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Walk of Life is a professional coaching and training business that is aimed to help professionals apply, interview, and train for a new career. Founder and coach Shannon Houde focuses primarily on placing professionals within the sustainable sector and in this way Houde has an indirect impact on almost every SDG.
Shannon Houde is the owner and coach of Walk of Life Coaching. Her business and innovation are nearly the same thing, with both being placing professionals on new career paths. Houde says her mission is to “get the right people into the right roles to create a more sustainable world and to deliver on the sustainable development goals”. Houde also classifies her innovation as having more of an indirect impact on the UN SDGs and because of this, she is able to affect all 17 goals. Houde indirectly impacts these goals by placing people in roles in which they will eventually directly impact the goals. Houde is the “middle-man” that makes these positive life changes happen for so many people. Houde refers to herself and her business as having a wheel model in which she is in the middle and she has “spokes” that go out in many different directions. This is how she is able to have an effect in so many areas at the same time.
Houde works primarily out of London, England which is where she lives and has her office. She also works heavily within the United States and has a hub in both Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, California. Although she works in these areas she has clients in many different countries as well as many U.S. states. Houde also provides her skills within several universities as a guest speaker and has a book that is featured in the curriculum of some schools.
When asked if she always knew that she wanted to work in sustainability Houde said, “I always tell people to go back to when you were 5 years old and see what some of the themes have been since you were a child”. Houde says that often times you are able to link what you were interested in as a child into what you really want to do or are interested in as an adult. For Houde in particular, she grew up being outdoors often while she went hiking and camping with her family. She also volunteered at soup kitchens, with the elderly, and at her church. Houde also said she “did a month-long national outdoor leadership school program in the Rocky Mountains” when she was 16 and was part of the outdoor program in college as well. She saw a common theme of engaging with the environment and being outdoors as well as a theme of charity and giving back.
Later in her career, she worked in finances and realized that her company didn't have a volunteer program for their employees. She decided to start this program which was her first step toward a career in ESG. She then went to Patagonia and worked at the national outdoor leadership school in Patagonia, Chile, and started her own eco-tourism company.
She was working in consulting and doing sustainability, and corporate responsibility consulting and was helping a friend to get into business school and offered to do his resume with him. This was a moment that helped Houde realize that she loves to write and she loves to help people and she could put all of these things together into her own coaching and training company.
The main impact that Houde and her innovation have been on her clients who are seeking out her help and guidance. When clients first come to Houde, together they discover what their individual goals are, what their current status is, and what they need to do in order to get them into the right role. For Houde’s business, in particular, short-term effects come in the form of updated resumes, cover letters, and Linkedin profiles. All of these things will eventually help Houde’s clients to apply and interview for new jobs and start their new career paths. This is why the main UN SDG that Houde works with is decent work and economic growth. Although her clients go on to positively effected multiple other SDGs, she really helps people find work and personal economic growth first.
Houde continues to work with her clients even after they have been hired in a new role. She helps them during the onboarding process and continues to give help and guidance throughout their career to guarantee continued success. This allows Houde to also experience her clients' long-term effects of the innovation. Some things her clients have told her after leaving her program include: having more clarity about their target dream job and audience, understanding the impact/sustainability job market better, and having increased confidence in telling a relevant career story. These are all examples of the long-term effects that the innovation has on Houde’s clients which then allows them to confidently enter the sustainable workforce and create their own long-term effects in other areas.
Because Houde’s innovation is her business, the benefits to the company are both large and important. With coaching and training being her main focus and the primary service provided by Walk of Life, it brings in almost the entirety of the revenue to the company. Houde refers to the framework of the SDGs as being a helpful guide to benefitting and aiding her clients. This allows Houde to teach her clients about sustainability and all of the possibilities within that sector as well as ask them where they want to make a difference. Without this framework, it is a lot harder for Houde to be able to educate others while promoting the attractiveness of the impact sector.
When asked about how her business has benefitted, Houde talked about her goals to expand in the future which can only be made possible through the continued success of her business today. Houde’s main goal for the future is to create a membership model for her business so that she can reach more individuals and help them in their careers without being as hands-on with them as she has been in the past. This model will allow her business to rely less on herself as the service provider and more on the software and tools within the membership program. Houde says that this will allow her to eventually sell her business because the program will be in a place where she will no longer be needed to provide the service to clients. The business is already thriving with Houde at the helm but will grow even more when she is able to expand the way that she envisions.
The biggest benefit to society from this innovation is the increase in workers entering the impact/sustainability sector. This is extremely important in the ESG space because many people do not know enough about the environmental and sustainable efforts in the world to pursue a career there. Houde helps people gain knowledge about careers and industries that people can work in that will make a difference in the world. By sharing her personal knowledge with countless others, Houde is benefitting the entire sustainable market and is indirectly impacting all 17 SDGs.
Many of Houde’s clients go on to work for environmental companies and “regular” companies with an emphasis on positive environmental impacts. These clients often work in either the corporate world or with NGOs that help the environment. Her clients' work affects climate change, carbon, water, waste, and oceans. Houde refers to these as “the most measurable and impactful issues that a lot of us focus on when we say we want to make a difference. Fewer of her clients work in the “S” area of ESG, meaning that they work with inclusion, diversity, and more social aspects of sustainability.
Directly, Houde is educating people and increasing their ability to be hired and have consistent work. This directly affects decent work and economic growth, reduced inequalities, and good health and well-being. These are a few of the positive social impacts Houde has on her clients and the people that her clients then help as well.
Shannon Houde, CEO & Founder