Based on a blog published on the Huffington Post in August 2016

At this week’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, the fourth industrial revolution has been one of the hottest topics of debate. Almost everyone I’ve met in Davos has an opinion on it.

There is no doubt that we are on the cusp of this revolution. Rapid advances in technology are changing  ̶  and will continue to change  ̶  virtually every aspect of our lives.  Just think about how innovations like cloud computing, mobile tech and data science are already transforming our daily experiences,  from entertainment and shopping, to transport, farming, banking, and healthcare through to human interaction itself. And with breakthroughs in areas like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robotics and genetics, this will only continue.

It’s not surprising then, that there’s a real need for people with the right tech know-how to help fuel this innovation and growth. And while this isn’t a new issue, it’s one that has become more pressing with the advent of the fourth industrial revolution.

The talent pipeline

One of the biggest challenges to creating a solid talent pipeline is the fact that many people don’t even consider a career in tech. Why? I think it’s because they have preconceived ideas about what the industry is and who is best placed to forge a career in the sector.

To me, this is a major stumbling block, simply because a job in technology would suit hundreds, thousands  ̶  even hundreds of thousands! – ̶  more workers than those who currently are in the sector. In fact, many of the people I work with didn’t originally plan a career in technology, but they gave it a try when a job opened up at a company they liked, or were excited to work with previous colleagues at a new company. In many cases, they found they loved it and made a career of it.

If we’re going make the fourth revolution a success, we need to ensure a large and diverse talent pool to fuel it.

So, I think that as an industry we need to do more to spread the word about what careers in tech are really like, be it through events, media interviews, career fairs or even just talking to the young people in our lives about our jobs.

Access to education

Alongside changing perceptions, we also need to improve access to learning, if we want more people to consider tech careers. On this front, fortunately, we’re making good progress, and not just with school-age children.

Free, online courses like those from MIT, Code Academy and Khan Academy are springing up, offering a flexible way to learn skills like programming and web design  ̶  providing skills that can change a person’s life without disrupting their current one.

I especially love resources like Code Racer, which completely gamifies the learning experience, so it’s fun and engaging. In fact, we’ve taken a similar approach with our Trailhead programme, which literally lets anybody learn developer skills needed to build apps on the Salesforce platform. People earn badges for successfully completing challenges  ̶  so it feels very rewarding, like winning a game.

The ‘open to everyone’ aspect of all of these initiatives is vital to their success. You don’t need any maths qualifications for most of them.  Nor do you need any prior work experience. And you don’t need to be particularly interested in computers either  ̶  you just need a willingness to learn something new.

What’s more, you can learn in your own time and at your own pace, gaining skills without disrupting your current schedule. As a result, they can really help open up the tech industry to people from all walks of life.

The bottom line is, if we’re going make the fourth revolution a success, we need to ensure a large and diverse talent pool to fuel it and that requires a wider swathe of the population to engage with tech skills.