Technology as a tool

Many parents often ask me what careers their children should pursue. Should they study science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, or the traditional areas such as Finance, Banking, Medicine, and Law?

I told them NOT to force their children into WHAT to study, as it creates unnecessary pressure and confusion, but instead, they should encourage their children to develop a career plan so they can prepare for their future themselves. When students become directly engaged in their career planning process, they take their education seriously.

However, I advise parents to encourage their children to focus on developing a lifelong learning habit. It does not matter what they study, but they must understand that education is a lifelong endeavor as they will have to adjust to changes in the job market. Because technology changes quickly, all students will need to be able to learn new skills, develop new knowledge, think critically, and take advantage of the best opportunities that happen throughout their lives.

Students need to understand that education is the foundation on which they build their future, and a college education is a minimum requirement in today’s technology-driven world. I often advise students: ” It does not matter what you study, but you must have technology skills and develop a lifelong learning habit. Today technology is becoming an important skill just like reading, writing, and mathematics. Everyone needs to be able to use computers, search for information on the Internet, use word processors, and download apps. These skills are now common and useful in every profession.”

In the past, after graduating from college, people often work in one job for the rest of their lives. Now, things are changing, and after graduate, most people will only stay in a job for about seven years, many will change job often for a better opportunity. The reason is in this fast changing world of technologies, innovations will cause disruption to every industry, many jobs will disappear, and new jobs will be created. For example, many factory jobs are now done by machines instead of people. Soon, transportation jobs will be done by self-driving trucks and cars, and office jobs will also be replaced by “machines with artificial intelligence.” What will happen to human? There are jobs in the future that smart machines cannot do, such as create another smarter machines, but ONLY people who have this new skills will be able to take advantage of these new jobs. Without lifelong learning skills, some people will NOT survive, as they will be left behind.

Some of you may not see this disruption coming or may not believe it. However, change is happening so fast that you cannot even imagine. For example, many automobile companies already predicted that within ten years, self-driving cars would be much safer than human-driven cars and they are debating now whether they should continue to build cars for people to drive or not. With the Internet of Things (IoT) technology, people can control many things in their house just by verbally telling the computer what to do, without using the keyboard. For example, set house temperatures at a certain degree, turn on music, cook foods, read the news or select TV channel, etc.

As students, you will learn many things, but the most important thing is to know WHAT YOU DO NOT KNOW then find where can you find the answer or acquire new knowledge. You always need to learn new things, enrich your knowledge and develop a passion for continuous learning. Regardless of what you do and what you study, technology is the tool that you can use to improve your work. For example, if you study arts, you can use software and graphic tools to design or using a 3D printer to print whatever you can imagine. If you study music, you can use software application and program it to play any music instrument based on your creative mind. If you study architecture, you can use CAD/CAM applications to construct any sophisticated design that you have in your mind. After all, computer technology is a tool for you to use, just like paper and pencil. If you know how to take advantage of technology to enhance your work, you will do well.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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