From exam failure to finding purpose, a climate change advocate’s journey

 

Too often in South Asian communities, traditional career paths are not just stringently encouraged, but  feel like a burden for those who strive to match their passions and their purpose. However, Sahil Garg, an engineer-turned-entrepreneur, has taken up the challenge of making a bigger impact and has started to change the odds in his favour.

Sahil Garg began his pursuits in the civil engineering field in the northern region of Patiala in Punjab, before eventually moving to New Delhi to begin his career and sit his exams. 

A failure leading to a discovery

As he turned his eyes towards higher education, Mr Garg found himself  missing out on the opportunity to pursue his chosen course due to a bad exam result. This painful moment marked a turning point in his trajectory, not just for his personal career journey, but served as a catalyst for the discovery of his broader passion to address climate change on a more global level.

“I always had the knack for the impetus behind doing something positive for the world”, Mr Garg said. 

“When I was young the push was more behind getting a career, instead of doing what my heart was telling me. 

Over time, I realised my passion led to doing something more constructive, and thereby being more satisfied with what I do.” 

This idea eventually led Mr Garg overseas, to the Western African region of Ghana, where he eventually became the Director-General of a nonprofit foundation known as Tekchills, which  focuses on poverty-alleviation efforts with young people. 

The Tekchills Foundation works across Ghana. Image Credit: Tekchills Foundation 

Despite his own challenges, his foray into environmental sustainability eventually led him to Australia, and has shaped the conversations and his own personal commitment to the cause.

Mr Garg doubled down on his passion for sustainability, leading to a Melbourne-based role as a Graduate Research Assistant with ClimateWorks Australia

Mr Garg points back to his beginnings in India as the impetus behind his own start into sustainability. 

“Missing the mark in my own civil engineering exams was heartbreaking, but finding a way to realise my own happiness in other ways, including making the world a better place, has been worth it.” 

Repurposed engineering skills and practical experience

The ClimateWorks Australia annual report. Image Credit: ClimateWorks Australia. 

Even with the wide-ranging challenges of the current climate crisis, Mr Garg has been able to utilise his background in civil engineering to make a bigger impact as an advocate for sustainability and the circular economy.

“It is not a job for everyone, and it cannot be...but the majority of the South Asian community has embraced the opportunity to work towards sustainability in the climate field.” 

 

Through his work with the nonprofit organisation ClimateWorks  Australia, Mr Garg has been able to find his niche and drive the conversation forward through practical applications in the area of sustainable transportation methods and logistical structures. 

While formal education is often recognised within South Asian communities  as the foundation of good learning, Sahil has identified methods to learn on the job, citing his own growth and learning through opportunities outside of university. 

Recently, Mr Garg participated in this year’s Youth Global Summit on Actions for Earth. He earned first place honours in the Action for Earth award. As he explains, his interest in climate change has continued to drive his success and work in this field.

“You can basically put sustainability into any business...you just need to find your niche, and stick to it, and be diligent in your work; and you can become a positive changemaker within the world as we see it.” 

Community views shifting

Image credit: Markus Spiske

Despite the climate crisis being a looming threat to the population of the world as we know it, ans some changing attitudes, many South Asians either do not recognise its importance, or understand the pathways to address the severity of the global situation.

Yet, we only have to look at the environmental state of Australia to see the unstable reality of extreme bushfires, country-wide floods, and man-made causes leading to loss of natural species of flora and fauna over the past several years. 

Mr Garg identifies that key challenge as identifying environmental causes for climate change and making inroads to progress in response and adaptation.

Fortunately, the conversation within the South Asian community has begun to change, beginning with grassroots initiatives and young advocates leading the charge in responding to the climate crisis, following in the footsteps of those around the world who are also leading by example.

Sahil Garg sees this change firsthand in his work and his pursuit of further study in the sustainability field. 

“My current work has led me to engagement within the South Asian community, a majority of whom are also (now) equally passionate about sustainability.”

 

“Both personally and in his community, this has led to a deeper appreciation for the environment, as well as each person’s role in combating the issues affecting the global climate.”

Mr Garg’s own path has shown that it is possible to make an impact by taking one step at a time. As he mentions, his own journey into pursuing his passion, rather than his career goals, has not been without disappointment. Nevertheless, he has been able to work alongside other changemakers to realise his own dream, and make it a reality.

Tips for career seekers and change makers 

Sahil Garg’s advice for the younger generation is also to seek out ways to pursue change. 

“For those looking to be within the sustainability field, it can be challenging, but also very rewarding, and there’s truly nothing like it.” 

As much as the environmental changes within Australia have been seen as unprecedented, it is a reality in which the trailblazers such as Sahil can have a voice in the future of how we engage with our environment.

Both Sahil Garg and the author of this article feel that viewing climate change as an intergenerational issue is important. The changes that are made today can have a greater impact on the choices of future generations, not only within the local, grassroots communities, but also for the lived experience of South Asian Australians to come. 

Sahil’s path to sustainability might be a unique one, but it is not one that should be trodden alone. For the future of the country, our global and local climate, and to help our environment be as vital as it can be, others will need to forge their own equally unique paths, as Sahil has done, for a greater, more sustainable world. 

For more information

Sahil Garg - Director at Tekchills from SAARI Collective on Vimeo.


Joseph F. Kolapudi is a Brisbane-based writer. He is a Manager at ReachAcross, a Multicultural Ambassador for the Mental Health Foundation of Australia, a Boad member of Australian Refugee and Migrant Care Services, and is nominated as Young Community Achiever of the Year in the India Australia Business and Community Awards 2020. Joseph was SAARI's first official writer, and is a passionate changemaker.  

Related Articles

Better returns and lower investment – the reality of Australian women-led startups

In Australia’s tech start-up scene the level of investment in women-led start-ups remains staggeringly low. Tackling gender and cultural disparity in this male-dominated industry will require veridical changes within the industry and local communities.

SocialTable: Dishing Up Connection

South Asian Australian entrepreneur Ben Stokes wants to turn strangers into friends one meal at a time.

Our shared liquid legacy: The new Australia India Water Centre

How can we face a future with less water together? Learn about a new collaborative, people-focused research centre.

Got local experience? No? Here’s how job hunters can respond.

Careers coach Naishadh Gadani guides us through how we can answer questions about having local experience before we get some.

What do people really think about immigration to Australia?

Online sentiment research using AI says Indians are highly interested in migrating to Australia, more than any other country.