“Inclusion@Climate: Sowing the Seeds of Belonging” is an occasional feature created by Climate’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.
Our latest series entry is a conversation with Neil D’Souza, Manager, Research Data Engineering within Climate’s Science Division. Neil additionally leads our Pride Alliance Business Resource Group, a collection of employees across Climate who come together to discuss and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community.
Climate: Can you tell us a little bit about your role here, and what brought you to Climate?
Neil D’Souza: I’ve been with Climate for six years and my roles have evolved over time. Today our team primarily focuses on building tools and infrastructure to accelerate the development of science models, as well as their validation through internal simulations and in-field testing that help hone how they would be offered as a commercial product.
Climate: Was your first job at Climate, or was it before you joined the company?
Neil: My undergrad was in electrical engineering, which I did because, at that point, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just agreed with what others were saying and what my parents had seen as the best opportunity.
I got through it without developing a keen interest, and landed a couple of jobs where I was implementing some of those engineering concepts in practical ways. My first couple of jobs – at a water sensor company and at a media company – helped me realize the power of data and how influential it could be.
Climate: When did you first become aware that diversity – or intersectionality – were important concepts to you?
Neil: I think these were completely unavoidable for me as a person of color, but also because my upbringing was not very traditional. By the time I was born my parents, originally from India, had already moved to Oman, which was more open to migrants and provided a lot of opportunities to grow and establish their lives.
But as I grew up, one of the things I came to learn as a result of my intercultural experiences is just that we’re all so different. And while our uniqueness can unify us, on an individual level we can become isolated, ostracized, or rejected from individual communities. That’s why diversity is so important – so you can see yourself in others, but also so others can see what it’s possible to be.
Climate: Why is working in an inclusive environment and toward increasing inclusion important to you?
Neil: I love the elephant analogy. If there are a bunch of different people looking at an elephant, but each is just looking at a small segment and they do not talk to each other, each one is going to think that the elephant is a completely different thing. One person will think that it’s a stump. Another will think it’s a hose. Someone may even think it’s a big fan. Whatever it may be, they’re all thinking about it differently.
In an inclusive environment, they would communicate with each other openly and develop a clearer, more complete picture of the elephant. But if you’re being exclusive, you’re saying stubbornly that your deduction is the only truth. And then no one ever arrives at the full picture or the ideal solution.
I’ve told my team that I don’t want them all to be Neil. I want them all to be themselves. That’s why I hired them. They each bring a unique set of skills, perspectives and experiences which I want to shine through in their work, what we talk about and how we approach projects. Because if everyone was just like me, then, what’s the point, right?
That’s really what I want to emphasize – all the inclusion, diversity and exposure to newer things is always going to teach you something more about yourself. Hopefully those lessons are positive, and if not, hopefully you can identify why it’s negative and find a way to grow or move past it.
Climate: What’s an element of your identity that you’re proud of and that you think helps contribute to your success?
Neil: I take pride in my comfort with personal evolution and ambiguity supported by a willingness to be introspective.
A lot of influences have molded my identity, like the influence my mom had on me; she’s a predominant figure in my life and has a lot of impact on it. Another unavoidable influence on how I navigate the world is my skin color.
Part of my identity that has become more nebulous is my gender expression and orientation. I choose to intentionally present my pronouns as they/he wherever possible, because I’m realistic that externally I will always be perceived as male by many unless I explicitly decide to alter my appearance.
External identities, like skin color, are things I cannot or do not want to change, but the internal ones have never been perfectly stagnant and are hard to communicate.
People can try to put me in a box, but I’m in no box! I’m in this wonderful, ethereal, grey area. I know grey does not always invoke brightness and enthusiasm, but I love that grey. I enjoy feeling like I am constantly learning more about myself and evolving into a newer Neil. We need to foster a society where growth and the freedom to explore are always encouraged.
In a Bayer speaker event where James Clear presented about atomic habits, he mentioned the concept of “evolve or die.” The only thing we have full control over is ourselves. And if we are not willing to hone ourselves, grow more and be better, we are missing out on something.
Without embracing change, you are probably leaving some very exciting parts of yourself locked that you don’t even know exist, because you haven’t even ventured in that direction.