We are not strangers to the way AI is impacting our daily lives – both personally and professionally. We have been audience to the paranoia about AI taking away jobs and the optimism of AI creating jobs. While the jury is still out on the long-term impact of AI, we’re already seeing automation of several activities, ranging from driving to radiology. It’s becoming evident that no job will remain untouched by AI, though the degree of impact will differ from occupation to occupation.
Automation in the IT Industry
The technology industry, which is the catalyst of this change, will itself get transformed by AI. If you are an IT professional, you should be prepared as traditional IT careers will likely not exist in the future. Some activities will get automated, some augmented, and others eliminated. This will mean that some jobs will be lost, some created, and others transformed. If you’re wondering how to prepare yourself for the AI era, below is a simple approach to redesign your careers.
Critically Assess Your Work Profile
Think of your job as a collection of connected activities. To start with, list the primary activities that you perform as part of your job. Critically evaluate each activity for its possibility of getting automated. If your answer is yes to any of the below questions, then the activity might be a good candidate for automation. Does the activity primarily involve:
1. Performing a repetitive task that needs little or no human discretion
2. Identifying triggers, alerts, anomalies
3. Analyzing patterns in data, e.g. root cause analysis
Activities such as IT infrastructure scaling, maintenance, monitoring, controls, service desk, aspects of database administration, etc. are already being intelligently automated using algorithms. AIOps platforms that use machine learning to automate the repetitive aspects of ITOps are finding adoption in enterprises. Several aspects of QA, QC, audits can be more effectively performed by AI.
Embrace AI and Automation
‘Embrace Change’ might be a cliché, but it is certainly the way to keep evolving and moving forward. We are usually uncomfortable with the unknown, and this is no different. Whether you like it or not, AI is going to be a big part of our lives in the future. Do not fight AI or be scared of it – embrace it.
The first step towards embracing AI would be to learn about its capabilities. Try to get an understanding of what machine learning can do for you – whether it is pattern recognition, computer vision, or natural language processing. Build awareness of how robotic process automation has been used in your industry.
You need not understand the inner workings of the technology, but certainly need to be aware of the applications of the technology. Systems of the future will not be fully built in-house, they will often leverage several plug-and-play third-party applications – we’re already seeing this for AI. Understanding of AI solutions available for your function will enable you to leverage the benefits of AI for your work.
As AI augments and automates parts of your work, you will have more time for higher-value activities. These higher-value activities depend on your inclination towards technology or business, as outlined in the below sections. You’ll need to choose the mix you’ll want to strike.
Understand the Technology Value Chain
In the time of hyper-specialization, you tend to be slotted as a specialist of a particular activity. While building a network of such specialized roles tends to be efficient for a large organization, it can be detrimental for you in the long run. If your role is anything similar, then you need to look beyond.
Understand the larger IT pipeline of your organization, and develop a perspective of the value of each section. Learn technologies that are alternatives for your area of specialization. There could be several open-source technologies and 3rd party tools that might be good alternatives to what you use today. Understand in greater detail the upstream and downstream activities that might get performed by other specialists today. Learn how to contribute there.
This way, you’ll need to worry less about your current job being automated by AI, but you’ll be able to understand the broader opportunities to bring in AI and automation and its implications. You can be the technologist who helps your team navigate the changing technology landscape and identify opportunities for innovations using AI and automation.
Understand the Business Value Chain
As a technology professional, you might be excited and focused on purely the technical elements, and this might have brought your success in your career so far. But do you understand how your company generates value? What are the different functions in the company, and how do they come together to generate value? How does your department or function fit into the bigger picture?
Developing this business perspective and a detailed understanding of your business function will enable you to be that person who understands both sides of the coin – business and technology. Furthermore, bridging the gap between tech-lingo and business-jargon will help you become an invaluable translator.
As automation frees you up of some of your mundane activities, a deeper understanding of the business will enable you to take up higher-value activities. If part of your job involved observing certain indicators and flagging issues, now you’ll have time to analyze the reason behind those observations. You can go beyond analysis to advising on actions to address these issues, and possibly lead some of these initiatives.
AI Era and Beyond
Technology is fickle, and we’ll go through different technological cycles in our lifetime. We will continue to be faced with situations where our future jobs will stand to be affected by certain technologies. We could use this simple framework in a very different scenario as well:
1. Critically evaluate our work profile for the impact of the technology.
2. Embrace the technology, don’t fight it. Understand relevant applications of the technology.
3. Expand your work profile to higher-value activities – whether technology or business
Whatever be the scenario, there will always be a need for problem-solvers, some will be technologists with an understanding of the business, and others will be business professionals with an understanding of technology.
Beyond technology, there are certain human skills that will always be needed – critical thinking, emotional intelligence, negotiation, leadership, etc. Consciously cultivate these skills. These are unlikely to be automated, at least for now.