Updated: Oct 21, 2019
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is upon us and it's here to stay! For us in South Africa the effects of this most moment on the economy and in the jobs market has been absolutely breathtaking! Less than 5 years ago, the idea of 4IR and its mention in the public discourse, gave the impression of yet another other "pie-in-sky" movement that will excite just a few. However as 2019 comes to a close, with thousands of jobs lost to date, at that hands of 4IR in less than 24 months, we are now finally awoken to the fact that the 4IR is a powerful force that cannot be ignored!
So as rapid changes are taking place all around you, which affect the relevance and demand dynamics of your job and the skills that you currently have, what can you do to ensure that your career survives this tumult? Well, for me, as a career Senior Software Developer and Microsoft Certified Trainer my general outlook in life, business and work has been shaped by the whirlwind technologies I have observed in my (just over a decade old) career. These observations shape strategies that I believe, help ensure knowledge-workers like us keep our jobs and stay relevant when one's job description seemingly changes year-after-year in the face of rapid changes in technologies!
Over the last three years, I have also had the privilege of training and mentoring groups of Computer Science and other I.T related university graduates taking part in Microsoft South Africa's Student 2 Business Program, which is an important initiative designed to recruit such students as interns at leading tech companies in South Africa. This opportunity has also helped me to have a first hand look at the quality of skills that our leading education institutions are producing and how such skills stake up against the rapidly changing skills requirements of these leading tech institutions. This issue alone, in the South African context, is a separate discussion which I will cover in another post.
So how then can you ensure that your career survives well into the future? Is there a programming language that you must learn (even if you have not done any programming at all)? Should you perhaps enroll in the last Machine Learning or Artificial Intelligence class? Well that's not a bad idea actually, however I would strongly suggest you start off which these 5 keys (or mental weapons) which I have observed and experienced first-hand and then see how you can grow your career going forward. So here goes :
As a Senior Software Developer tasked with the occasional responsibility of evaluating Junior Developers and see if and how they can fit into the workplace, I have come to the firm conclusion that one's level of resourcefulness makes the ultimate difference. The ability to look within and say in your heart that "I may not know how to do it right now, but if you give me some time I will go and learn and acquire the skills to do it", that becomes the skill and the attitude that will take your organization forward.
It is therefore instructive that if you want to become "the difference" in your organization, the person that the your organization, or company can rely on if tomorrow the business fails and there is a need to restart again, then become the most resourceful person in the team. Be a fountain of ideas, whether bright or crazy (within limits!). In my own career as a Software Developer, and I have been blessed to work under the same manager for our 5 years now, he sometimes has to say to me "Look, I can see your mind is already running wild with ideas. Lets address this issue for now and then we will discuss your ideas soon after!". Become the most resourceful person in the team. Perceive and realize opportunities even in the most tricky situations and be bold to share your ideas. Don't worry about your current job title neither think that you are too "low" in the corporate hierarchy to contribute! Just become relentlessly resourceful and your job description will naturally grow more often than not!
One of the important realizations, in my current career transformation from a full-stack Software Developer to a Artificial Intelligence & Cloud Engineer (due early 2020) is that far gone are the days where one can afford to be constrained by the mental "box" of their job title. It's actually in my view, a recipe for career suicide. For example, The Cloud Administration training course provided by Microsoft, now effectively empowers and equips any professional with a fairly solid IT background to attain, junior to mid-lev Network & Infrastructure Engineering level skills. This phenomenon, a by-product of the nature of cloud technologies, effectively gives you the skills to manage an organization's virtualized hardware infrastructure with ease even if you Network or Infrastructure Engineering is not your core competency. So this in other words means, I, as a career Software Engineer could easily manage your organization's cloud Infrastructure even though such work is not really my primary vocation!
Hence in 2019 and beyond, the people with the most varied set of competent skills in crucial growth areas of business in any organization or company will be more valuable than "one-trick ponies". Therefore it becomes important that you continuously invest in yourself and be willing to do work and to contribute in domains that are not really in your comfort zone. Your ability to adapt in a tech-driven world that's changing at rapid speed will ensure that you will constantly re-invent yourself and discover talents you did not know were in you, while importantly becoming more valuable to your organization!
Albert Einstein, the greatest scientist the world has ever seen famously once said "I have no particular talent, I'm merely inquisitive". That's it folks, that's the key! The persistent nature of kids who constantly ask questions about the world around them, as they grow, is an important skill that one must retain well into adulthood. The capabilities of the latest technologies that we are learning on a daily basis are now in many cases operating at jaw-dropping magical, if not utopian level. You find yourself quietly saying to yourself "This is unbelievable" or "I can't believe this is happening!". Well, my response to that would be "Hey, welcome to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where reality as you know it, is turned on its head!" Therefore you need to constantly be at the cutting edge of important developments that are changing and transforming your industry in other parts of the world and be ahead of it. This is because what you see happening elsewhere, may soon knock at your door! So it pays to be ever-ready!
This set of mental skills, strategies or "weapons" if you would like, discussed above, help to create a solid foundation for this next all-important key "confidence"! Confidence is a powerful force that will keep you sane in a world of seemingly constant madness. Confidence will keep you calm in the midst of a tumultuous storm! Confidence gives you the quiet hope and positive mental fortitude that will help you face each coming year with grace and hope!
One the most devastating effects of experiencing loss at the hands of a powerful force that you feel seemingly powerless against; is a feeling of despair, hopelessness, fear, anger which ultimately leads to depression and other severe negative effects. An old Ghanaian proverb, loosely translated in English simply says "The speed at which you run, depends on the speed of the dog that is chasing you!". This "dog" called 4IR is a "greyhound". It is mean and its fast! Build the confidence you need to keep running into a better future and not stop and fall down in despair and hopeless as, believe it or not, the "dog" is coming!
In my mind one of the greatest global speakers and futurists I have heard speak numerous times, Yuval Noah Hariri, a great advocate of the democratization of critical future technologies, often speaks about how technologically driven success must be shared by all nations, both poor and rich. He famously asked Mark Zuckerberg in a famous interview that, and I paraphrase "What will happen to nations that don't have A.I? How will they compete against nations that have powerful A.I technologies?" That's a question whose answer remains in the future.
However for you and I, getting closer home, the key secret here is that "Success is best when its shared". How well are you working in your team, your "master-mind network" or perhaps your inner circle of friends to ensure that you build a strong band that moves together constantly sharing knowledge, discoveries, skills and encouraging each other to continue the journey in self-development.
My personal experiences in the corporate, cutting-edge technology world, has taught me that yes, talented, skilled individuals, frequently make contributions that have lasting impact on mankind, yet on the other hand it is the bands, the teams, the organizations, the populations that are bonded together with a shared unity of purpose that consistent win and make the difference all the time. That's why in part, Singapore, and not the United States, is now the most competitive economy in the world. Teamwork, not talent alone, ultimately wins in the end!
So there you have it. The strategies and skills that are required to help us succeed as individuals, teams and organization, as shown above are deeply rooted in have a solid and positive perspective on life, in the midst of constant change. Your technical skillset that you will acquire as you continue to improve yourself become the "icing on the cake" that will help you to continuously provide important contributions to your organization.
Do you want to learn more about how you and/or your time can succeed in this age of digital transformation? Contact us at : firstname.lastname@example.org and enquire about our "Values Workshop" or any of our series of "Digital Transformation" and/or tech-related training courses.