clear cut].

Part of it comes down to asking yourself questions like “What would I regret more? Would I regret making this leap, or would I regret staying and never having tried?” I think that can usually be a good litmus test.

5. Know what matters most to you.

You have to know yourself, both in terms of managing your own energy levels and also managing your time. You need to know what matters to you because otherwise, you risk saying yes to too many things, and then you can’t make the impact that you’d like to make.

For me, getting out into wilderness is important. It helps me recognize our smallness in the universe, which can be an important way of putting things into perspective.

6. Optimism alone is not enough.

If you work on climate change, social justice or poverty alleviation anywhere in the world, it’s a massive challenge. You have to be fiercely optimistic because you have to believe that your efforts can help change reality. But it’s important to be a realist and an optimist at the same time. If you can’t see the challenges for what they are, you can’t do the real problem-solving necessary to make progress.