The early 1990s was a glum time. The economy had tanked, once-powerful industries such as steelmaking had been decimated, and unemployment was rampant. Economists at the time predicted a long slog of stagnation for the decade ahead.
Then, in the mid-1990s, something incredible happened. The internet opened to commercialization, and the World Wide Web exploded. Technologists became market makers, leaping from roles as corporate efficiency drivers to business revolutionaries. Business leaders and professionals became, in many senses, technology revolutionaries in their own right, leveraging the power of computers and online resources to bring innovative concepts to emerging online markets.
We are seeing a similar shift these days with the advent of democratized AI. Putting AI power in the hands of everybody means new ways of working and doing business. This means executives and professionals alike need to understand it’s growing impact on their career aspirations.
This is not lost on today’s professionals, of course — at least 81% believe using or growing their understanding of generative AI will be essential in progressing their careers, a recent survey of 1,000 mid-level office professionals conducted by Censuswide and commissioned by SnapLogic. Nearly 50% use generative AI for research, and 21% use it for coding.
Still, it’s early in the revolution. More than two-thirds of the employees, 68%, say they don’t have enough of an understanding of generative AI for their current roles, and 53% want more training and guidance.
Across the business spectrum, company leaders are grasping the impact AI is having on careers and jobs. “Everyone needs to understand what AI is and what it can do,” says Rachel Roumeliotis, vice president of AI and data content strategy at O’Reilly Media. “Beyond understanding what AI tools are capable of, the next thing to do is understand how to bend it to your will.” That’s where skills such as prompt engineering come into play. “Being able to get what you need out of a tool like ChatGPT will be important as this is the new Excel.”
AI may disrupt job roles, but “it also creates new career opportunities,” says Frederique Arnold, senior vice president of human resources for GTT. “AI excels at tasks like data analysis and automation, but human skills such as critical thinking, creativity, emotional intelligence, and problem-solving still remain highly valuable.”
That’s why aspiring professionals and managers need to “focus on developing these skills that are difficult to replicate through AI, as they are essential for managing teams, building relationships, and making complex decisions,” Arnold continues. “The popular notion that AI will replace human jobs is inaccurate. AI will enhance human capabilities, not replace them. AI will enable the human workforce to take on more strategic and creative roles within their organizations, so I believe AI can lead to exciting career prospects.”
Executives and professionals don’t need to know the technical details of building and deploying AI, says Anantha Sekar, AI lead at TCS. “The key is understanding what AI can do, how to benefit from it, what the risks are and how to mitigate those risks.”
As was the case in the digital revolution that started in the mid-1990s, skills involving “innovation, delivery of experiences and entrepreneurship are all going to become tremendously important,” Sekar continues. “Every worker will need to sharpen their critical thinking and situational judgment. We’re going to need more management as a skill, not less. AI is bringing massive and rapid change, and change management will become vital in helping people adopt to new ways of working.”
The effects of the AI revolution are still uneven. “In the short term, we can expect the biggest impacts in education, law, communications and other types of knowledge-work — that is where we are going to see a lot of changes, quickly,” says Sekar. “In the more medium-term, manufacturing, logistics, supply chains will also change – not just because of AI, but other innovations that will overlap with AI, like Internet of Things, predictive analytics, and 3D printing.”
In order to remain competitive, “business leaders have to understand how AI can be utilized as a tool to improve productivity, decision-making, and efficiency regardless of whether their role is technical or not,” Arnold agrees. “Professionals who grasp AI concepts can make more informed decisions regarding the adoption, implementation, and utilization of AI applications within their respective domains. They can proactively identify areas within their organization where AI can be leveraged for process optimization, cost reduction, customer experience enhancement, or competitive advantage. They can recognize the potential of AI to drive innovation, identify new revenue streams, and improve operational efficiency.”
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