Whom We Seek
Rocky Mountain Institute hires unusual people, because what we do is both vital and very hard. We transform global energy use to create a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon future. To create that world, our mission is to drive the efficient and restorative use of resources. But that’s not easy, or it’d have been done already.
A 500+-person think-and-do tank with such an ambitious goal needs gifted people with focus, courage, and vision. Vaulting the barriers to turning our vision into reality is a great and worthy challenge. Its success will help determine the human prospect. If you want not just a job but a calling of honor, where you not only earn a living but make a difference that sustains life, consider RMI. If your reach exceeds your grasp and you relish achieving the almost impossible, try us. If you want to tell your grandchildren how you helped lead the journey beyond fossil fuels to make a world free of waste, want, and war, join us to help make it so.
RMI’s strength springs from its diversity at many levels. Our staff and their global networks speak many languages, though we work in literate English. Our offices are both urban (Boulder, Oakland, New York, Washington, Beijing) and rural (Old Snowmass)—different situations for diverse needs and tastes. And we revel in strikingly contrasting toolkits. The more your education ranges from anthropology to zoology, your interests from art history to zymurgy, and your avocations from rodeo to yoga and flyfishing to flute, the more you’ll contribute. Yet amid this vibrant variety, we hold in common a passion for our mission, compassion for all, respect and support for each other, and a commitment to become a higher-performing team and better human beings.
What does RMI need and seek? Above all, exceptional talent and initiative. Not ordinary, not pedestrian, not conventional, not unremarkable. No drones, no drudges, no résumé-builders. We seek sizzle in your brain and fire in your belly. Why do you get out of bed each morning? What lights you up? If your passion is close to our vision and mission, RMI may be where you can grow to your fullest potential.
We hire more for aptitudes and attributes than for disciplines and experiences, important though those are for some tasks. Among many valuable attributes, we’ve found these broad hallmarks of success:
Effective people at RMI think and communicate with uncommon clarity. Lucid, terse, graceful, even poetic writing and speaking are highly valued; imagining the graph or picture or phrase that’s worth a thousand words is treasured; fundamentally reframing the question or design problem to redirect the whole inquiry toward elegant frugality is venerated.
Do you strive to get the concept clear, the number right, the word precise, the image moving, the layout beautiful, the message compelling, the choice decisive, not just because it works better, but because you have high personal standards? We do too. We strive to build in excellence from the start, not add it later, so all our effort goes not to fixing mistakes but to fulfilling mission.
Are you content to stay forever who you are, know what you know, and do what you do? If so, find an ordinary job. But if you have an itch to peer around the corner and over the horizon, if you hunger for unfamiliar knowledge and groundbreaking insight, RMI is an exciting place. We sustain a sharp focus but a very wide-angle lens. Our work is immensely diverse, cross-pollinating and solving for pattern across dozens of disciplines. If picking up the basics of a couple of new fields a year sounds not scary but exhilarating, that’s good, because it’s what we do: our chief scientist (a Harvard and Oxford dropout) has taught, at ten universities, only subjects he’s never formally studied. With both the humility that comes from long wondering in the bewilderness and the fearlessness that comes from seeing all knowledge as connected and nobody’s intellectual turf as inviolate, we think being intensely curious and audacious has helped RMI build its long track record of solving big problems that nobody had ever solved before.
All the important design mistakes are made on the first day, when the problem is typically misstated and the solution space artificially narrowed. Can you spot the wrong question? Can you not just solve problems but avoid them? Can you keep asking Why until you get to the deep root of the matter?
Do you see the world through a microscope, and knowledge neatly packaged in disciplinary boxes, or are you blessed with a vision across boundaries? Can you blend disparate facts and meld ideas from seemingly unrelated fields into a shattering insight? RMI is known for deep and original analysis, but our best work, rarest skill, and greatest need is synthesis. We dig wholes. If you, too, are an integrative thinker with that unique knack for mental jigsaw-puzzles, that special “helicopter” view of how disjoint fragments can snap together into creative new patterns, let’s talk.
Is your Start button self-pressing? Are you cranked up all by yourself, eager for the next challenge as you lick your wounds from the last? RMI cultivates a fast-paced, entrepreneurial style that provides structure without stricture and accountability without inhibition. Though our nonprofit organization exercises the discipline of a for-profit firm, we value leadership over management and spunk over submissiveness. If you know where you’re headed, your speed and all-terrain capability will accelerate our work and your development. We recognize contribution, not rank: an RMI principal earned coauthorship on a flagship study while still an intern. And to help fan your spark, we’re evolving ever-better ways to deepen and broaden your learnings, expand your horizons, mentor your growth, and reward your achievement.
Solving big, recalcitrant problems takes time, flexibility, and relentless patience. Most of our biggest initiatives will take decades to flower fully, usually with a diverse and shifting slate of outside partners. Along the way are doubts, setbacks, uncertainties, dark times, tactical shifts, constant questioning. Can you adapt to change but stay the course? Do you persevere through adversity? Do you have a high tolerance of ambiguity? Can you steer by a tall star and not get blown off course by passing gusts?
Would you rather fight with an opponent or dance with a partner? Do you prefer boxing or aikidō? Can you honor others’ beliefs as you do your own, and hear others’ truth without having to impose yours on them? Can you talk to others where they’re at, not where you’re at? Can you give public credit to those who need it, whether or not they deserve it? Such empathetic and collaborative skills underpin RMI’s transideological, nonadversarial, nonpartisan style of speaking to others’ diverse concerns in their language—often achieving surprising results by focusing on shared outcomes, not divergent motives.
Because the problems we’re solving are deadly serious, we mustn’t take ourselves too seriously. Our hearts are full but light. We live and work in applied hope. If we can’t enjoy life and each other, laughing and loving here and now, what’s the point? Good work is fun; life is joyful. Humor is indeed one of our most disarming tools for reaching those pickled in fear or trapped in rigidity.
RMI is a diverse family of architects and athletes, engineers and economists, moms and MBAs, veterans and volunteers, classicists and cowboys, physicists and photographers, geeks and golfers, pilots and preachers, mountaineers and musicians, scholars and storytellers, urban film buffs and farmboy gearheads. That’s because we cherish diversity, embrace difference, and seek talent in all their rich dimensions. Everything you are and know and can be, where you come from and where you’re going, expands our effectiveness and enriches our lives. We want you not just for your brains and hands but for your heart and guts; not just as an employee but as a valued member of our community and of yours.
Effective, productive, stable people are rooted in the larger lives they compose. We all work hard, but we know work is a part of life, not vice versa. To be consistently effective at RMI, you should be a whole person, healthy and happy and fulfilled. We don’t just accept this; we expect and support it. If you need to get a life, we’ll gently say so. If you have a life in balance, we’ll help you keep it that way. It’s your choice too—but the urgency of our issues is a great reason to smell the flowers.