The Future of "Your" Work


Everyone wants to know the future. Some even fear the future. A few prepare for the future. This is the case whether we are talking about the future of the world, the future of work or the future of your specific career. A few years ago I asked a question about the future of my organization in a townhall meeting where an excellent presentation had been delivered by the leadership. Back then I was a database administrator but I had made some observations about the direction of the organization that caught my attention.

According to the presentations, we were making significant progress in our digital journey. A few key projects were at the forefront of this advance - mobile banking, upgrade of the core banking, adoption of Robotics Process Automation (RPA) and so forth. At the same time, we were also increasing headcount and this seemed to be considered a plus so I got a little worried. Most of the projects that were ongoing were timebound and had the goal of digital transformation at some level or the other with a good number of staff engaged in these projects. So my question was, "When these projects are done, what are the large number of people we were employing going to be doing?"

A Decision to Transition

A year or two after that meeting, I began having conversations with a great senior colleague of mine about transitioning to Enterprise Architecture. There was another alternative: taking up a database role in another organization. When I told him about that possibility on the staircase during one of our conversations, be asked rhetorically, "You want go to XX bank and also become a DBA?" Eventually, I joined his team though it was not a very heroic transition; it was the eventual outcome of an error on my part which caused a major outage. In retrospect, maybe it would not have been so easy to convince my bosses in IT Operations to allow that transition if we didn't have that mishap as an "enabler". The bane of being very good at what you do is that even when someone else wants you, your current boss doesn't want to let you go!

Career transition are inevitable in the current dispensation and often advisable depending on what you currently do. In recent times, we have seen many transitions in the information technology space. Database Administrators are transitioning to Data Engineers and Data Scientists. Project Managers are transitioning to Product Managers and Programme Managers. Software Developers are transitioning to Software Architects and Cybersecurity experts. Infrastructure Engineers are transitioning to Cloud Architects. The list goes on. Threats of the changing technology career landscape are pushing professionals towards new opportunities.

Prophet, What is the Lord Saying?

Prophetic intervention may not be required to see clearly that the way things are going, in the near future your role may not be required (or may not be as important), your skills would need an update (or extension), or new opportunities are being created. Whether in response to an opportunity or to a threat, every professional should be analyzing the industry and his/her workplace to determine how his or her career will be impacted. Extending the thought, if you have a grey beard like myself or equivalent, you might have realized that while learning new things is not as easy as it used to be, it is even more necessary now.

There are myriads of articles out there about the future of work, digital transformation, disruption, VUCA and so forth. In the title of this article, I inserted a four letter pronoun to provide context - YOUR. We could discuss the macro-environment of changing seasons, the Great Resignation and other Great Things happening in the world, we must come home and ask the question: what does this all mean for me?

Demand and Supply

Employers are demanding a broader range of skills, company boards are demanding greater speed to market, technologists are demanding more sophisticated technology. Cloud Service Providers are dishing out more mind-boggling capabilities that promises speed and stability, researchers and OEMs are producing insane levels of automation, analytics, robotics and all the other fancy things that seem to make us humans less relevant in some respects in the tech space. In the middle of all this is the information technology professional (I wish we had a simple name like "lawyer", "doctor" or "teacher") who needs to keep up in order to keep feeding his family.

Some have decided to move into less fast paced occupations or more people-oriented roles where machines are less likely to take over completely - Enterprise Architecture, Programme Management, Service Management, Technical Sales etc. Others are die-hard technologists, delving deeper into the quagmire. Whichever direction one chooses, the dynamics of the job market require that everyone takes a position. And we always say, it is better to analyze and pan for the long terms. So what are the possible action points?

Epilogue (So ...)

  • The first thing every professional should do is envision at least the next ten years of their career. Yes life might be more volatile than that but we must start from somewhere. The end game determines the short term steps to some degree

  • One thing I would say to anyone who is still early in their tech career is "learn to code". Software is eating up everything. It could be traditional software development - Java, C#, .NET; data-related coding - SQL, Python, R; or even more recent entrants such as infrastructure as code or IoT languages
  • Relationships are the channel to opportunities. One technologist knows everything and keeps his eyes on his computer. The other knows everyone relevant to their career and gets to know through relationships which computer is actually worth looking at
  • Diversify. Diversify. Diversify. Diversification should go even beyond IT. Are there skills you want to hone that give you are different direction for your future? Is there something you can learn outside what your current employer needs you to learn? Explore that