If you work in higher education you need to push back against facial recognition on campus. Here’s how.

Beyond being abused, there are many ways for this technology to fail. Among the most pressing are misidentifications that can lead to false arrest and accusations. … Mistaken identity is more than an inconvenience and can lead to grave consequences.

Joy Buolamwini, “Coded Bias”: New Film Looks at Fight Against Racial Bias in Facial Recognition & AI Technology

tl;dr: Support students and alumni on March 2, a day of action against facial recognition on campus. 

If facial recognition technology is being used on your campus, would you know about it? If it is being used, do you know how it’s impacting the communities you serve?

It’s easy to check out when you hear about facial recognition technology. The term still conjure up images of Minority Report or more recently, thoughts of China. Facial recognition use in every day life feels kind of far off if you’re not working in AI or security industry spaces.

But I’m asking you to check in. Because facial recognition technology is being deployed rapidly here in the US with little to no oversight into how it’s used or who it impacts. Facial recognition technology is being used in school districts, in churches, in restaurants, in grocery and retail stores, in job interviews, in the workplace, in public housing, on flights and cruises, and by police departments.

Continue reading →

The brutality of data-driven management

“We’re not treated as human beings, we’re not even treated as robots. We’re treated as part of the data stream.”

If you’ve followed the news about Amazon warehouse workers, you know what they’re up against. High rates of injury. No time off for sickness or death of loved ones. Fear of taking bathroom breaks because it may wreck their productivity numbers. Constant tracking and surveillance (and maybe being fired by robots?)

If you’re working in a cozy office, it’s easy to ignore the plight of Amazon warehouse workers and scroll right past their stories in your feed.

So I encourage you to watch this short clip from Frontline, not just so you understand what happens behind the scenes when you click on that purchase button. I want you to see how Amazon is shaping our workplaces.

This focus on data-driven management and efficiency over people won’t be limited to Amazon in the future. Amazon is a leader in everything they do. When they experiment with data-driven management and efficiency and it works, others will follow. From the video:

“Amazon is the cutting edge. Other warehouses are starting to adopt these technologies. Other companies are starting to do what Amazon is doing. Data collection can become the standard for all workers. You’re never good enough. You’re never able to keep up.”

Data-driven management mixed with workplace surveillance creates a brutal work environment. This shouldn’t be what we’re building for the future of work.

I don’t know what the solution is. Listen to these stories. Support unions. Don’t order Prime (or order it less). If you’re in tech, don’t use your talents to work for Amazon.

These workers don’t deserve this. This isn’t the future of work we deserve. We have the power to change it.

Podcast rec: The Quantified Worker and Worker Surveillance with Ifeoma Ajunwa

Just dropping this magnificent podcast episode off here.

Ifeoma Ajunwa, the author of the upcoming book, the Quantified Worker, goes pretty deep on automated hiring systems, and how humans encode bias into AI-powered hiring systems. She shares examples of how hiring platforms powered by AI are problematic and the impact on job seekers:

“A lot of hiring systems make use of machine learning algorithms. Algorithms are basically a step by step process for solving any known problem. What you have is a defined set of inputs and you’re hoping to get a defined set of outputs like hire, don’t hire, or in between. When you have machine learning algorithms, it kind of makes it murkier. You have a defined set of inputs, but the algorithm itself is learning. So the algorithm itself is actually creating new algorithms, which you are not defining. The algorithm is learning to how you react from the choices it gives you. It creates new algorithms from that. It can become murky in terms of discerning what attributes the algorithm is defining as important because it’s constantly changing.”

Plus, she covers how employers spy on their workers. This is a must listen for anyone curious about AI in the workplace.

Follow her @iajunwa.


LinkedIn can write your profile summary now

I spend a lot of time writing and speaking about how new technology reshapes job functions and industries. Specifically, I focus on automation tools, how they alter traditional roles, and how employees can adapt. So I’m always on the look out for new features and tools that automate something a human normally does.

This week, I noticed that LinkedIn offers a new feature: LinkedIn will write your summary for you.

My wife was on LinkedIn the other day, a place she rarely visits. She works in healthcare, isn’t job searching, and has zero reason to update her profile. As such, her profile is a barren place. But she checked in and saw this in place of her empty summary:

When she clicked to expand, she saw this:

Her first reaction was surprise followed by laughter. Though she doesn’t like writing a summary, she told me she’d never write something like that. It’s not her style.

The summary is slightly inaccurate and reads like an outdated objective statement from a resume in the 90’s. It sounds like a corporate website devoid of personality.

