Preparing students for a fluid workplace

What tweaks could we make to the college curriculum that would help students prepare for the changing workforce? This quote from the article, The Global University Employability Ranking 2017, at the Times Higher Education, offers a clever solution:

“The way organisations have to work these days needs to be very fluid. In that kind of world it is important to have people who are really flexible, able to create networks within their organisations and very comfortable working in virtual teams and particularly [what we call] leading beyond authority: not necessarily having to get things done because they are in a team that has a boss,” he says.

But he is “not sure” that the implications of this are “well understood by the academic world and, therefore, when we throw a new graduate into [work] it can be quite overwhelming [for the graduate]”. One solution, he suggests, is for university courses to have more group projects, with assessment focused on the process that the participants go through, rather than the outcome.

Flourishing in such an environment requires “reflection and understanding”, and especially learning from mistakes, Saha says. He is sceptical that this aspect of professional competence is well explored in universities currently, but “in the working world, that is the bit that can be make or break”.

He’s spot on in his assessment and solution. Focusing on group work and assessing participants on their process, instead of outcomes, could go a long way to help students identify their strengths, weaknesses, and improve their leadership and collaboration skills. What really struck me in that sentence is that focusing on process, rather than outcomes, is the opposite of American business culture. American learning and working culture is focused specifically on outcomes – we’re obsessed with assessing programs. Managers evaluate employees based on their results, not collaboration.

I’ve never in my work life been on a team that was evaluated on how well they worked on a project together. It’s almost a revolutionary suggestion.

How much should this AI Chatbot Writer job pay?

Hybrid jobs are all the rage currently and are some of the top paying jobs in the market right now. If you’ve got soft skills, business acumen, and technical skills, you’ve got the ticket to a high paying job.

Hybrid roles are super interesting to follow because they are so new. Their descriptions and responsibilities differ from one organization to another. This is particularly the case with AI interaction designers, a emerging job category I’m paying a lot of attention to lately (in part because I’m slightly obsessed with chatbot design as of late.) Diane Kim, who designs the friendly virtual assistant bot at x.ai, summed up this emerging field in her interview with Wendy and Wade, a career advising chatbot:

“The fact that AI Interaction Design is so new gives me the freedom to be experimental. I also have the unique opportunity to be part of defining an entirely new field. This is actually both what is most exciting and most challenging about my job…But it’s challenging because none of us really know what this is yet — we’re all figuring it out together. It’s really different from, say, being a recent grad in your typical UX role for a visual interface, with decades of research and best practices to follow. We don’t have the same industry standards or guidelines yet for conversational design, but the fun part is figuring them out as we go.”

So it’s within that context that I examined this AI chatbot writer role from JustAnswers.

Chatbotjob Chatbotjob

The skill requirements on this role are massive. Let’s break it down.

  • You need quantitiatve and qualitative skills
  • You need to be a seriously good at writing (perfect tone!)
  • You need to understand Sales (identify (and contribute to?) revenue opps!)
  • You need be an experimenter – test and retest
  • You need mad research skills
  • You need the collaboration skills to work with diverse teams
  • You need to understand user experience
  • You need to dive into professional fields that requires years AND be required to anticipate which quesitons users would ask AND write the answers.

This is one hell of a robust skill set. That last ask – expert with diving into deep professional fields like medicine and law – really threw me off. Who is this person? And will you pay them a shit ton of money for this expertise and skill set?

It’s likely this job is like most job postings: crammed with all the ideal things. There is probably flexibility – an applicant doesn’t have to have all those things.

I’m curious about how much this role pays because writing is an underpaid profession. Some managers who don’t write assume it’s easy – after all they write emails and reports! Copy is everywhere and people assume it’s easy to produce. Thoughtful copy – the kind that strikes the perfect tone! – takes time and creativity to produce. People in quantitative fields tend to overlook that.

But bad writing, especially in AI conversation design, leads to awkward interactions with the product. For example this was my recent convo with a new recruiting bot Robo Recruiter:

If writing is underpaid but AI is a hot hot hot field, how much should we be paying our AI chatbot writers?

I’m crowdsourcing your answers below in the comments: how much do you think this job pays? Do you think it pays as much as a machine learning engineer? As a product manager?

Write your answer below.

Then see what Paysa pegs the going salary rate in San Francisco.

 

Note to Self has the conversations about technology that you’re probably not having

I’ve been obsessed with the podcast Note to Self ever since I heard about their Bored and Brilliant challenge, a challenge to get people off their phones and think creatively (I appreciated the one small observation challenge as I ride a lot of public transport and it was a fab way to pass the time). It seems almost cliche to talk about the impact technology has on our lives now; we’re all aware of it. But that awareness has made us less likely to talk about it (or maybe it’s just because we’re less likely to engage in conversations in general because of phones and technology.) Note to Self is the public conversation about how we as individuals and society engage with technology. It’s not judgy or preachy. It’s more observation and discussion. The topics stay with you post-episode. As I scroll through endless family phones on Facebook/IG, I constantly think about the episode, What to Think About Before Posting Family Photos. I can’t link to the episode so here’s the excerpt:

We asked how you share personal photos. Here’s what we learned from your 1,200 (!) answers. Psychologist Guy Winch joins Manoush to untangle our mixed posting emotions. Because our grams are complex. A trans listener is thankful his parents didn’t post during his teen years. A mom doesn’t understand her daughter’s online brand. A son wishes his dad included him in family snapshots. Nothing is just a pretty picture. Plus, the wonderful Charlotte Philby, former editor of Motherland magazine. Her family posts were part of her “brand” – until she stopped gramming cold turkey

Two weeks ago, Note to Self did a brilliant week featuring “Women Owning It Online.” The line up of people was diverse. The conversations fascinating. The host, Manoush Zomorodi, talked with YouTube influencer Lele Pons (who has over 20 million subscribers!!!), the talented Transparent star Trace Lysette, the artist Amy Sherrard (who painted Michelle Obama!), bad ass foreign correspondent Christiane Amanapour, the artist Barbara Kruger who oozes a gives zero fucks charm, and gif designer/artist (what a job!) Jasmyn Lawson.

