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Last Updated: Friday, 14 December 2007, 00:01 GMT
Bill Gates: The skills you need to succeed
By Bill Gates
Chairman, Microsoft

One of the most important changes of the last 30 years is that digital technology has transformed almost everyone into an information worker.

Bill Gates
A lot of people assume that creating software is purely a solitary activity. This isn't true at all.

In almost every job now, people use software and work with information to enable their organisation to operate more effectively.

That's true for everyone from the retail store worker who uses a handheld scanner to track inventory to the chief executive who uses business intelligence software to analyse critical market trends.

So if you look at how progress is made and where competitive advantage is created, there's no doubt that the ability to use software tools effectively is critical to succeeding in today's global knowledge economy.

A solid working knowledge of productivity software and other IT tools has become a basic foundation for success in virtually any career.

Beyond that, however, I don't think you can overemphasise the importance of having a good background in maths and science.

If you look at the most interesting things that have emerged in the last decade - whether it is cool things like portable music devices and video games or more practical things like smart phones and medical technology - they all come from the realm of science and engineering.

The power of software

Today and in the future, many of the jobs with the greatest impact will be related to software, whether it is developing software working for a company like Microsoft or helping other organisations use information technology tools to be successful.

Bill Gates
Lifelong learning is vital

Communication skills and the ability to work well with different types of people are very important too.

A lot of people assume that creating software is purely a solitary activity where you sit in an office with the door closed all day and write lots of code.

This isn't true at all.

Software innovation, like almost every other kind of innovation, requires the ability to collaborate and share ideas with other people, and to sit down and talk with customers and get their feedback and understand their needs.

I also place a high value on having a passion for ongoing learning. When I was pretty young, I picked up the habit of reading lots of books.

It's great to read widely about a broad range of subjects. Of course today, it's far easier to go online and find information about any topic that interests you.

Having that kind of curiosity about the world helps anyone succeed, no matter what kind of work they decide to pursue.

Bill Gates is chairman and one of the founders of Microsoft, the world's largest software company. From July 2008 he will end his day-to-day involvement in the company and focus on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and its global health and education work.

Your comments

Without doubt Bill Gates has hit the nail squarely on its head. In 32 years in business I have witnessed the birth of IT and how it has been embraced by business and has changed for ever the way business is being transacted Worldwide.
Kevin Strumpher, Cape Town, South Africa

Yes I agree with Bill's statement. Digital technology has become the irresistible companion in our day to day life. We never stop learning, so life long learning is of paramount importance for a career and life as well. Interpersonal skills and open minded attitude is vital.
Malaka, Colombo

I agree totally with Mr Gates comments. I have always lived with the philosophy of 'the day I stop learning is the day I die' It is something I have tried to instil in my three young children. They like all young children are always asking why questions and rather than give the stock adult answer 'because' we go and look it up on the net or in the library. An enquiring mind is the greatest gift you can give any child.
Paul Marshall, London UK

I have given up my job as an LGV driver to take up a career in IT. I am now a mature student studying a CompTIA A+ course which is IT Technician. This is the best decision of my life - I feel IT is so important in everyday life in this 'progressive' world we live in. IT is about uniting people and sharing skills, and I'm honoured to become a part of it. IT can help with education on all levels and encourage people to learn at their own pace. I really look forward to the future of IT.
Geoffrey Terry, Salisbury, UK

You can't help agreeing with Bill Gates' sentiments on the subject of education. The only thing that disappoints is when he couples culture to success - as perhaps he might, being the figure he is - but personally I question whether to "read widely on a broad range of subjects" should be driven by the wish for success in the minds of our children. Shouldn't it rather just be plain good fun ?
Andrew Whitmore, Worcester

I have been privileged to grow up with the internet and have access to all this free knowledge, which undoubtedly translates into almost perfect decisions you make about what paths to take in life. From free video interviews, to blogs, to online bookstores, thank you Bill Gates and everyone who made this happen.
Joaquim Brito, Rio de Janeiro Brazil

I'm glad to see he is saying how important qualifications and getting a good education are - because that is what helps you succeed as much as any mind set. Without the qualifications and experience employers ask for you won't even get a foot in the door to prove you can do the basic things they want you to do.
Mike, London

Digital technology certainly has enhanced my life. Being able to record my own music to what would have been regarded as a highly professional standard twenty years ago, has opened up a whole new vista of creativity, for all ages!
Ken Wright, Bueckeburg, Germany

I am tech savvy. I love to play with technology. I like Bill Gates who is great in the software world. Everybody uses the microsoft software. Digital technology can change. No computer - no life.
Gajendra Kumar, Delhi, India

Absolutely right. When I was young and before affordable PC's I was in a creative, sealed box. The PC has allowed me to create music, design my home and even put together business plans to raise money. None of which I could ever hope to have done without a PC and software.
Percy, Vancouver, Bc

A couple of hundred years ago, the skill set one acquired in one's youth was often valid for one's whole lifetime because the world in which one needed to apply those skills was largely unchanging. Now, in a rapidly changing world, we see more and more roles being fulfilled by automated processes so individuals may need to re-train if their role is consumed by such technology. However, rather than re-train, it is an easier and more natural process to constantly advance oneself and thus surf the wave of advancement rather than be overwhelmed by it and then have to swim hard to get back in front.
John Ellis, Cambridge, UK

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