Sustainability job openings are on the rise. It’s never been a more exciting time to build a career in climate action.
Over the past five years, the demand for “green skills” has grown 8% annually outpacing the supply of talent. A global survey from Salesforce found that although there’s a sustainability skills gap, there is a global workforce eager to get involved.
Last year, Salesforce launched the Accelerator for Nature, providing nonprofits with philanthropic funding, technology, and pro-bono support to pursue big ideas and scale climate programs. This Earth Month, I had the opportunity to hear from two of the climate leaders involved in the Accelerator — David Will, Head of Innovation at Island Conservation, and Bourhan Yassin, CEO of Rainforest Connection — about their perspectives on both the hard and soft skills needed to close this skills gap and solve today’s biggest climate challenges.
1. Data analysis and emerging technologies
Innovation in the climate space is growing at an unprecedented rate. When I asked Bourhan Yassin about the future of climate jobs, he highlighted data science as an important skill set that will evolve over time.
“Currently, data collection remains a significant barrier to entry into the climate space. However, I believe that in a few years, with the advancements in technology, data collection will become more accessible. As data becomes readily available, our focus will shift towards mapping out the world in new ways and developing nature-based solutions that extract deeper insights to address the challenges facing our planet,” says Yassin.
As the resident technologist at Island Conservation, David Will is also interested in emerging technology and co-developing solutions with local experts to scale island restorations. Will believes that while studies in STEM fields are a way to gain critical job skills such as Geographic Information System (GIS) training and data analysis, other soft skills are essential to tackling today’s biggest climate challenges.
“Many of Island Conservation’s staff not only have experience behind the computer but also in the field, working in difficult conditions on remote islands with arduous terrain,” says Will. “Ultimately, addressing climate change will require a variety of skill sets, and there are many ways interested candidates can contribute their talent – from those with biology and data science degrees to those who have worked in operations, human resources, communications, media relations, advocacy, coalition-building and fundraising.”
Build Your Data Literacy
Learn to interpret, explore, and communicate effectively with data.
Here you’ll learn the importance of data literacy and how to work effectively with data. Become skilled in recognizing good data, learn the concepts of correlation and regression to better analyze data, and more. Dive into the data.
2. Project management
Project management requires both technical and workplace skills. Even as new technologies emerge to help teams manage projects, the demand for project managers is expected to grow 33 percent.
Yassin says strong project management is one of the most valuable skills he looks for in employees.
“At our organization, this could mean being able to juggle dozens of concurrent projects. Managing projects end to end, and having the tools to stay organized and on top of all of the things that are going on and stakeholders involved is invaluable.”
Learn Project Management Essentials from Walden University
Explore project management methodologies and best practices.
Learn to deliver value through project management. Review project management methodologies and learn how to manage scope, schedule, and risk in your projects. Gain these skills.
3. Multi-cultural literacy
Climate change is a global crisis that requires working across cultures. At Salesforce, we support projects around the world and have found many of the highest impact climate and restoration projects are based in locations where we do not have large employee bases. This requires developing partnerships with organizations that are working closely with local communities to understand their needs and working together to drive solutions.
David Will has been involved in implementing technology on more than 50 island restorations spanning from the sub-Antarctic to the tropical Pacific — and each new project requires deep listening and understanding of local needs, priorities, and ways of working.
“As a global NGO working within a wide range of countries and cultural contexts, it is always valuable when potential employees speak more than one language,” says Will. “As we are based in the U.S., our hiring has had to change dramatically over the years, with a renewed focus on local expertise, knowledge, and emotional intelligence over technical expertise.”
Develop Emotional Intelligence
Strengthen relationships at work using emotional intelligence strategies from Arizona State University.
Learn to use self-awareness and self-management to strengthen relationships. Practice empathy and build trust within your team. Skill up your soft skills.
4. Communication and collaboration
Multi-cultural literacy is only step one to working thoughtfully with local communities to uncover new climate solutions and bring them to scale. In our increasingly connected world, complex challenges like climate change cannot be solved in isolation — thoughtful communication and frameworks for collaboration are essential to move toward a net zero future.
“It’s important to remember that people are at the center of the climate crisis and that many of the proposed solutions require new ways of thinking, relying on personal, institutional, and global behavior changes,” says Will. “Coming up with new ideas and developing solutions is just the beginning; putting ideas into practice and having the skills to find commonalities – which can break through layers of conflict and bring about transformative change – are of incredible value.”
Storytelling & Communication
Use storytelling to make your meetings, communications, and presentations more compelling.
Stories are more than just entertainment—they evoke emotion and inspire action, allowing us to understand and connect with the world. Learn how to tell a story to inspire.
5. Adaptability and strategic problem solving
One constant for anyone in the climate field is change. Being able to adapt to changing circumstances and synthesize new information has never been more important.
“Keeping yourself up to update on what’s going on in the world is imperative because it changes month to month, even day to day. There are always new regulations coming up, new discoveries happening, and unfortunately also new disasters,” says Yassin. “Adaptability is also critical in fieldwork, where it’s almost guaranteed that whatever you plan will change.”
Bourhan Yassin says that in a world of constant change, being able to quickly absorb information and adapt is one of the top skills that makes him successful as a leader. “If I’m faced with a certain issue or something that I need to get feedback on, I try to isolate all other things that are happening and just focus on that one thing for a burst of time. This allows me to understand the issue completely and then think about it in the best path forward.”
Futures Thinking for Strategic Decisions
Use the Salesforce Futures approach to anticipate, imagine, and shape your future.
Contrary to popular belief, futurists aren’t oracles. They’re simply people who’ve learned to use futures thinking: a set of tools for asking better questions about the future. :earn to think like a futurist, anticipate directions of change, imagine future scenarios, and shape your choices. The future is now.
Advice for climate job seekers
Whether you are looking to make a career switch or upskill in your current field, opportunities abound for professionals looking to drive climate action.
Will leaves job seekers with a final piece of advice:
“Companies are flooded by applicants with similar technical skills; it’s those life experiences and how they connect to the job, organization, and hiring manager that set people apart.”
David Will is the Head of Innovation at Island Conservation. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in bioinformatics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and has 15 years of conservation experience driving innovation and incorporating technology into island restorations across the globe.
Bourhan Yassin is the CEO of Rainforest Connection (RFCx). He is a long-time veteran of the tech industry and more recently in the conservation industry. He has over fifteen years of experience in building and leading large-scale Operations and Engineering teams in several Bay Area companies including Powis and Zazzle.
Learning is the key to everything
Trailhead provides anyone with access to learn in-demand skills. It’s the free place to learn, earn, and connect, whether you’re looking to learn new skills or grow your career.