Rockyath Adechoubou is the ultimate explorer – a worldwide adventurer seeking answers and truth about people, cultures, and global issues. It’s not surprising then that her path led her to the world of climate change, working as the program and operations manager at Subak Australia, and helping to combat one of the major challenges of our time.

Indeed, it’s a role that comes naturally to Adechoubou and one you could say runs in her blood given her father’s significant role at the UN, working as the Head of the Regional Office for Africa at the UNCDF.

For Adechoubou, she’s on a mission to solve and combat climate change through data – and to  have an impact by making climate action inclusive and accessible to people from all backgrounds, ethnicities, and genders.

“The big issue for me is that First Nations people are still not at the forefront of all climate action initiatives,” she said.

Indeed, there’s a theme of service and support running through her veins. So, in addition to saving the planet, Adechoubou is also on a mission to help others look after themselves – and invented an app, dubbed HEYSLF, an all-in-one self-care and wellness platform – after almost coming to the brink of burnout herself.

Stories Ink caught up with Adechoubou to discuss her worldly travels and work experience thus far; what it means to be working for a company that helps startups and individuals maximise their impact against climate change; and why she decided to don her entrepreneurial hat and develop an app.

Quick time frame of where you were born, raised, schooled. 

I’m originally from Benin in West Africa. I was born in the city of Cotonou but spent most of my early childhood in different parts of West Africa. Benin has 55 languages. Of those, French is the official language, and all the indigenous languages are considered national languages.

I went to French schools in Togo, Senegal, and Ivory Coast and finally graduated from high school in Johannesburg, South Africa. I’ve moved quite a bit, so I think my trajectory is quite unique and has a huge impact on my personality and who I am as a whole.

Growing up, what did you want to be?

Funny enough, growing up I was a very artistic child – I was passionate about acting and theater so I thought I’d eventually venture into a career in acting.

Somewhere, I think that my father and his work at the UN have shaped me and impacted my career interest later in life deeper than I would have expected. He was the Head of the Regional Office for Africa at the UNCDF, so at home, we had many conversations about education, the state of affairs in Africa, and in general, the most pressing and global issues.

So, after graduating with a bachelor’s in PR/Communications, most of my work experience was in diplomacy, NGO, and in general with companies that I believe were doing impactful work.

I started developing more interest in social impact and so working today with Subak Australia, as well as creating an app on the side that aims to help the wellness industry, is I would say, spot on with who I am.

How did your journey lead you to Subak Australia?

I graduated from the American University in Washington DC with a bachelor’s degree in PR/Communications. Throughout my bachelor’s, I worked with different NGOs, public relations firms, and had the opportunity to be part of the campaign team for the Hillary Campaign in New York.

In many ways, all of these experiences shaped me and pushed me to explore who I was and who I wanted to be. So, when the opportunity arose to move to Tokyo, I took it. I spent a year-and-a-half in Japan and was absolutely blown away by the cultures, the people, and the mannerism – it was a total culture shock, but what impressed me the most was the art of living.

I really wanted to finish my studies with a master’s in business management and I wasn’t done exploring and traveling so I applied to the international business program at the University of Melbourne and got in.

After graduating, my ultimate goal was to work for a company whose values aligned with who I was and who I was becoming – the people and our planet. Subak is doing exactly that. We believe that the only way to solve and combat climate change is through data.

Can you tell us about Subak Australia – and your vision as the program and operations manager?

Subak Australia was founded to find, fund, and scale data-focused organisations and individuals who are tackling climate change. It is the world’s first not-for-profit-focused climate Startup Accelerator. As well as receiving up to $120,000 in funding, we provide startups with a curriculum that covers business strategy and development, raising funds, creating a brand, and delivering impact, and using data and technology effectively. Our members and fellows receive expert coaching mentorship and gain global reach through membership of the Subak community.

It’s a very exciting time to be part of an accelerator program that focuses on supporting and providing non-equity funding to not-for-profits. The big issue for me is that First Nations people are still not at the forefront of all climate action initiatives. Indigenous people and poorer countries are the ones suffering and experiencing the impact of climate change. 

Through Subak, we’re trying to have an impact by making climate action inclusive and accessible to people from all backgrounds, ethnicities, and genders. Whoever you are and wherever you are, through our programs, we offer opportunities for individuals and organisations to maximise their impact.

As an entrepreneur, content strategist and partnership development specialist, and the founder of HEYSLF, can you tell us about your side business and your vision?

HEYSLF was born out of pure self-love. I’ve spent most of my life traveling and discovering amazing places and cultures. But one of the significant downsides of moving so often is also the potential ‘burnout one could experience.’ In 2019, I’d reached my peak and my health was at its worst. I experienced many issues due to a lack of prioritisation for myself and my health.

From there, I started thinking about other people – how like me they tend to put work, family, and life commitments before themselves. I then realised there’s a huge gap in the industry when it comes to having a personalised wellness and self-care routine. So, with my team, we’re creating an all-in-one self-care and wellness platform.

We’re a team of three for now with a few experts helping us make the HEYSLF app come to life.  We’re in the design and development phase and we hope to be able to make the app available in Australia next year. We’re also conducting customer surveys and focus groups that anyone can participate in.

What’s the term leadership mean to you – and what type of leader are you? 

I believe the word leadership is changing – good leaders are changing their thinking and action from a singular “I” to a “we.” I think the world needs more leaders capable of bringing people together for the social good. It’s no longer about doing or acting on one person’s own beliefs, but rather reflecting and co-creating with others for the sake of the planet and the people.

I like to think of myself as someone who is empathetic and socially intelligent. I don’t believe that my experiences or my skills are any better than another person’s, but I do believe that they can add to the collective.

You see a lot of articles on the concept of ‘self-made’ – I don’t believe any leader is self-made. I actually think that the word shouldn’t exist. In some ways, we have all received some support, no matter how small it may be; no one can get where they are without help, and guidance.

So I believe, leadership starts and finishes with a “we” rather than an ”I.”

What are some of your passions in life? Favourite things?

I’m passionate about cultures – I love creating and thinking of new and innovative concepts. Growing up in so many of the rich cultures in Africa, I developed this curiosity and love for all the arts and things that people on the continent were doing. It’s truly amazing what you learn from people when you observe and listen. My passion lies in listening and learning from humans I’ve had the pleasure to meet, and through these conversations and exposure, I discover new things, every time, about myself.

Do you know of a worthy ‘Close-Up’ contender? Get in touch with Jennifer at jennifer@storiesink.com.au to get the story captured.