I am not a Geek, but I need a job too

Maintaining relevance in this 3rd era of automation

The kind of profession I imagined for myself while in college.

But,

This is how I now think I need to be →a coder.

Why?!

Simple answer, Technological anxiety (oh yes, it is a thing).

I don’t want to be a victim of the inevitable wave of “robots taking over our jobs” which is a simplistic explanation for the impact of advancements in technology in the workplace. If you think I am the only thinking like this, listen to what Yuh-Mei Hutt, of Tallahassee, Florida, has to say (in Davenport and Kirby, 2015);

“The idea that half of today’s jobs may vanish has changed my view of my children’s future.”

Quincy Larson, Teacher at FreeCodeCamp (an open-source community that helps you learn to code, build pro bono projects for nonprofits, and get a job as a developer) has not stopped in his attempt to get more people coding. By consistently reminding us that the jobs we once relied upon are gone and by showing us how lucrative SW Engineering is around the world. Shall I say he has succeeded in getting a lot of people into coding and more “thinking” about it.

See, I would not have been worried if his arguments weren’t stemming from researched work carried out by distinguished researchers such as Thomas “Tom” Davenport, Director of Research at the International Institute for Analytics, contributor to HBR, MIT Sloan Management Review, FT etc. and Andrew McAfee, Author, “The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies”.

Watch this video to get a better understanding of what I am saying.

The question is what do we do, when for most jobs “Humans Need Not Apply?”

Well, Tom D. has been gracious enough to carry out some research in that area and has provided us 5 steps to continued relevances. He is a firm believer in Augmentation → humans+machines=improved productivity. He quotes the words of David Autor, economist at MIT;

Tasks that cannot be substituted by computerization are generally complemented by it

Before we delve into them; let us take a look at the 3 eras of Automation. The image below reveals how the workdone by robots have shifted from just manual labor to automation of routine task now creeping into more cognitive task such as decision-making.

Figure 1: Three Eras of Automation

Davenport’s 5 Steps

Now, we know that the Robots are coming for our jobs, how do we “renegotiate our relationship” with them. Here is Davenport’s recommendation.

  1. Step up
  2. Step aside
  3. Step in
  4. Step narrowly 
    (can you guess the last one?)
  5. Step forward

Figure 2 summarises the Five Steps and how to take them.

Figure 2: Five Paths Toward Employability

Conclusion

Two of the suggestions (step in and step forward) postulated by Davenport are directly related to pursuing some STEM education (for which programming is a major area).

Although you don’t have to learn to code, it might as well be one of your cheapest, surest routes to surviving this wave of automation via stepping in. Compared to stepping up where you are advised to get an MBA/PhD which costs a huge sum (for instance, Cambridge’s MBA program for 2017/18 costs £51,000), you can get started with programming at next to no-costs. Free platforms like freecodecamp — an open source community that helps you learn to code as well as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) such as Codecademy (I used this when I wanted to learn HTML, Ruby, PHP etc). There are also paid schemes but in general, there is massive literature and resource (Udacity, Udemy, Coursera, EdX, Codeschool etc.) in the online world to get one started unto the path of coding (self-taught and even professional college degrees).

Also, platforms like Andela can help you earn while you learn the ropes to World-class SW development.

However, if for some reason, you have sworn never to code, you can go the route of stepping narrowly, stepping aside or stepping up.

In summary, you don’t have to code or be techy to be relevant going forward. Just that…(see the additional information below)

BONUS: Read Davenport’s full article, here.

All the best!
Benjamin

Benjamin Dada is a Masters Student studying Information Technology, Management and Organisational Change at Lancaster University Management School. Also, he writes for TechCityNG.


Additional Information

  1. According to infoweek, salary increases of nearly 9% for Mobile App Developers in 2016.
  2. Automation is taking hold.
Source: Titcomb, 2017

3. Employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations(as at 2015 projection).

4. Finally, most of the jobs I have been eligible to apply for have more job openings for tech-related candidates. Especially, for an international student as me, it would be easier to get a well-paying job within some core tech capacity (such as SW development).