But that’s probably the point. A lot of professionally written LinkedIn profiles read like corporate websites. I used to work for an outplacement company that has an entire team dedicated to writing resumes (those resumes which always included an outdated objective statement, much to my disappointment (side note: objective statements are a polarizing topic in resume writing circles. I land firmly on the side of hating them with a passion)). No matter how the resume was written before the review process, they all sounded like the statement above after the resume team worked on it. Standardization is easier than personalization.

Corporate speak written by humans is very popular on LinkedIn and within the resume/LinkedIn writing community. Since this feature was likely trained on data from LinkedIn profiles, it’s not surprising to see this type of summary.

That’s not a bad thing either. Style aside, this feature is actually really helpful. If you can’t afford a professional LinkedIn writer to redo your profile, you’re in a rush, or you’re just not one for words, LinkedIn’s automated summary will most definitely do the trick for you. At the very least, it’ll get you started on writing a summary.

Writing LinkedIn summaries is hard. Writing them with flair and personality is harder. It takes practice and skill for a human to do it well. It’s impressive to see this coming from a machine yet still a good reminder machines still generally suck at creative flair and personality.

I’ve got a sweet spot for automation tools that are creeping into my former industry: career coaching. In my talks, I tell a story about how a machine came for my job when I was a global career coach at Yale School of Management. I use it to show audiences how automation tools aren’t limited to warehouses and accountants, and that we all need to adapt, even career coaches.

Career coaches do many things. They give direction. They review resumes, write cover letters and LinkedIn profiles. They listen to your stories and give you feedback. Career coaching at its heart is a people profession. It’s about relationships and communication.

But that doesn’t mean it’s immune to new technology. I wrote before about how machine learning and artificial intelligence are changing career coaching. From resumes built by AI, to resumes reviewed by machine learning, to chatbots that coach you, to an automated summary for LinkedIn, automation tools that do the work that career coaches do are growing.

They might not be that great right now. But these machines will learn how to get better. They’ve got plenty of humans to teach them.

Should your boss have access to sensitive data about you?

Think about the the worst boss you’ve ever had.

Think of the most toxic work environment you’ve ever worked in.

Now imagine those people having access to:

  • Your work productivity levels
  • When you leave the work building, return to the work building.
  • Your sleep habits.
  • Your health habits.

How might those people use your data at your place of work? Would access to more data about your habits make things better for you or worse?

These are the questions we need to be asking as workplace surveillance tools being to creep into our workplaces.

The Wall Street Journal has a new, and rather uncritical, look at the surveillance technology that companies are using to monitor and assess employee behavior. And it’s creepy af.

The Humble Office ID Badge is About to Be Unrecognizable

Give it a read.

And if you’re tempted to say but I have nothing to hide please read these three articles:

Why ‘Anonymized Data’ Isn’t So Anonymous

8 Things You Need to Know about Surveillance

AI is going to make your asshole manager even worse

Thinking about a career change in 2020? Pick one of these conversations to fire you up

“It’s insane to think that we should know what we want to do forever or that it’s somehow a better life or we’re a more successful person if we’ve done one thing. I mean, it’s really just outdated. It doesn’t make any sense. You know that’s not true.” – Alexandra, episode 5 of the 50 Conversations podcast for career changers

In my podcast for career changers, there’s a reoccurring theme when it comes to our careers: lifetime careers no longer exist. And while we all kind of know that, it’s so damn refreshing to hear people talk about it openly. It’s even better to hear how people have adapted to this new world of multiple career changes.

I’ve been slowly releasing episodes from my podcast for career changers over the past four months. The goal of the podcast is to both normalize career changes and show the many ways people make a career change.

In the podcast, I ask guests who have changed careers exactly how they did it. It’s a casual conversation, usually under 20 minutes, and perfect for a commute. We chat about the ups and downs of career changes, the many ways to learn new skills, the process of upskilling, and always end with outstanding advice for career changes.

podcast for career changers

My podcast for career changers is like having a career coach in your pocket; you’re sure to find something in these episodes that resonates with you. It’s better than taking a career assessment any day.

So I’m sharing a round up of episodes that shows you the many ways to change careers. Whether you’re the person who needs a career change but don’t know what to do or someone who just needs career change help these are the podcast episodes for you.

Continue reading →

Upskilling higher education: University staff need professional development too

I left my last job in higher education because I saw no professional path forward. When I looked at my options for professional development I saw a future with no chance to upgrade my skills.

