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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Is Digital Revolution Going To Take Away Your Job?

There is a breaking news making rounds these days.

IT sector to lose 6.4 lakh jobs to automation by 2021: HfS Research You can read the full article here.


This obviously has caused a panic in the IT sector specially amongst the folks who perform the so called "low-skill" job.

After reading this lot of questions come to mind: What will be the consequences when this happens? Am I going to lose my job? What will all these jobless people do? etc. 

Before we analyze and attempt to answer these questions, let us first ask ourselves has a similar incident happened in the past? Let us look back in the history...

The Industrial Revolution

During the period of 18th to 19th century the Industrial revolution changed the world, starting from UK then subsequently spreading into rest of Europe and North America. Industrial revolution led to major changes in the sectors of manufacturing, agriculture, transport etc. Specialized machinery took over from the hand made, small basic machines, it resulted in mass production saving both time and engergy. The consequences of industrial revolution were many fold, it impacted social, economic, political and cultural life of people. 

So when this occured what happened to the people who were earning their daily bread by performing manual/ hand made jobs and using basic machines? Did they lose their jobs to the specialized machinery? Answer is Yes. Most of the regular manual jobs were taken over by the specialized machines, but at the same time industrial revolution resulted in variety of new job types. These new job types required the workers to be trained and skilled on the new machines. There was a learning curve but the new job types were exciting because they were backed by technology advancements and eventually the throughput, productivity and output improved a lot as compared to the pre industrial revolution period.

So similar to the industrial revolution we are now on the verge of the next big revolution and that is nothing but The Digital Revolution.

The Digital Revolution

Riding on the technology wave, we are right on the verge of a generation which will thrive on The Internet Of Things. An era where we will have...

  • Smart refrigerators that will be able to check inventory and order vegetables automatically
  • Smart devices monitoring our critical health parameters and sending alerts to us/ medical help
  • Intelligent cars, intelligent homes etc. 

the future is full of imagination turning into reality.

All these changes will come into being only because the technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. This in turn also means that certain very basic level of work done today by humans will  also be taken over by means of technology. For example, consider the IVR, Interactive Voice Response System, earlier when IVR was not developed, companies needed human beings to answer each and every phone call that was received by customer support. But with IVR, all of that is automated and the basic queries of customers are repsonded by IVR and not by humans. So did people lose their jobs because of IVR? Ofcourse they did. But then that was not the last job on the planet. Development of IVR, Support and Maintainence of IVR are the new job types created. These did not exist earlier. So eventually everything got balanced out.

But the real worry some people have is that "IT" is going to automate "IT", that is one day artificial intelligence will be go strong that we will not need humans to write the computer programs. Programs will self learn and improve on their own. Phew! That sounds a bit too long way away as of now!

Having said the above, coming back to the original question, what will happen in 2021 when the Indian IT sector is predicted to lose 6.4 lakh jobs due to automation? What will these people do? or rather what should these people do now so that they are prepared, trained and skilled to take over another job type when the storm hits. Here are some important steps:
  • Identify whether the job you do is candidate for automation. If yes, you are at risk.
  • Find out what kind of automation is going to take over your job? Is it a third party tool? Is it a IT script based automation or simply a redesign of the system. 
  • Now, because you have done some basic analysis in step 1 and step 2 you are better equiped to face the situation. Next logical step is to research and get reskilled. But be aware, reskilling involves lot of efforts and sometimes it requires investment too. However, it is better to be safe than to be sorry, so put that extra dollar and extra hour of effort to avoid a panic situation later.
  • Now find out the potential employers. Mere reskilling may not help if you dont know who is going to hire you. So it is wise to find out about the potential employers and understand their hiring process.
  • Also, keep yourself acquainted with the latest technological changes around the globe. For example, read this interesting article on Quora: What technological changes will create the most opportunities for new startups over the next 2-3 years? Making yourself aware of the these changes will give you the much required head start over others.

To conclude, whether it is The Industrial Revolution or The Digital Revolution, no one can stop it from changing the world. So all we need to do is to adapt and embrace the change. As mentioned by Charles Darwin in his famous quote: It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. So prepare for the change that is coming your way because change is inevitable.

Note: If you need change management lessons you may want to read the bestseller Who Moved My Cheese by DR SPENCER JOHNSON



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