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March 18, 2016

Staying Relevant: It's Really Up To You

Posted by Krishnamurthy Shankar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:01 AM

The Digital Revolution is firmly upon us. And like every revolution in the past, this one is also sparking widespread fears of job destruction. A study by the World Economic Forum concludes that technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, could cost the world's richest countries a little over 7 million jobs through the next five years, if we miss taking adequate measures to reskill the potentially impacted.

Redundancy and irrelevance of certain roles, is the inevitable price of progress. But even as certain jobs have gone away, new ones have emerged to take their place. The first Industrial Revolution is a classic example, where artisanal skills were replaced by factory jobs and tooling expertise. 

And it's no different with the Digital Revolution. The World Economic Forum study also estimates that over 2 million new jobs will arise in tech, media and professional services directly countering some of the losses to automation. But that apart, I believe that in a digital world of connected devices and autonomous systems, there will be a huge opportunity for higher order skills, skills that are exclusively human. And its potential is 



Some of these opportunities are so exciting that every professional - and not just those whose jobs are obviously at risk - will merit from actively seeking them out. Take for instance, the huge opportunity there is in finding new problems. Our technologies are adept at creating better and better solutions, but finding and framing a problem to solve is still left to human capability. This is a skill that may be acquired by practicing Design Thinking, a technique that puts human beings at the center of every decision. The foundation of Design Thinking is empathy - thinking, feeling and experiencing as if one with the users, in order to discover their biggest pain points. Now which machine can do that?

But acquiring new skills is only one milestone on the road to human relevance. And let's be clear that this is not a one-time journey. Today, the pace and magnitude of technological advancement is such that we will be forever caught in a cycle of career opportunity and threat.  The only way to ride that cycle is through continuous lifelong learning, grabbing every chance to refresh and upgrade our knowledge and skills. And for that, we need to take a wider and longer-term view of our professional goals. Instead of "hunting and gathering" learning - much like our foraging ancestors did - to tide over an immediate requirement, we must sow the seeds of effort today so we can "farm" and reap their benefit for a long time to come. Even as we aspire for personal development, we must remember that some of the greatest learning happens through collaboration, through shared exploration, shared finding, learning, teaching and shared making.

This might sound daunting, but know that you are not alone. While staying relevant is primarily our responsibility as individuals, there is an ecosystem of mindful employers out there lending support by way of encouraging entrepreneurial problem-finding, espousing Design Thinking and presenting lifelong learning opportunities on the job. Reach out. #InfyHiring

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