Alumni Pathfinder Tom Sloan Chief Executive Officer Sustineo P/L 2020 About About While not born in Canberra, I was certainly bred in the city and have been here through the schooling, study at the Australian National University and work at Sustineo. Sustineo is a for-purpose social research and evaluation consultancy that seeks to support positive and sustainable social, economic and environmental change. Our work covers a range of topics under the sustainable development umbrella, with our main work in the Pacific and Australia. I started at Sustineo in 2014 as a casual research consultant have worked my way through different roles at the company – now I am the CEO. I also have a close association with the ANU. From 2010-2015, I tutored predominantly at the Fenner School of Environment and Society. Since then I have maintained a strong link to the university through guest lectures for various courses, providing advice to former students, and hosting ANU students for internships and group projects at Sustineo. Area of study I studied a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (Sustainability) (Honours) (which has now been rebranded to a Bachelor of Environment and Sustainability). The degree was framed around the need to look at complex problems (like sustainability) from multiple disciplinary perspectives. Within this, I focused specifically on Human Ecology, International Relations, and Geography. Epic fail I had one epic fail moment when I was traveling in ‘comfortable’ mode on a work trip and got caught out in an embarrassing way. I flew to Thailand for an international conference that I was the lead organiser and MC for. A luggage mishap meant that I arrived the evening before the conference with only what I travelled in – a Captain Planet t-shirt, shorts, and thongs. This led to a series of unplanned, embarrassing and humorous events, including meeting all the event VIPs in my travel outfit (not a great first impression), and getting chaperoned around Bangkok late at night by an unlucky junior Thai government public servant to find business attire that would fit my frame. Proudest moment The last few years have been challenging in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic (which is an understatement). I stepped into the CEO role at Sustineo full time in December 2019. The emergence of the pandemic in March 2020 and associated restrictions on domestic and international travel created a range of business challenges (at the time, 90% of our projects were overseas) as well as significant concern and distress for our internal team. I am proud that I was able to navigate the company through this challenging period (often feeling like I was flying by the seat of my pants). Three years on, Sustineo has doubled in size (from 5 to 10 staff) while also supporting and retaining almost everyone in the team from pre-COVID, and maintaining vital in-country relationships across the Pacific. On a more personal level, I have had the good fortune to work in the Solomon Islands on several projects since 2015, with nearly all of these projects with the same group of brilliant Solomon Islanders. In this time, one of these brilliant local researchers as set up their own Solomon Islands wholly female-own research and data collection consultancy (which is now kicking serious goals for domestic and international clients). She shared that working with Sustineo (and specifically me) helped give her confidence to go out on her own. I feel that I learned more from her but her sharing that with me was one of my proudest professional moments. Top tip Be confident and back your own abilities while also being humble and open to learning. Listen to the experiences of others but don’t be defined by their path – leave open the space to follow your own interests and opportunities as they emerge. Invest in building working relationships with integrity and trust as this is most rewarding and meaningful over time. Take your work seriously, but not too seriously – there is always fun and enjoyment to be seen in even challenging situations (even if it is Type 2 fun).