Five years ago, I was appointed to coordinate the newly created sustainable finance projects for the APAC region, out of the blue. I did not know what ‘sustainability’ or ESG means by then, and I did not even understand why we are speaking about sustainability in business strategy discussions. My understanding of sustainability remained at the concept of CSR, doing philanthropic activities. But I jumped in, as I just loved the idea of creating something new for the business and was feeling good about doing something right. Then my painful realisation of ‘how little I knew and how protected (or blind) I have been’ has started. The topic was picking up, and I was put in a position to ‘advise’ clients and relationship managers for their sustainability actions, and I had no idea. I felt really insecure and unsure of what I am supposed to be doing. That is how I started my CISL course(full of fear, hope for a quick and sure way out).
I don’t think I knew what I was signing up for when I applied for it. To be honest, it was a lot harder than I imagined (me being a non-native speaker without much English education, it was triple harder for me just to catch up). Reading research paper for the first time was really painful, and my experience with the AP gave me several heart attacks. There were several moments when I was seriously considering dropping out (or secretly wishing that there is an accident offering me a good excuse not to continue). But I guess with the provisional dissertation grade; I can say that I’ve done it! (except this blogging ha ha). I am really grateful for tutors, peer students and friends/family who have been supporting along the way.
Through these two years of pain and sweat, I learned a lot, read a lot and met fantastic, smart and passionate people from different sectors and markets. I am glad that I’ve done it and it was the right choice for me. However, what I am feeling now is quite different from what I imagined that I would feel after this course. I imagined that I would be fully equipped with knowledge and expertise on sustainability topics so that I can have an intelligent debate on the issues with confidence. But, I am feeling quite the opposite, and I am glad about it.
The course made me realised that there is an immense amount of knowledge in this field, and the topics are complex. There are decades of debates to catch up, intrinsically linked to the local or historical context. Two years of part-time study with my small brain was just not enough to know all about it, and I am glad to realise that. The course did not give me the full knowledge that I needed, but it introduced me to a wide range of topics, researches and debate. Instead, it trained me how to go about it – how to learn about new issues, how to discuss the issues that I am not familiar with and how to articulate my thoughts on something less concrete or clear. But more importantly, it made me humble and curious in front of this massive information and ideas. So I feel that I just opened a right door that will lead me to future growth and I am excited about it (although less confident).