“I was wasting my working life on something I didn’t care about.”

Image of Dan Enzer
From Economics to Sustainability

While Dan Enzer had found small ways to bring his passion for sustainability into his work life, he was hungry to work full time on issues he cared about. Here's how he built experience and connections to help him shift into a new fulfilling profession.

What work were you doing previously?   

I started my career in economics, working at a boutique economics consultancy after my master's. 

It was demanding, being forced to work weekends meant I learnt a lot. But I knew I wanted a greater variety of experience, something more values-driven and less intense! 

I ended up moving to KPMG, which whilst being chiller was more of the same work I had done before. 

What are you doing now?    

I work at Altruistiq, an environmental data management platform. 

A key part of that is measuring the carbon impact of large businesses who are a big part of the decarbonisation problem. I work in the research team and do a lot of thinking around how to make those calculations better, to improve our product as well as refine data transparency and trust. 

Why did you change?    

The whole time I was working at KPMG, I was thinking about how I could add more ‘sustainability’ to my role. 

That came in extra-curricular ways like team presentations and being a ‘sustainability champion’.

Meanwhile though, the world was in chaos, with a global pandemic spreading and Australian wildfires raging, so it felt particularly absurd that my main role was making inconsequential spreadsheets until 11pm. 

At the time I was also reading ‘This Changes Everything’ by Naomi Klein which really did change everything for me. I realised that I was wasting my working life on something I didn’t care about. 

I wasn’t thriving in my work and I wanted to devote myself full-time to making a positive difference. 

Are you happy with the change?    


What do you miss and what don't you miss?    

In a way, my old career felt way more structured, for instance in terms of my career progression. 

There would be a whole map that was set out for you and you knew where you were going to be in three to five years. 

Now I really don't know. I don't feel like I have a ‘career ladder’, and it's up to me to figure out how to achieve the highest impact. I prefer the open career trajectory now, but there is something nice and simple about having a career ladder. 

I don't miss that everything was high stakes but somehow not important at all. I don't miss the stress and extra weight people put on things that really didn't matter, like a precise format on a chart with imprecise numbers.

How did you go about making the shift?    

I found the jump out of my old role quite difficult. 

I had a few interviews with consultancies that had an environmental focus, however I was told that I didn’t have the right experience. 

While researching one of those consultancies, I came across On Purpose and got really excited by their Associate Programme.

I felt it was not only an opportunity to build the experience I needed, but it would also give me the time to figure out what I actually wanted to do and be part of a community of people in the exact same boat as me. 

My first placement during the Programme was at Impact at Urban Health, an organisation that focuses on improving health in inner-city areas, where I was part of the data team.

As Partnerships Manager, I was looking after a portfolio of four projects which focused on funding that would reduce missing data, for instance on social cohesion.

I hadn’t thought much about health inequalities before, so being exposed to this new area was exciting and insightful and I learnt a lot.

My second placement was at Altruistiq, which is when I joined the research team I'm still sitting in now! Here I worked on a number of projects diving into science-based targets and emissions accounting. 

During the last quarter of the Associate Programme, I was thinking about the future – reviewing my CV and looking into different opportunities in the social impact space.

At the same time, my heart was pretty set on staying with my second placement, Altruistiq, and I started discussing this with my team about three months into the placement. 

It ended up working out with Altruistiq and I even got to co-design my job description!

How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?    

As soon as I knew I would join the Associate Programme, I started to change my spending habits and reduce costs.

For instance, I moved into shared accommodation and cut down heavily on eating out and takeaways. 

I also put aside a little bit of cash to take out over the course of the year. However, I definitely kept some ‘treats’ in my life, such as my membership to a yoga and climbing gym, which I consider key to my physical and mental health.

What help did you get?

My cohort was (and is!) the core resource I would look to. 

They’re the people you see every Friday, who you have interesting chats with and debriefs in the pub after training. My cohort pushed me and inspired me in many different ways and I came to love them very quickly. 

I also received lots of support from my placements, particularly from Fellows who had either worked on one of my placements or had gotten permanent positions there. They understood my journey and helped along the way.

I also really appreciated the support from my mentors, especially because they were both Fellows of the Associate Programme, so I could be very honest with them. And the support is ongoing as one of my mentors during my time with Altruistiq is now my coach.     

What have you learnt in the process?    

I learnt so much! 

There were the hard skills I acquired through my work at placement but also loads of beautiful mindset shifts I got from the weekly training. 

The programme’s different elements really helped me discover the wider system that I was part of. Why did I feel the need to grind away and keep on succeeding? 

My metrics of success coming into the programme were very ‘horizon 1’, a mindset of the world which was destroying it. So the big mindset shift I had was that it's way better for me to shift into a healthy mindset which will enable me to choose my own metrics of success.

Those metrics will definitely include making a positive impact in the world, but part of making an impact is also making sure that I'm healthy, body and mind. 

What would you advise others to do in the same situation? 

I’d say be very open to change and prepare yourself to completely start again if that’s what’s right for you. 

If you commit to a big change, you’ve got to be ready to take a risk and be prepared not to go back on the same salary. You’ve got to be ready for your mindset and skill set to change. 

Ask yourself: am I open and willing to change everything? There are many things that need changing in this world, and oftentimes that change starts with us.

To learn more about the On Purpose Associate Programme, visit https://onpurpose.org/en/associate-programme.

Also, find out more about On Purpose in our Retraining Directory.

What lessons could you take from Dan's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at [email protected]. and you could win a £25 / $35 voucher in our monthly draw.