All these thoughts were running through my head on the morning I handed in my letter of resignation at Credit Suisse earlier this year.
But that very evening, a chance encounter at a Sustainable Bridges event lead me to Switchee – and a world of impact investing, connected technology and social housing that I could never discover on an old-school investment bank trading floor.
It’s an even more powerful tool for the landlords themselves. For the first time ever, they have access to real-time data on their large and complicated housing stocks. Before, in order to tell which of your 20,000 properties was at risk of acute mould, bad insulation, or broken boilers, someone had to go round and check. Now, Switchee can stream all this info to a laptop. Landlords can make decisions based on evidence – cutting down costs while making living conditions better for residents.
I was surprised by this. To a casual observer, a lot of it actually looks pretty similar to working in a bank. There’s an open plan office. There are emails, spreadsheets, PowerPoints, an instant chat system, meetings, deadlines, mistakes, stress. There’s corporate jargon: ‘huddles’, ‘town halls’ and ‘project ownership’. It just all takes place with less shouting, and everyone wears jeans instead of suits.
So what’s actually different? I’ll pick out two elements that struck me most. One common to all start-ups, the other specific to Switchee.
And secondly, at Credit Suisse we traded Housing Association bonds – but I never spent a day on an HA estate going door to door, meeting residents. At Switchee I saw first-hand the complicated relationship between residents and social landlords, and how critical the information gap between the two parties can be.
Lots of millennials chase the impossible-to-define and subjective concept of ‘impact’ in their jobs. We know that big, for-profit organisations rarely offer it, but it’s tough to isolate exactly why. Looking back, I now think I can distil two key ingredients that were missing while working at a bank: the possibility to keep learning, and the chance to feel part of a broader mission.
In a month pitching in at Switchee, I’ve met investors, clients, residents, policy experts, Housing Association liaison officers, other entrepreneurs. I’ve handled new technology, seen how a new business is run, and understood some of the challenges it faces. At Switchee, the learning curve always feels as steep as it did on the first day I stepped into the shiny Credit Suisse lobby.
And through all this – the best bit by far has been contributing to a team that is trying to tackle a tangible problem. 10% of all UK households won’t be able to properly heat their home come next winter. Switchee is on a mission to get that number down. Working here has more than satisfied the worries I had as I nervously handed over a letter that began “I hereby wish to resign” all those months ago.
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