Hayley Moller

Hayley Moller is a climate tech entrepreneur and Chief Marketing Officer (founding team) at real-time carbon offsetting platform Thallo

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

After graduating from UCLA in 2011, I spent eight years working in climate communications at The Glover Park Group (now FGS Global) in Washington, D.C. It was a huge job that involved handling global comms for world-leading brands and events, including COP21 in Paris, the C40 World Mayors Summit, and the United Nations Climate Summit in 2019. During my time here, I also worked with high-profile environmentalists such as Al Gore and Dr. James Hansen.

I was in the room when Greta Thunberg admonished world leaders at the United Nations, asking them “how dare you?” in reference to their climate inaction. It was then that I realized the progress we’d made on climate communications – and how far we still had to go in terms of implementation. I decided to leave my VP level role in the climate communications space and try to get more closely involved on the frontline of climate action and decarbonisation. I also wanted to further develop my role as an advocate for women and underrepresented groups in the climate space. (I was a board member for the Women’s Energy Network in Washington, D.C. for three years, and I’m also a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community).

In 2021, I embarked on a one-year MBA at INSEAD at its Fontainebleau campus just south of Paris. Though a Californian at heart, I’ve always been an avid traveler, and I wanted the fresh perspective and broader world view that comes from being outside your home country

During my time at INSEAD, I realized I wanted to be as close as possible to the impact of my work, and early stage start-ups fitted the bill. I found myself most drawn to carbon markets, an extremely complex, potentially controversial area that has massive near-term potential to change what we’re putting into the atmosphere.

I began having conversations with startups in the carbon space, when I spotted an intriguing post on the INSEAD career hub looking for participants on a summer project. There wasn’t much information other than the founders were looking at the viability of a new startup idea at the crossover of DLT (distributed ledger technology) and sustainability.

I liked that it was an open-ended opportunity, so I spent the summer working on what would later become Thallo – a real-time carbon offsetting platform that allows businesses to embed carbon credits across their products and services using blockchain technology. I liked the team and the work, so I stayed with the company through the end of my MBA studies, in line with its burgeoning journey as a London-based climate tech startup. As Chief Marketing Officer and a member of the founding team, I’ve seen the company from the beginning through our seed fundraise, our first customers, and the successful product launch of our Carbon-as-a-Service product early this summer.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I never really sat down to plan my career, but rather paid attention to what energized me and followed that. When I first started at UCLA back in 2007, I was on the pre-med track, with the plan of becoming a doctor. I liked the idea of using scientific knowledge to help people. But when I started taking environmental science courses, I realized the scope of the climate crisis was going to affect every person on the planet. If I really wanted to help people, tackling climate change would potentially have a much larger impact. I switched my major to Environmental Science and never looked back.

Then when I graduated in 2011, the U.S. was in the grip of an economic crisis, with the job market still anaemic. I gave the commencement address to the Environmental Science department, with the theme that we’d just gotten the most marketable degree available…and ironically, I didn’t have a job lined up.

But I took advantage of this and spent six months travelling in South America with my brother, all the while stopping at internet cafes to do informational interviews and research opportunities in the environmental sector – until eventually something came through. So, a lot of what emerged in my early career was the result of leading with my values and desire for impact.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Absolutely. Immediately following my adventures in South America, I moved to Washington, D.C. for an environmental internship. I was excited to be moving to the heart of environmental policy, where major international NGOs were headquartered and the opportunities following the internship would be plentiful. I also had two dear friends who had just moved in together in DC and had an extra spot in their flat.

But when I finally moved there, with just $500 in my bank account, the internship fell through. I ended up getting a job in a bar to make ends meet, while approaching every organisation I could think of in the climate space to see if they had work for me.

It was a gruelling few months, but eventually I began volunteering at environmental think tank the Earth Policy Institute. It turned into a paid internship and then a clear path towards a full-time role. But I wasn’t sure I wanted to do research for the rest of my career. Around the same time, someone I had met in sustainability communications offered me a two-month cover contract over at The Glover Park Group.

It was a huge risk to leave what was potentially a steady job for something that wasn’t guaranteed, but it felt exciting, and closer to what I wanted to do. So I made the leap and after the two-month period was up, they decided to keep me on.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

The UN 2019 Climate Summit was a huge endeavour, bringing together world leaders, global CEOs, and high-profile speakers such as Greta Thunberg (who sailed across the Atlantic to attend). My team and I ran communications for the summit, including the coordination of multiple events, announcements, press conferences and interview requests. It took months of work to organise, and eventually generated 10,000 articles globally.

But the reason the summit really stood out was the participation of youth voices in holding authorities accountable. Greta’s viral address to the General Assembly, when she told politicians from across the world, “you are failing us,” really summed up that mood and sense of urgency. It was a transformational moment for me, because I realised my work in communications was part of a wider effort that had succeeded – we had achieved mass-scale awareness of the urgency of the climate crisis. So from there, I decided to move onto the challenge of decarbonisation.

