Ricky Ashenfelter is the co-founder of Spoiler Alert and a 2015 MIT Sloan business school grad. Spoiler Alert is a technology-based startup working to solve the issue of food waste by matching businesses and organizations with excess food to buyers and non-profits who can use it. Ricky will be speaking on the Building a Sustainable Food System Through Technology and Innovation panel at Net Impact Boston’s 2016 Career Summit on February 26th.
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How did you decide to pursue an impact role in your career?
My interest in sustainability goes back to when I was a kid. Family trips through some of America’s greatest national parks, coupled with an incredible environmental science teacher in high school, was enough to convince me I could make a career out of trying to solve some of the world’s environmental and energy problems. I did my undergraduate studies at Georgetown in Finance and Environmental Studies and landed a great first job at a climate change-focused startup (later acquired by Deloitte). The rest of my career has grown out of those early experiences.
What is the most interesting/challenging aspect of your work?
The challenge (or opportunity) with most sustainability-inspired initiatives is making the business case – linking the environmental and social benefits with a tangible financial gain. At Spoiler Alert, we’re constantly learning who are the right stakeholders for addressing food recovery and waste management topics in a business. Each organization looks a bit different and needs a healthy mix of operations, sales, procurement, legal, and marketing. Getting all those folks to align on a single set of KPIs can be a challenge. If this were super easy, it would’ve been done already!
What is the best career advice you have received?
Pursue what you’re passionate about – not what is most financially rewarding. If you love what you’re doing, the other pieces will fall into place over time. I talk to a lot of professionals who get overly concerned that their next career chapter will shape the rest of their lives. This can be particularly hard for those thinking about entrepreneurship and taking a road less traveled. If you believe in yourself, you can pivot and redefine your career time and time again.
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