I can’t seem to link to any of the individual episodes but just download them all in your favorite app. The interviews are motivating and perspective-shifting. They’re also brilliant escapism from the endless (doom-filled) news cycle.

The future of work: Plastic surgery for tech bros

 Brent (a pseudonym) is 52, his youthful appearance the result of rhinoplasty and a modified lower face-lift. He took a week off from a previous job to get the surgery. “Knowing I’m going back in to fight for another two or three jobs and that I’m going to be surrounded by a bunch of thirty­somethings,” he says, “my take was: I don’t have a problem looking 10 or 15 years younger than I am.” – The Brotox Boom: Why More Men Are Turning to Plastic Surgery

The term career seems so quaint when you read a phrase like “fight for another two or three jobs” from a 52 year old. Age discrimination is real and I feel for these bros or anyone who has to compete with 30 year olds to remain relevant. Maybe we shouldn’t fear the robots so much as the youth.

And maybe tech should start including plastic surgery as part of the benefit package to help them win the war for talent.

AI is going to wreck your carefully planned career

Yesterday I presented to a group of undergraduate students at PSU about the future of work and the coming changes to the workforce. As someone who regularly talks about the future of work this was the first time I’ve stood in front of soon-to-graduate students and tell them they’ll need to become lifelong learners because artificial intelligence. It’s a bit of an awkward message to deliver. They’re in their last term, weeks aways from finishing up four years of learning, working, and preparing for their next career move. They are ready to take on the world with their new skills. And I’m telling them they’re going to need to keep learning, upskilling, post-college.

But the students were game for the discussion and asked solid questions about my business plan and online courses.

The experience, however, highlights one of the biggest challenges I have right now. Everyone working in future of work spaces is working to educate employees and students about the coming changes to the workforce. Despite the blazing headlines about robots taking our jobs, the subject (or fear?) isn’t tangible enough to stick. How do we get people to shift from outdated career models and thinking to commit to lifelong learning and upskilling? How do we get people to see how artificial intelligence is changing the workplace and our jobs, if they aren’t yet feeling affecting by the technology?

Predictive analytics and algorithmic decision making happen outside of our view, behind the scenes of our daily lives. Yet we are increasingly influenced by these invisible algorithms from what we see in our newsfeeds to what prices we pay for flights. Algorithms are shaping our workplaces too. From managers that monitor employees using predictive analytics, to algorithms that rank resumes, to smart platforms that determine how we get hired, these technologies shape our career decisions and job search outcomes.

Yesterday I asked if any of the students had experienced an interview using the HireVue platform. One had. I asked if she knew she was being evaluated by algorithms. She responded that she wasn’t, and the audible, “Whaaaat?” and gasps from the audience indicated most students weren’t aware either. Job seekers need to know about the technology that’s being used to evaluate them. 

For yesterday’s talk I put together the resources to help students understand the coming changes, the technology, and how to prepare for an ambiguous career. If you’ve seen the headlines about robots taking our jobs and want to get beyond the headline hype, check out the resources below.

Start with the video below as an introduction to the subject.

BONUS WATCHING: Learn about the digital skills gap

Next, play with this fun tool: Willrobotstakemyjob.com

If you have extra time, dive into this episode, McKinsey Global Institute Podcast: How will automation affect jobs, skills, and wages? It’s a bit dry because it’s consultants talking but it’s worth understanding in depth just how dramatic of a shift is coming to the workforce. Here’s a quote from the episode to put it in perspective:

It’s something that has been a bit of a mantra in the educational field. Everyone is going to have to be a student for life and embark on lifelong learning. The fact is right now it’s still mainly a slogan. Even within jobs and companies there’s not lifelong training. In fact what we see in corporate training data at least in the United States, is that companies are spending less. As we know right now people expect that they get their education in the early 20s or late 20s and then they’re done. They’re going to go off and work for 40, 50 years. And that model of getting education up front and working for many decades, without ever going through formal or informal training again is clearly not going to be the reality for the next generation.

Continuing on that theme is another article by McKinsey, Getting Ready for the Future of Work, which is worth reading if only for this shocking quote right here:

The time it takes for people’s skills to become irrelevant will shrink. It used to be, “I got my skills in my 20s; I can hang on until 60.” It’s not going to be like that anymore. We’re going to live in an era of people finding their skills irrelevant at age 45, 40, 35. And there are going to be a great many people who are out of work.

Then spend some time reading about how artificial intelligence is changing the way we find and get jobs. Start with, AI is now analyzing candidates facial expressions during job interviews. Then read about my experience trying to interview with a chatbot. Finally, put it all together in The grim reality of job hunting in the age of AI.

And if this all has you thinking, holy shit, am I at risk of being irrelevant?!?! read, How to Stay Relevant in Today’s Rapidly Changing Job Market.

While you’re at it sign up for early access to FutureMe School because we exist to smash traditional career narratives and prepare you for this new world of work.

If you’re super interested in understanding AI in depth from a non-tech perspective, and want your mind blown while being entertained by stick figure comics, read with this fabulous introduction to the subject: The AI Revolution part 1 and part 2. They are both long reads so settle in.