Today we are bombarded with messages that AI will take over the world, and jobs will become obsolete through the digitization and automation of everything. That may not be completely accurate, but the truth is our reality is changing fast, and we are going to see rapid changes as we approach the 4th industrial revolution and beyond. Working in the field of Artificial Intelligence with various technology startups has not only reinforced this message for me, but also brings a considerable amount of hope as there is a pretty clear blueprint to how workers can adapt to remain successful and fulfilled in their work through the changes ahead. Here are four suggestions for upskilling for the future of work based on my learnings over the past few years:
Learn to work with Data
If you aren't already in a position that is using data strategically, consider spending some time getting familiar with data-driven decision making
. In the future, pretty much all business decision making will be utilizing insights from data in addition to human intuition and experience.
Assuming you can access and analyze the relevant data, visualizing and communicating the insights to get buy-in from stakeholders and incorporate the learnings into your business is one of the most in-demand skills for many types of jobs.
If your company doesn't already have access to data visualization or analysis tools, there are several free online tools you can use in your spare time to up-skill in this area. There is no need to become a database or a programming whiz, although those are great skills to have. Many programs feature easy to use drag and drop GUIs and connect to simple data sources like Google Sheets or Excel.
Here are my top three recommendations of free data visualization tools for non-programmers:
Tableau is considered by many to be the gold standard in data visualization tools and is widely used for commercial Business Intelligence applications. The public version is free to use but does require publishing your work, so make sure to use it for practice and not to work with any sensitive information. Tableau Public is a great option if you want to build up and showcase your skills for future employers.
GIF by Tableau
Google Data Studio
Google released Data Studio, a product which has a free and commercial version. Although the primary use case is in connection with Google's own tools such as AdWords, YouTube, etc., you can also connect to generic data sources like Sheets and common databases. Google Data Studio is a great choice if you already work with G Suite products or are analyzing data originating from Google.
RAW Graphs is an open source data visualization tool built to make the visual representation of data from spreadsheets easy and pleasing to the eye. The project is led by the Density Design Research Lab at the Polytechnic University of Milan and was released publicly in 2013. Since it was built for designers and data visualization geeks, you will find unique charts that are not easy to produce with other tools and are sure to elevate your next presentation.
Get Comfortable working with AI
We see maturity in the space of AI virtual assistants that can be trained to perform specific, usually tedious, tasks that help us be more efficient in our work.
A few examples of AI assistants include Conversica
's sales assistant that helps nurture conversations with leads until they are interested enough to talk to a human, Voicera
's meeting assistant that takes notes and records action items during meetings, and Algomus
' virtual business analyst that helps people find insights and opportunities in their data.
In addition to AI assistants that can take over very specific tasks, almost all software being built today has some form of AI built in from machine learning to neural networks to make the software easier to use and more powerful. Understanding how to use these tools in your job can make you more productive, stay relevant, and enjoy your work when you allow the more tedious parts of your job to be outsourced to technology and you get to focus on high-value and creative activities.
Cultivate your Network
By now, most people are aware of the concept of the network effect
, which in basic says the value of a good or service increases as the number of people using it increases. If you think of yourself as a node in a network, the larger your network the more valuable you become. For example, people with strong networks inside of large companies are more likely to be mentored and promoted, and people with large professional networks in their industry are more likely to find job opportunities than those that apply for an opening by submitting their resume through a hiring manager or recruiter.
A newer but related term is the collaboration curve
that describes the observation that people get better faster by working with others. A network of people working toward the same goal or interest can become a new force in our professional work and our lives that turns the traditional learning curve on its head. Many people enjoy passing on their knowledge and sharing cutting-edge ideas on platforms like Medium and LinkedIn making it easier than ever to connect with thought leaders and stay up to date in your field, anticipating new trends and changes before it is too late to react.
Become a Lifelong Learner
"In the old days, you became an adult when suddenly your life went from learning to doing the same thing for the rest of your life, but today you can't afford to do that."
— Joichi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab
The bottom line is you can't get comfortable. Every industrial or technological revolution makes certain jobs obsolete and creates new ones. This time around, technology is changing faster than we have ever experienced before, which means we don't have a change of generations to deal with technological changes. Even technical skills that used to be considered the jobs of the future can change or become obsolete with the advent of new disruptive technology. The good news is the brain is like a muscle, as long as we keep working it out and don't forget how to form new connections, we can stay in-demand and find even more job satisfaction as we challenge ourselves to adapt to our faster future.
Nikki Hallgrimsdottir is co-founder and chief evangelist of Algomus, where she works with manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to leverage Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics. Algomus has built Algo—an AI agent that assists business users with Data Analytics and other related tasks through Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, and Business Process Automation.
Prior to founding Algomus, Nikki worked for a decade with companies of all sizes to utilize automation technology in both manufacturing and product design. She knows enough to be dangerous in the areas of Big Data, Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, IoT Hardware, Machine Vision, Supply Chain, Industrial Automation, and Multiphysics Simulation, to name a few.