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Employed for Life - Chapter Three: Innovations

Employed for Life, Chapter Three Excerpt: Innovations

By Wilen,Vien, Daugenti

Technologies with the Potential to Reshape Your Job

All around us, technology works miracles every day. Robotic exoskeletons are helping paraplegics to walk. Surgeons are using virtual reality to perform eye surgery with greater precision than ever before. Robots are going places where it would be dangerous or impossible to humans to venture: into burning buildings and enemy territory during war, and even onto the surface of Mars. Driverless cars are being developed that could bring greater independence to the elderly and disabled, and reduce the number of accidents.

At the same time, technology is reshaping almost every industry and job. It’s changing things so fast that workers can no longer expect to remain employable by keeping their heads down and performing the same tasks, year in, year out, no matter how skilled or knowledgeable they are. Right now, no matter where you work or what you do, there’s a new technology about to change the way you work forever.

Take accounting, for example. Tax preparation software has reduced the need for accountants, but it’s also freed accountants to do more complex and intellectually challenging tasks than filling out simple tax forms. Or think about nurses. Though technology hasn’t eliminated nurses’ jobs, it’s made what they do considerably more complicated. Nurses now have to learn to use such technologies as electronic drug dosing and delivery systems, electronic patient and IV monitors, and electronic health records. And consider the kinds of work you used to do as an intern or a college student or for extra cash in the summertime. Office positions like telephone operator, word processor, and typist have been replaced by automated systems, virtual agent programs are doing call center work, and the Internet and bar coding systems have rendered some library personnel obsolete.

Whatever you do for a living, it’s prudent to keep an eye out for technologies that may prove game-changers. To that end, in this chapter we’ve compiled a list of the top technologies reshaping industries, from ones you use every day, like social media and mobile devices; to those changing the way companies do business, like big data and cloud computing; to those still on the horizon, like space tourism. We’ve included many examples of inventions with the potential to disrupt sectors, like apps that do the work of bank tellers and travel agents, sensors that exponentially increase the amount of data organizations can collect, and wearable drum kits that just plain make musicians look cooler. And we offer some advice for staying employable in a technology-driven workplace.

Big Data

We inhabit a world teeming with data—data that we have only recently been able to collect. Technologies such as sensors and software can convert such phenomena as Facebook posts, customers’ buying habits, patients’ blood glucose levels, and the location of packages into useable information. Data-capturing tools have become so advanced, in fact, that we now have access to more information than traditional data processing applications are able to manage, a happening often termed big data.

Big data has almost unlimited uses, and it’s rapidly changing the way we do business. Retailers, for example, use information streams such as credit card reports, loyalty programs, and visits to websites to track data on customers’ demo- graphics and brand preferences. They then use this data to tailor advertisements to specialized groups. If a customer buys prenatal vitamins and maternity clothes at Target, the company starts sending her coupons for diapers and formula. Online grocer Fresh Direct adjusts its prices and promotions daily based on data gleaned from transactions. Ford, Southwest, Pepsi, and other firms continually monitor social media to assess public reaction to their marketing campaigns. In fact, big data can be used for almost anything, including identifying business trends, assessing the quality of research, preventing diseases, linking legal citations, fighting crime, and determining real-time roadway traffic conditions.

When used properly, big data can help companies improve sales figures and increase efficiency. For example, UPS installs sensors on its trucks that track the vehicles’ condition, speed, direction, and performance, information that helps the company optimize its delivery routes. In 2010, data from these sensors saved UPS 1.7 million miles of driving and 183,000 gallons of fuel.9 McKinsey estimates that the US healthcare industry could save over $300 billion each year by using big data to improve efficiency, and that retailers could use it to increase operating margins by over 60%.

Big data will become one of the hot career fields of the future, as millions of workers will be needed to capture, curate, store, search, share, transfer, analyze, and visualize data. By 2015, big data will create a projected 1.9 million IT jobs in the United States and 4.4 million IT jobs worldwide. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that by 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with the deep analytical skills needed to make sense of big data, and lack 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use big data to make effective decisions.

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Dr. Tracey Wilen is a prominent thought leader on the impact of technology on society, work and careers. She’s been a scholar at Stanford University and has held leadership positions at Apple, HP, Cisco, and the Apollo Group. Dr. Wilen has authored 11 books. Her new book Employed for Life , 21st Century career trends was just released.

She has appeared on CNN, Fox and CBS news, in The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. She frequently contributes to The Huffington Post, the Examiner, and the Christian Science Monitor and is on radio shows across the US weekly as an expert guest. She is a global speaker on the impact of technology on work, careers, and women’s leadership. She was honored by the San Francisco Business Times as a 2012 Most Influential Woman in Bay Area Business., @traceywilen

Dr. Wilen is on a corporate speaking tour on the topic of 21st Century Careers and can be reached, @traceywilen or FB Dr.TraceyWilen

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