Despite loving my job, the students, and my talented colleagues, I left my job in pursuit of new challenges.

I hear from many talented people in higher education who are curious about leaving. They feel torn. They love the work but worry about their professional futures. They don’t see a path forward. They have ambivalent managers. They also don’t know how to leave.

I hear this from others outside the higher ed too. These are common complaints in my generation:

My job doesn’t offer any opportunity to learn anything new.

My job doesn’t challenge me.

My manager has no idea how to help me.

The data shows that higher education staff want to upskill

While I’ve been collecting anecdotes from higher education staff, the researchers at Academic Impressions have been collecting quantitative data. In the report, Beating Turnover in Higher Ed,Academic Impressions surveyed 2,577 higher education professionals.

Among their top findings: people in higher education leave because they’re not provided with professional development opportunities.

The numbers are rather shocking, even for someone who is used to hearing from people asking how to leave higher education:

Continue reading →

The new world of work: Skills > Tenure

Here’s a quote that should light a fire in any mid-career professional who’s been on a corporate treadmill the past five years:

Constant upskilling and digital dexterity will outweigh tenure and experience

6 Ways the Workplace Will Change in the Next 10 Years

We’ve all been raised and educated to think that tenure and experience will keep us employed and indemand as we grow in our career. It appears that is no longer the case, at least according to research from Gartner. More on that:

By 2028, the most high-value work will be cognitive in nature. Employees will have to apply creativity, critical thinking and constant digital upskilling to solve complex problems. “The demand for digital skills has grown by 60% over the past several years. In today’s digital economy, the demand for new ideas, new information and new business models that continually expand, combine and shift into new ventures and new businesses will increase,” says Griffin. “Employees must consistently refresh their digital dexterity to meet these needs.”

Predictions are never for sure but one thing that is for sure is that we’ve already seen tenure become less valued in the workplace. We saw it after the crash in 2008 when our friends and family were laid off without any regard for experience. We see it in older workers who struggle to get work despite having decades of experience in our industry. We see it in discussions about the future of work, as employers debate whether to train their existing workforce or hire new people with the digital and data fluency to thrive in digital transformation (the implication being that the old workforce will simple be laid off).

As I write in my book, skills are the currency in our new world of work.

The brutality of work as a content moderator

We talk a lot about emerging jobs in the future of work. One job that has emerged in the last decade is content moderator. Content moderators work behind the scenes – invisible to most – to help keep horrific content out of our social feeds.

And they suffer greatly for it. A new report by The Verge, The Terror Queue, presents the horrible reality of content moderation. In the article, they share that moderators are often underpaid and subjected to horrific mental working conditions. This quote puts it into perspective:

“Every day you watch someone beheading someone, or someone shooting his girlfriend.”

Imagine that were your job. Then imagine this is how management supported you:

Google content moderators in Austin are required to view five hours of gruesome video per day.

Managers for Accenture routinely force employees to work into their break time, deny them vacation time

Google offers one standard of medical care to full-time content moderators, another for contractors. Contractors get almost no paid medical leave. –

Workers at Google are often not informed about the potential mental health consequences of content moderation when they apply for jobs.

Content moderators, according to the article, make roughly $18/hr, or $37,000 a year. And not all of them have the same access to medical care, with contractors having little to no access.

In one example, moderators with rare language skills, are immigrants trying to become US citizens. They’re employed as contractors to review Middle Eastern content:

Peter, who has done this job for nearly two years, worries about the toll that the job is taking on his mental health. His family has repeatedly urged him to quit. But he worries that he will not be able to find another job that pays as well as this one does: $18.50 an hour, or about $37,000 a year.

Like many of his co-workers working in the VE queue in Austin, Peter is an immigrant. Accenture recruited dozens of Arabic speakers like him, many of whom grew up in the Middle East. The company depends on his language skills — he speaks seven — to accurately identify hate speech and terrorist propaganda and remove it from YouTube.

Several workers I spoke with are hoping to become citizens, a feat that has only grown more difficult under the Trump administration. They worry about speaking out — to a manager, to a journalist — for fear it will complicate their immigration efforts.

There’s a cruelty here that is hard to reconcile. I don’t know if the managers at Google and Accenture know what content moderators deal with, or if they’re happy to just ignore it.

In all honestly, I don’t even know what the answer is for this type of work. The article profiles other content moderators who are making more money, and even they are having breakdowns and PTSD.

