Technology and jobs part 2

Last week, in the Information System Management class, a student asked: “If technology is getting more advance, most companies, government offices, and factories will automate their business processes or use robots to replace workers than what kind of job can people do?

I told him: “There are many job opportunities for people. People will always be ahead of technology because people create technology. When technology changes, people jobs will also change accordingly. Let us look back fifty years ago when people used typewriters. The requirement for a typist job is the ability to type about 40 words per minute. Today, how many of you are seeing typewriter being used in company? How many typist job are being advertised? Probably none because computer have replaced the typewriter and word processor software have replaced the typist. The question is what happened to typists when there is no typist job anymore? Of course, many of them has become secretary or software programmer.”

“The same thing also happened when the computer was invented. The requirement for computer programmer job is the ability to program in binary code. Eventually, programming languages were invented so we have Assembly language, then Basic, Pascal, C, C++, Java and more advanced programming languages today. As technology advances, people skills will also advance accordingly. Today there are many new technologies and many new jobs. For every new technology, there are hundreds of new jobs created for people. As long as you are willing to learn new skills, you should not worry.”

Another student asked: “Today, the hot technology is “Cloud Computing” that can automates many works that have been performed by IT workers. If a company moves to cloud computing, these workers will no longer be needed. Many cloud computing consultants have stated that cloud computing can help company cuts costs, substitutes automation for inefficient workers, increases profits by laying people off.”

I answered: “Those are misinformation about cloud computing. Cloud computing is about efficiency NOT about replacing people. First, it can help decrease computing cost because company does not have to buy more hardware. Second, it can help company to focus on its main business, and not to worry about information technology. In my opinion, cloud computing is about replacing skills, NOT replacing people. Of course, some lower-skilled IT jobs may be eliminated. People who cannot update their skills to work in a highly automated environment will have difficult time. People who provide supports such as back-up data, installations, data recovery, update applications, manage servers may see that their jobs are switching to the cloud computing service providers. However, IT workers who are willing to learn new skills will have a brighter future. Currently the demand for IT service manager is so great that demand has exceeded supply. I also believe that people who can plan, manage, design and build cloud computing system and applications will be in high demand. Today and in the next few years, Software as a Service (SaaS) and Cloud computing will dominate the IT industry. Many manual skills will be replaced by automation. With automation, the skills will change to more service oriented and these jobs will require at least a college degree or more.”

“As cloud computing is being implemented in many places, the demand for people who understand cloud computing software will increase. Certain skills such as network design, servers partitioning, disaster recovery, distributed data storage, transactional management, performance testing, system administration, capacity management, financial analyst, Incident management, service management, change management etc. will be needed.”

As technology continues to change, jobs will evolve and people need to update their skills accordingly. That is why knowing what will change? Knowing what skills are needed today and tomorrow is very important. As long as you are willing to learn new things, updating your skills then you should not worry.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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