Skilling for the Automation Era: Jobs of the Future
By Aditi Bhat
Automation has been a part of the human evolution story. In fact, it has reflected the adaptive and intelligent nature of human beings. Automation does not replace people, but calls for a new level of skills. Automation raises the bar of adaptability and drives a basic instinct of “Learnability” in us.
Today, automation comes in various forms, the most common one probably being bots. Yes, the same software programs that refresh your social media feed to show you stories you will like. In fact, many of the strangers that people claim to have meaningful conversations with online are most often bots. You might want to consider filtering your friend list, maybe?
Impact of automation
Currently, over 52% of web traffic is influenced by bots and there are about seven types of commonly encountered bots, which include both legitimate bots and malicious bots (the battle between good vs. evil never ceases!). Today the market share of companies, which create such bots is measured in terms of ‘how many million systems’ have their bots.
The routine and repetitive tasks are being replaced by various types of bots, including chat bots, search engine bots, data-grabbing bots, web crawling bots (also known as spider bots), feed-fetcher bots, impersonator bots and spam bots, to name a few.
In factories, robots perform routine tasks like picking/sorting/stacking. Drones today deliver a visual surveillance feed and can even detect transmission losses over electric grids.
The combination of sensor technologies, control systems, powerful processors and data analytics has created a powerful tool making way for autonomous mechanisms. So it is now time for individuals to move up the Learnability Index and adapt to the new ‘Era of Automation’.
‘The Learnability Quotient’
The IT industry is one of the largest employers in the organized sector. Over 4 million people from India are employed in this industry and have been the backbone of the world’s progress in technology and automation. The irony is that these same employees and organizations have worked on automation over the past two decades and are now caught napping in the face of what they have created.
Most IT organizations are now facing the problem of the ‘Mid-level Bulge’. I recently spoke to a senior executive-level professional in a large IT MNC, who expressed his anguish, saying “I have over 10,000 employees at the mid-level who have grown in the company for years. Today, they are overpaid coders and their jobs can be done by entry-level employees at half their cost. Yet I can’t live without them because they are the culture of the organization and know my clients. In fact, I can’t live with or without them.”
The huge cost incurred to support the mid-level employees is further accompanied by the challenge of inadequate new skills in these employees. This deep-rooted problem stems back to the initial phase in their career where most of them started with only one specialised skill. While it was sufficient to get them into the industry about a decade ago, the new era calls for multiple technology skills, soft skills and domain skills.
Today, companies want to invest in employees who are willing to invest in themselves and have displayed a learnability quotient (LQ). LQ is not just about taking multiple certifications, it is about creating a learning path for yourself leading to a desired goal. Except, in this case the goal post will keep changing showing how well you ‘learn and adapt’.
Organizations today also realise the importance of learning paths vs. career paths. A career path is passé because required skills are in short supply and organizations earn by aggregating skills of individuals. There is always a shortage of supply over demand for various skills. So to remain relevant, we need to look at the learning path and solutions demonstrated by individuals that are relevant in the face of current day opportunities and challenges.
Smart professionals keep themselves updated with the required new skills, work on live projects (check out some of the freelance sites and figure out how to complete projects while practicing your newly acquired skills) and earn star ratings, which keeps them in demand. A recently released whitepaper covered the next generation skills for the IT industry, which include expertise in Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, cloud computing, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) to name a few.
Forget about the career path and get on the learning path
If you are a coder, stay updated with trending skills in the industry like data science, machine learning and cybersecurity. Learn how to make your code bullet-proof and test it at the same time. Know that your lines of code need to solve a problem. So understand the problem, not just the code. Move from the T below, which reflects a single skill, to the Pi, which stands for multiple technical skills. Your aim should be to reach the Triad, which reflects multiple technical skills along with soft skills, domain knowledge and very importantly the new horizontal, which represents your cognitive and problem-solving skills (sometimes termed design thinking). This will ensure that you continuously have something to offer to your company. It may be an app, it may be the use of multiple technologies, it may be communicating with people, but all of these need to lead to business solutions.
It’s all about having the right decision-making and problem-solving skills to solve real-life problems.
(The vertical in the T denotes the presence of a single technical skill and the horizontal represents a limited range of soft skills. The Pi represents a professional with multiple skills coupled with a horizontal expansion of soft skills, while the verticals in the Triad indicate a professional with domain skills, technological skills, and soft skills and the horizontal in the Triad is the cognitive/design thinking skill, which provides solutions to real-life problems. The flexibility in the Triad model enables both individuals and organizations to define their learning paths across all the vertical and horizontal lines.)
While automation may be taking over repetitive jobs, problem and solution statements still require human intervention. So humans are not going anywhere, neither are machines. Automation has simplified several industries and it is more or less a way of life now. Humans will continue to run the world, while machines will only help us do the job better. Then what about machine invasion and robots taking over the world? Well, we will keep that discussion for another day….after you have demonstrated your learnability quotient.
This article was published in The Times of India, Delhi Edition.
About the author:
Mr. A.P. Ramabhadran is the CEO of Manipal ProLearn, the professional learning unit of Manipal Global Education Services Pvt Ltd. He is an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad and has worked with blue chip organizations like P&G, Whirlpool, and Hutch over the past 30 years. His passion is to bring strategic thinking into execution by helping people identify their innate capabilities.