Skills For Surviving The Apocalypse..

It’s a Monday evening and I’m perusing the web when I stumble across a brilliantly written article on, the gist — how the traditional infrastructure tech companies like Dell & EMC are the “walking dead” when compared to born on the web companies.

Coincidentally, I’m waiting for one of the few programs I still watch on TV — The Walking Dead — How is Glenn not dead??

Anyway, getting back to the WIRED article and the reason why Amazon, Facebook, Google have had to build their own infrastructure was due to cost and scaling restrictions presented by the traditional infrastructure tech companies..

It got me thinking, is there a parallel with the disruption that has occurred in the enterprise computing industry, to the disruption that is occurring in the employment market..

Here’s your chance to bail — Some entertaining cats?

Lets go back to 2006 and compare the relatively prescriptive paths facing an engineer when buying IT infrastructure, to the careers decisions awaiting a student coming out of college.

  • In 2006 an engineer tasked with finding an infrastructure solution would have selected Dell/HP for hardware and EMC for storage, all using proprietary software, relatively straightforward.

Fast forward to 2016, this model has completely changed — now there’s real choice, Facebook, Amazon and Google have all open sourced their cloud computing models, these models have been adopted by the likes of MemSQL & MongoDB and have driven massive improvements around efficiencies with big data, cost and scalability.

In comparison, now lets look at the choices a student faced 10 years ago..

  • Again in 2006 a student would have selected a relatively prescriptive college course that would have more or less set you on a specific career path e.g. business course — finance career, Marketing course — Sales career, Science course — IT / Engineering career, etc..

The employment model has also faced similar disruption, not least in part from the largest recession in the last 50 years but I believe it’s more nuanced then that, just like the drive for innovation in enterprise computing to cloud computing, there has also been a like wise drive for innovation in the skills required from a potential hire.

Job for life!

A job for life died a longtime ago but for some strange reason this concept or sense of entitlement still lingers, we need to get very comfortable with the idea of constant change as the norm. To represent the seismic shift in the employment market look at some numbers, at a high level lets compare Gen Y, X and baby boomers.

A recent activity carried out by Workopolis analysed 7 million Canadian CV’s and asked the following questions,

How many jobs have they had in your career?

No Of Jobs

  • 1–6%
  • 2–8%
  • 3–14%
  • 4–15%
  • 5–13%
  • 5 and 10 28%
  • More then 10 16%

It turns out that Gen X spends over 20 percent longer in each job they hold than Gen Y does.

Gen X worked an average of 3.2 jobs in the first 12 years of their career, staying approximately 41 months or 3.4 years in each job.

Just ten years later, the cohort graduating in 2002 — Gen Y, held 3.9 jobs over their first 12 years on the job market, with a shorter tenure of 32.5 months or 2.7 years in each job on average.

Gen Y changed jobs 22 per cent more often over a 12-year period than Gen X did.

How many different career paths have they followed?

  • 1–24%
  • 2–35%
  • 3–24%
  • 4–9%
  • 5+ 8%

Just under a quarter have had 3 different career paths — this is in contrast to two-thirds of Canadian “Baby Boomers” (Born between ’46 to ’64) entered their fifties in long-time employment — holding down jobs they had been in for at least 12 years with the same employer. In fact, more than 50% had worked for the same firm or organisation for far longer > 20 years or more.

Let me stress, this has nothing to do with a Gen X / Y thing, it’s a reflection of a market change in a few short years that previously would have taken a generation to change. The World Economic forum recently addressed this this subject calling it the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Interestingly, Gen Z is only 3 years away from hitting the employment market, some interesting observations..

So what skills will we need to survive in this Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Today we’ve become immune to technology announcements, which is a real shame, I appreciate that there’s a lot of “noise” out there but the likes of autonomous transport, advanced materials biotechnology are transforming the way we live and work — A friend here in Dublin had a crown designed and made in the Dentist in the same day from a 3D printer, how cool is that?

Unfortunately some jobs will disappear, others will grow and jobs that don’t even exist today will become commonplace. What is certain is that the current / future workforce will need to align its skillset to keep pace of new products, new technologies and new ways of working.

Personally, it’s virtually impossible to predict where the future market is going but below are some of the attributes that have helped me,

  • Complex Problem Solving — Being able to understand at speed the fundamentals of a complex problem and present potential solutions.
  • People Management — Not just managing functional team’s but interacting and understanding multiple disciplines and personalities
  • Emotional Intelligence — Being able to take the pulse of the real emotions either from a personal or company point of view and act upon it..
  • Technical Literacy — This is MANDATORY, knowing how basic technology works, things like understanding basic programming, frameworks, databases & API’s..
  • Negotiation — Everything comes down to negotiation and compromise, so learn how to do negotiate.
  • Sales — Again this is MANDATORY If you can’t sell yourself — It’s doesn’t matter how good you or your services are!
  • Adaptability — Shifting your mindset to be comfortable with change..

I have not prioritised these skills because I feel they all have their time and place. For me, the most important asset mentioned above is adaptability and being comfortable with being uncomfortable..

I’ve been lucky enough to experience several career paths on different continents and I believe a career with multiple strands can give you a big advantage in future proofing your personal revenue streams!

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Charles Darwin

Just ask Nokia, RIM, Blockbusters, Kodak (They invented the digital camera!) and the entire Newspaper industry!

Hope this was insightful and see you next month!

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