The brutality of this type of work can’t be overstated. Yet it’s invisible to most of us as we carry along scrolling and scrolling and scrolling through our social feeds.

2020 is the Year of Upskilling

Feb 2020 Update! If you’re curious about upskilling, check out my LinkedIn Live session, WTF is Upskilling?

Last August, I spent the month teaching my audience how to upskill themselves. Upskilling is one of those words that’s still a little bit out of reach for most people. It hasn’t entered mainstream just yet.

That’s all about to change in 2020. Upskilling is going to go mainstream in people’s professional lives. First, people love to kick off a new decade with big, bold moves. People are eager to build on ideas from the previous decade and start again, both in their professional and personal lives.

Second, the pace at which change is happening in our workplace is staggering. LinkedIn featured two posts this past week that highlighted the shifts we’re already seeing in the workplace. The first, “Where have all the secretaries gone?” covered the disappearance of administrative assistant jobs, often staffed by women without degrees. There was a quote in that article that really struck me:

Rita Maxwell had no idea she was about to lose the job she’d had for nearly 20 years when her boss told her to meet him in the conference room at the end of the work day. “I was completely taken aback when he called me into the meeting room to let me know my position had been eliminated,” said Maxwell, who was let go in early 2017. “There’s just not a lot of loyalty anymore.” Administrative assistant jobs helped propel many women into the middle class. Now they’re disappearing.


The death of employee loyalty is just one of many changes happening in our workplace.

The second article that LinkedIn highlighted was on the teacher shortage. More teachers are opting out of teaching because of low pay. While our lack of teachers is a national problem, it struck me because teaching used to be a sure fire fulfilling career path. It was the secure job that people often changed into when they wanted an escape or were burned out. Now days, not so much.

In addition to the two articles, I also stumbled on this map of the fastest disappearing jobs in the US by state.

On top of that, we see more articles about the new types of jobs created by new technology. Articles like this one, which highlights architects working in video game design as a creative way to apply their skills. It’s yet another traditional career path that’s adapting to our new world of work.

It’s also enough to get any burnt out architect thinking, how do I get into that?!

New career advice book: Punch Doubt in the Face: How to Upskill, Change Careers, and Beat the Robots
I wrote a book to teach people how to upskill.

It’s time to upskill yourself

The result is that a lot more people are starting to see the impact, good and bad, of new technology in their workplace. And they’re looking for ways to adapt.

Upskilling is adaptation. Though upskilling isn’t a household term just yet, it will be in 2020 thanks to the impact of recent changes in the workplace.

Upskilling is a verb and a mindset. It’s the act of learning new skills to improve your professional life. It’s also a willingness to accept that things are changing, take charge of your learning and development, and not burry your head in the sand.

While the term upskilling is frequently thrown around in articles as if one can just upskill tomorrow, upskilling is not an easy process. Every time I read an article in a big publication (looking at you HBR) by a corporate leader declaring that our collective workforce simply needs to upskill, I roll my eyes. Often these articles are written by people who haven’t actually upskilled themselves.

In fact, upskilling is downright hard. I say this as someone who is doing it and as someone who just wrote a book teaching people how to upskill. It’s hard because we haven’t been taught how to do it.

It makes me think of a quote I read last year from Tech in Asia, How to stay relevant in today’s rapidly-changing job market:

The benefits of the comfort zone are appealing. Steady (though not always satisfying) incomes, “secure” jobs, relaxed routines, and predictable schedules are as comforting to humans as they are to animals. In this phase, people limit their learning to things they learn on the job, not knowing that yesterday’s lessons rarely solve tomorrow’s challenges… Without skill upgrades or a willingness to learn, people are caught in a rut. They are unable to see when the next trend is about to catch up or when the current one is about to die. For the few that can see the new trend, the pain of having to upgrade their skills far supersedes the pleasure of staying in the comfort zone.


The comfort zone is cozy. But it’s the opposite of adaptation. A lot of mid-career professionals need to escape the comfort zone.

Making a plan in 2020 to upskill yourself

If you’re curious about how to upskill yourself, follow me on LinkedIn where I’ll be hosting trainings in January and February. You can also dive into some of my previous posts to get a handle on where we’re headed in the future of work (or get my book):

AI is Going to Wreck Your Carefully Planned Career

The Pain of Upskilling

If listening is more your style, here’s recent podcast I did on how to outsmart artificial intelligence and develop your future.

If you’re looking to upskill your workforce, take a look at how I teach employees how to upskill and invite me to speak to your employees.