The future of work

There was a question at last nights Sydney Testers meetup event with James Bach, “What is the future of software testing with AI and automation?” Have a read of “Weapons on Math destruction“, it’s about how big data is driving inequality. I think testers are in a good position to raise questions around the ethics of Big Data. I’m not too concerned about our current state of AI drastically changing how I work. The tools I use might change but I’m going to remain being a tester for the foreseeable near future.

If I was to look into my broken crystal ball on future proof work this is what I’d be telling anyone who listens:

Become a nurse

Hear me out, if you are a high school student contemplating what to do and you don’t really have an idea but you know you want to go to uni and study something. Pick a nursing degree, especially if you are male. Men just aren’t taking up this robotic proof work.

With an ageing population more and more people will need care in the future and you have an almost guaranteed job for the rest of your life. You can do an accelerated nursing degree within 2 years and if you decide nursing isn’t for you, at least you didn’t waste that much time at uni and you learnt something practical.

Try it out first

If you are looking into trying this field out, approach your local nursing home or disability support group for a few weeks of work experience. If you can deal with other people’s shit (sometimes quite literally) consider going into health care.

Suicide impacts older generations more, this demographic are often stuck in nursing homes and are disconnected from their families. Robots aren’t exactly going to able to replace that need for human connection for these people. An aged care nurse will be providing services to growing market demands.

Other health care services are prime for automation and disruption. A machine learning algorithm based on probability and linking your symptoms to likely causes could replace 90% of General Practitioners work. Drug dispensing machines that access your prescriptions through the internet could replace pharmacists. Health care will be a growing market but could be changing.

Any existing work that has a strong focus on people is going to be hard to automate; parenting, teaching, recruitment are a few I could list off the top of my head. Maybe people thought the same thing about bank tellers 30 years ago?

Many new roles will exist

in 10 years time there will be new roles on the market. 10 years ago who knew that “Social Media Guru” would be a thing? If you have some basic web skills (HTML and CSS) and a passion for marketing I think you’ve got yourself a fairly guaranteed position for the foreseeable future. Email marketing is still a big thing and how long have we had emails for?

Most new jobs that are created tomorrow will not have a clear path from uni today into them. People will need to be adaptable and will experience career changes. What you study probably won’t be related to your work all that closely. Why consider doing an expensive 4-5 year degree at uni when there’s many shorter ways to get to work out there. If I knew someone who wanted to work in tech tomorrow, I’d suggest doing a 12 week coding bootcamp program over going to university. I didn’t really learn much hands on technical skills at uni through my computer science degree and I’ve learnt more stuff on the job.

Having a learning mentality is more important.

Once you have a degree in anything, studying a masters for a career change becomes an option too. Why not do an accelerated 2 year degree just to get a piece of paper?

If I had a spare 15-30K I’d be studying Data Science or a masters in teaching, but I don’t because I’ve been bad with my finances. I really enjoy teaching people and I don’t need a masters degree to practice that.

Don’t follow you passions

You know that sentiment, “follow your passion and you will never work a day in your life”? That’s a load of baloney, throw that shit in the bin before it infects you further. It’s harmful wishful thinking. If you do know what you want to do and how to get there, good for you. Most people aren’t in that situation, me included. acknowledge what type of work engages you and what interests you but don’t conflate passion and work.

I find testing engaging work and I’ve made it my passion but I didn’t go through high school telling myself, “when I grow up I want to be a tester”. Often the work you do will not be what you expected. I never thought I’d be doing mobile testing for a meditation app but here I am.

I want to teach people; there’s a market for learning technical skills. It’s something to work towards that combines my skills and interests but I didn’t know I wanted to do this 6+ months ago. It’s been a recent evolution. Heck, if paying off my credit card debt wasn’t one of my main focuses I’d probably be working in a brewery. 

A lot of work is prime for automation

Automation is coming for all of our jobs. Even people who work in technology aren’t safe. However if nursing doesn’t appeal to you, consider doing engineering. Even if automation changes how we work, we will still need bridges, buildings and infrastructure to support everyone. Unless we figure out how to upload our consciences to the internet, then I have no friggin’ idea  what work would look like. 

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