Building a Sustainable Future: Top 5 Skills for Climate Job Seekers

Author: Naomi Morenzoni – Senior Vice President of Philanthropy, Salesforce

Salesforce: Building a Sustainable Future - Top 5 Skills for Climate Job Seekers Featuring Rainforest Connection CEO Bourhan Yassin

Leaders from the Salesforce Accelerator for Nature cohort share top job skills needed to solve urgent climate challenges.

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.

“There are a lot of jobs in the climate space today around data measurement, reporting, and verification.”

Bourhan Yassin, CEO of Rainforest Connection

“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.”

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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. 

“Strong project and partner management skills are incredibly important for jobs in the climate space.”

Bourhan Yassin, CEO of Rainforest Connection

“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.”

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.”

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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.”

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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.”

“Being able to quickly absorb information and adapt is one of the top skills that makes a successful leader.”

Bourhan Yassin, CEO of Rainforest Connection

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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:

“Seek out new experiences that challenge you. Build coalitions and partnerships with people different from yourself. Volunteer for the hard things that nobody wants to do, and figure out how to eliminate the need for it.”

David Will, Head of Innovation at Island Conservation

“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.”

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