“Inclusion@Climate: Sowing the Seeds of Belonging” is a new feature created by The Climate Corporation’s Inclusion & Diversity team to highlight the diverse backgrounds of our employees as well as their achievements, passions, and personalities. We hope you’ll enjoy learning more about their contributions to Climate and to our community, and think you’ll agree that the very best elements of our culture are our Climateers themselves.
The first entry in this series is a conversation with Nisha Ramakrishnan, Research and Development Operations Lead and Chief of Staff for Mark Young, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Head of Product of The Climate Corporation.
The Climate Corporation: You’re the R&D Operations Lead and the Chief of Staff for the CTO and Head of Product at The Climate Corporation. Tell me about your background and how you came to this sort of work.
Nisha Ramakrishnan: When I was 17, I came to the U.S. as an intern for the U.S. state department in recognition for early work I had done with farmers in rural India around technology, education, connectivity, and media. While the sponsoring organization took over and that project ended, little did I know that my tryst with farming was far from over.
On returning to India, I took up a job as a crime journalist for one of the most controversial Indian newspapers of the time. You know how hard working as a journalist can be in 2020, so you can very well imagine the challenges that came with being a woman working in that industry more than a decade ago, including weird hours and low compensation.
After completing my dual Bachelor’s in Communications and IT, and then my dual Masters in International Business and Technology Leadership in the U.S., I’m now pursuing my Ph.D. in organizational psychology. I also have over 15 years of programs and operations management experience. The most intriguing aspect of corporate life to me has been the life cycle of change that organizations go through as they grow, and the psychology of the organization at different stages of its growth. The thread that binds people together today can become the thread that stifles their growth tomorrow. I plan to publish my detailed observations in my upcoming book Everyday Inclusion.
Climate: What brought you to The Climate Corporation originally? Climate has undergone many changes and challenges in the last four years - what’s the culture like and what keeps it fresh?
NR: I remember completing a 16-hour workday and checking my LinkedIn messages on my way home. I had just received a message from a member of the Climate recruiting team asking me a simple question, ‘How would you like to use all of your background and technical experience to improve the lives of farmers around the world?’ That’s all the message said. Now who can say no to that?
(Mark Young - my manager and me with the Farmrise team in India talking smallholder farming)
I replied to her within the hour, and have now completed more than four years at Climate. One of the things that keeps me here is the core principle behind everything we do - we want to ensure we can feed everyone on the planet, and what better way to do that than by offering the best tools and software in the industry to our farmers? In addition, the very open and family-oriented culture at Climate, the diversity of the projects I have worked on, and the amazing people across R&D I get to work with everyday are truly what keeps me here.
Climate: What is a project or initiative in which you’ve participated at Climate that stands out for you?
NR: One of my favorite projects at Climate that I, along with two of my colleagues, put together a year or so ago was Rainbow Rockstars. We were in 15-20 meetings each week and continued to hear the same few voices speaking up in those meetings.
We wanted to help make room for more voices, and figured the best way to get the message across would be to enact those scenarios in a drama form that would give an opportunity for people to laugh at the things they do everyday and become more conscious of it.
The lunchtime dramas were well-received by folks both in terms of entertainment as well as learning. The biggest reward was seeing people voluntarily check their conversations and credit the Rainbow plays for having helped them realize how some of their actions affected others.
Climate: Why is working within an inclusive environment and working toward an inclusive atmosphere a value for you?
NR: Working in an environment that fosters inclusion is of utmost importance to me. Without inclusion, voices are silenced that might provide a different perspective or outcome. It is also not fair when an organization is representative of only one school of thought leadership instead of encouraging healthy conflict and differences. I can’t think of what life would be like without fighting for inclusion for myself and others around me. It is about understanding that every individual opinion is valuable and meaningful. It’s like building a quilt that’s unique and colorful, rather than black and white. It’s understanding that outside of our skin colors, we are truly all the same at the core.
Climate: Tell me about an element of your identity that you are most proud of. How do you bring that part of you to work, and how does it help contribute to your success?
NR: The element of my personality I am most proud of is my fearlessness when standing up for things I truly believe in. My mom used to always tell my friends ‘if there’s one thing you can learn from my daughter, it is to be fearless.’ I loved it when she said that and I bring that proudly to any situation I am in. The three core values my parents instilled in both me and my brother since we were very young were fighting for the truth, the value of education, and giving back to the world a little bit of all the goodness in our lives. These three core values have shaped everything I have done in my life and this opportunity was going to be no different.
(Me with my father (left) and me with my brother)
I bring those parts of me to work every day and they’re a huge part of all of my successes. They help me be a strong voice on diversity and inclusion, openly call out any form of discrimination in all of the meetings I attend, being deliberate and inclusive when communicating to teams, being thoughtful in understanding the struggles of my colleagues, and in being compassionate. When you fearlessly put your heart out there, it’s amazing how much messy beautiful evolving compassion there is all around you.
Climate: What’s the legacy you hope to leave at Climate? What do you want the culture of R&D teams here to be like in five years?
(Mark Young, my manager and me during a visit to the Farmrise team in India)
NR: Given my role in operations and my strong involvement in all inclusion and diversity initiatives at Climate, I’d like my legacy to be an R&D organization that highlights its transparency, connectivity, and collaboration and that delivers the best in digital ag to our customers. I've spent four years seeing the value of diversity here at Climate and would like to think that I helped ensure that every voice, every opinion matters, and that we all care. I want to help people understand that inclusion isn't political, it's personal. It affects everything we do every day and has a direct impact on our bottom line.