That quest led me to Thallo, and another major achievement; which was being part of the platform’s growth from startup concept. In the summer of 2021, Thallo’s founding team was meeting for the first time, operating out of a cheap basement room in London. And from there, we were able to scale pretty quickly into a fully-fledged company with 18 employees and offices at Liverpool Street. Our hard work had put us in the position of experts on carbon and blockchain, and we found ourselves working closely with some of the most important organizations in the carbon space, including high-integrity standards-setter Gold Standard.

It’s been wonderful to build a brand that I’m proud of, and that has real integrity in helping people and delivering impact at scale. In the span of a few years, Thallo has become a thought leader in the blockchain space. I’m proud to say we’ve gone from begging folks to take a meeting with us, to being invited to speak as a leader at carbon and blockchain events around the world – including most recently Climate Week NYC.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Optimism is the consistent thread throughout my life and career. Looking at the science of climate change and the slow pace of action, it would be easy to become quite pessimistic. But having worked with former US vice president and climate advocate Al Gore for many years, I’ve learned that being optimistic is a choice. It doesn’t mean being naive about the scope of the problem, but rather choosing to look at the things that are going well, and focusing on increasing them. Gore has been talking about climate change for nearly 40 years now, and he’s been ignored or dismissed by so many around him during that time. But he’s continued to acknowledge that we have the solutions to solve the problem, and chooses to believe we will succeed.

So I try to carry that optimism with me, rather than dwelling on all the reasons why we might not get there. This mindset is very relevant to the climate crisis, of course – but it also applies to all areas of life; from career setbacks to tough conversations with colleagues and more. As Gore says, “despair is just another form of denial.” Optimism is a better motivator.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

One of the common pieces of advice that PR professionals give executives headed into media interviews is that if you don’t know the answer, you can just say that.

It’s a broadly applicable piece of advice that very few people listen to.

It seems simple, but if you don’t know the answer to something, don’t be afraid to ask for help. We’re all conditioned to think that not knowing the answer is a weakness, but I think it’s a superpower.You can’t really grow or find new ways at looking at problems, unless you stretch the boundaries of your knowledge and learned experience.

So, feel empowered to ask the questions. Be curious, and don’t hide your curiosity. Ask people to spend half an hour with you, talking things through. By and large, they’ll be happy to be asked – and to have that opportunity to share their expertise. And, in return, you’ll get to learn directly from someone who’s an expert in their field, accelerating your own knowledge in the process.

This was very much my approach when I first started learning about blockchain at Thallo. I asked about a thousand questions, including about the parts that I didn’t really need to know. I tried explaining it back to the experts to confirm I’d understood correctly.

That was just two years ago, and now I’m regularly invited to speak about this technology on panels. All because I wasn’t afraid to ask questions.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Yes, tech is still a very male-dominated sphere and many of the barriers we face as women are institutional, rather than individual, in nature. For example, there aren’t enough girls in STEM, and we need to be looking at ways to bring more girls into STEM subjects earlier on in the education pipeline, including greater investment and increasing the visibility of STEM mentors.

Representation matters: you cannot be what you don’t see. We must have more women paving the way in tech leadership, founder, CEO and VC roles – which, in turn, creates role models for a new generation of female learners to aspire to. One of my greatest values is to find innovative and inclusive ways to tackle the climate crisis; and we can’t do this without women’s voices in play at all stages of the challenge.

And it’s important to acknowledge that gender is just one angle of diversity, but we need the same kind of efforts for queer folks, people of color, disabled people, and more.

What do you think companies can do to progress the careers of women working in technology?

I think men and women alike have a responsibility to empower the women on their teams. To create a sense of allyship – in formal policy but also at a more ingrained level – that fosters female talent, encouraging women to apply for and succeed in senior leadership roles. Women need the networks, the support and the mentorship to overcome years of systemic discrimination.

We can only tackle huge, enduring problems like the gender pay gap or promotions oversight if we start from a system that proactively empowers women. I think it’s up to tech companies to listen to women, and find what it is that we need to take up space and amplify our voices at the most senior levels.

There are currently only 21 percent of women working in tech. If you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I would like to see more companies thinking about diversity not as a check-the-box exercise, but as a way to be and stay competitive. When you build your organisation from the viewpoint of attracting a broad spectrum of talent – whether that’s gender, racial, geographical or neurodiversity – you create a better, more inclusive space for all. You’re working against the stereotypes that say a leader should look or act a certain way. And the remote nature of most tech startups means this is possible from a practical level, too: the pool of talent you can draw from, globally, is really very wide.

The beauty of this framework is that a more diverse workforce is also a stronger and more productive workforce. Research consistently shows that diverse teams perform better in nearly every metric. After an initial period of growing pains, these teams benefit from the diversity of thought, experience and opinion, and are able to far outpace homogenous teams. As with nature, diversity is the key to resilience.

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X: @thallo_io


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