Interview: A Generation Z intern reflection on sustainable development and AI

Future generations

We’re on a mission to make Sustainable Development a business habit is. That is easier said than done. We’ve embarked on this journey to shift the way we work, live and play in order to align better with the world and people around to preserve what we have for the future. Sustainable development means different things to different generations. Let’s talk to Generation Z.

Back in 1987 the younger generation wasn’t part of the conversation about the future. Have a look a this quote from the 1987 UN report Our Common Future:

“We borrow environmental capital from future generations with no intention or prospect of repaying. They may damn us for our spendthrift ways, but they can never collect on our debt to them. We act as we do because we can get away with it: future generations do not vote; they have no political or financial power; they cannot challenge our decisions.”

Brundtland, G. (1987). Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future. United Nations General Assembly document A/42/427

Now, 25 years later it is 2022 and we’re embracing the opportunity to do business for good. It means being inclusive and facilitate collaboration and listening to the next generation, so we their voices heard and we can design the future together.

Generation Z students are our future colleagues

At SDG Align we’re welcoming next generation employees students High School, TAFE and University students to become part of our team. We can experiment, engage and explore the future of work together and solve local and global challenges. Together we can unpack generational biases and worldviews to redefine the way we learn and develop the “green” skills we need built back better and more sustainable.

We had the privilege to work with Deona Julary for the past month. Deona is a year-11 student from Hinsdale Central High school in Illinois, USA. Deona finished her internship so we asked her about the experience.

Why did you choose SDG Align out of all the options you had?

I was an AI and Data Research Assistant at SDG Align for one month. At my school , there is a Career Internship Program. It’s a program where I can earn academic credit through my internship. I chose to do an internship at SDG Align because it aligned with my interests of artificial intelligence, sustainable development and foresight. I wanted to explore some of the more social aspects of technology. 

What project did you work on?

The project I worked on is developing an AI conversational chatbot using the OpenAI platform. This chatbot will help users on the Ready Reckoner, Dashboard, Opportunities for Improvement, and Declaration functions on the SDG Align platform. 

Reflecting on the past month, what have you learned?

Before starting this internship, I thought it was going to be programming all day. Reflecting on the past month, I didn’t only learn about the OpenAI platform, but also about collaboration, communication, working with a team across time zones, and tools like Jira and Microsoft Teams. 

What could SDG Align improve on?

One thing I believe SDG Align could improve on is specifying their goals and focusing on their overall mission and strategic narrative. In the future, I believe that the SDG Align platform will easily facilitate understanding and communication regarding sustainable development. There will be personalized virtual AI assistants for each business, as well as more collaboration with the United Nations. 

Would you recommend other students to take an internship like this? Why?

I would definitely recommend other students to take an internship like this because it enriches their understanding of themselves and the content they learn in school. It challenges them to take that extra stuff and apply what they know to the real-world.

What’s going to be your next goal in in life?

My next goal in life is to create a project that combines all my interests in the fields of computer science and global studies. I really want to share my interdisciplinary passion with others, so that is something I am looking forward to. 

If you had to write a message on a bilboard that everybody in the world could read. What would that message be?

I would write:

“The future starts with sustainable development. It starts with you and the future starts now.” 

Deona Julary, August 2022

To conclude this interview Deona, on behalf of the whole SDG Align team, thank you so much for working with us and keep an eye out for the updated narrative!


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