Preetika Reddy Reveals How to Apply Sustainability to Your Career

Master’s Student Preetika Reddy on how she incorporated her sustainability studies into her job.

From local government policies to international development, from non-government organisations to social corporate responsibility, from food and water to public health, studying sustainability can equip you with the skills to further your career. The Master of Sustainability Program at the University of Sydney could be the thing for you. You’ll learn about energy technologies, population health, food security, sustainability policy, and sustainability analysis tools.

It’s a multidisciplinary degree with six faculties across the University delivering core content, and nine faculties teaching into the program’s electives. This breadth provides a thorough foundation in sustainability. It also allows graduates to appreciate the complexity of sustainability and understand the effects of change in various sectors.

The program:

  • Comprises three qualifications: the Graduate Certificate in Sustainability, Graduate Diploma in Sustainability and Master of Sustainability.
  • Provides a foundation in sustainability, including core aspects of energy and resources, health, food and water security, policy, analysis, society and change.
  • Is multidisciplinary, with core and elective units currently being delivered by ten faculties across the University.
  • Offers some flexibility in the choice of elective units and, for Master of Sustainability students, the design of the capstone research project.

Preetika Reddy (pictured above) was working at IKEA and saw a gap in how the company understood its stakeholders’ commitment to and awareness of sustainability initiatives. Having completed the coursework in the Master of Sustainability, she developed a capstone project that she successfully proposed to IKEA’s senior management.

I was able to work with IKEA because I’m already an employee there. I reached out to the National Sustainability manager for IKEA Australia and told him about the capstone. I was able to formulate a capstone project that would establish a snapshot of customer and co-worker perspectives on sustainability so that IKEA could see what they did and didn’t know. For IKEA, that was important, because they offer solutions for people to live sustainability at home, such as LED light bulbs, recycling systems, water-saving taps, and induction hobs, which are more energy efficient. Most people are interested in living sustainably at home, and they didn’t know that IKEA has solutions to help that. So my project was establishing a baseline of data.

What inspired you/motivated you to pursue this project?

IKEA tries to make sustainability part of the everyday working life for a co-worker. There is a lot of information around – appliances in the kitchen on timers and signage around, so I knew there was an opportunity there. I knew they would be interested in investigating things and how it was being affected in the store.

What aspects of the Sustainability program did you find most useful in your career development?

The capstone gave me the opportunity to take on more responsibility in my existing role and reach out and make connections within the IKEA network. It helped me build connections with people. I feel that I had a unique experience with my workplace mentor because he gave me a lot of freedom in guiding the project and making decisions, we had a very collaborative relationship. So the capstone gave me the environment, and my workplace mentor facilitated that environment and let me figure out the boundaries for myself like I would in a full-time job setting.

I am now the Sustainability Developer for IMS (Indirect Material Services) at IKEA Australia. They’re responsible for sourcing everything for an IKEA store that is not an IKEA product.

What was the best part about the degree for you?

I’ve never been one of those people who knew exactly what they wanted to do, so for me the degree was good because it was so general. In that sense, it allowed me to explore everything. It exposed me to a number of industries that I hadn’t considered in the first place and wouldn’t have associated with sustainability.

I think it’s important for people to know that they don’t have to have it figured out. The Master of Sustainability gives people room to see everything, they can learn a bit about everything, and they can work out what they want from there.

I also think it is important that people don’t underestimate how much others are willing to help you out. No question is silly and, if you need help, ask for it! During my coursework and capstone experience, I was continually amazed at how much people are willing to help or answer questions if you just ask.

Applications for the Master of Sustainability are open until 31 January 2016.