At the Express IT Awards 2017 held in Bengaluru on December 7, a panel discussion on “Future of Technology Jobs” unfolded. CXOs and experts from the industry brought in varying perspectives on the widely debated topic of automation.
Sunil Jain, Managing Editor, Financial Express, in his opening remarks highlighted how technology has the potential to change India. Edited excerpts:
How do you perceive the overall current job scenario in the Indian IT industry?
Krishnakumar Natarajan, Executive Chairman, Mindtree: Artificial intelligence, machine learning or augmented reality — are all a reality. Any quantum movement in technology will also have a significant impact on productivity. So there is certainly going to be loss of jobs, which are mainly monotonous. There would be new jobs, like customer experience specialist and data scientist.
Vishal Dhupar, Managing Director, Nvidia India: Each time a major revolution takes place, people ask the same question —what will happen to jobs? I believe there is a tremendous opportunity in the age where automation is going to be automated further.
Akhila Vasudevan, Executive Director, IBM India: We are talking about business processes led by technology and supported by people versus led by people and supported by technology in the past. Obviously, it has to have an impact and we have to accept that. It is traditional change management that will come into play. Efficiencies are going to get realised. The question is what is it that we need to do in order to reskill the workforce.
Prof. Sadagopan, Director, IIIT-B: The next stage is IoT, at the micro level, and at a much larger level, there will be robots. There is going to be phenomenal opportunity. The number of jobs being created is going to be much larger than what we have seen.
Padmaja Alaganandan, Advisory partner, People and Organisation Practice Leader, PwC: The concept of a job wherein you are locked with somebody over a period of time, is already reducing and it is going to continue. Repeatable jobs will not be relevant anymore. That means skilling – not just in terms of cutting-edge new technologies but also learning about a business and its value chain.
Irfan Abdulla, Director (Talent & Learning Solutions), LinkedIn: If you look at the workforce of the future, there are three trends. First is the rise of AI. During 2014-16, jobs that required AI went up from 50,000 to 440,000. That is real and it is happening across industries.
Skill gap is a real problem. Not only in India, if you look at mature markets like the US, about 6 million jobs are there but 7.1 million people are unemployed. This shows there is a skill gap. The third point which is going to really shape the future workforce is the rise of independent workforce.
What is your perspective on reskilling?
Krishnakumar Natarajan: Skilling is going to become the priority. The skills required for tomorrow are going to be very different. The pedagogy of learning needs to change and what skills you impart to the workforce needs to change. How do you create an ecosystem to do that? We need to accelerate that process. The transition is too slow, we need to move much faster.
Vishal Dhupar: We will have to reskill the workforce because what industrial revolution allowed us to do in 70 years, may be artificial intelligence is going to give us a span of 20 years. The speed at which we can reskill is the most critical path.
Akhila Vasudevan: The next level of jobs can be created around the ability to work with cognitive computing. Most importantly AI cannot operate without content. It is very important to be able to look at content creation and to be able to ingest that into the AI systems.
Irfan Abdulla: Today, every company is a digital company, irrespective of the industry. We have seen big data picking up. A lot of people are saying that AI will take away jobs. Today, there are jobs, like IoT officer and data scientist. The average life span of skill has changed dramatically. Firms are not just focusing on the technical skills, but also soft skills. So you need creativity, adaptability and innovation. If you are looking at hiring people for today, the reality is that in two years, the skill needed will be very different.