Online education portals like Udacity and Coursera are really changing the world of remote learning in significant ways. By making free and high quality education accessible to a global audience, these platforms are opening up undreamt of possibilities for communities around the world to improve, grow, and prosper in the digital economy of the 21st century. Education at top tier colleges and universities has traditionally been a social and economic privilege, but now anyone can join in the learning revolution by sitting in virtual classrooms with the world’s best and brightest educators. Whether this involves learning how to code and build smart phone apps, or starting up a new business, or learning about public health literacy, the sky is the limit of what’s now possible.

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Will my job be replaced by a machine? – part 2

In the last segment we learned about the rapid intrusion of automation and smart machines into the job market. While these devices make our lives much easier in so many ways, the tradeoff is that they will also eliminate many jobs – some say to the tune of nearly 50% in the next two decades. Further research suggests that business leaders are seriously underestimating the impact of the “digital workforce” and not taking adequate steps to prepare their organizations for the new machine age. So what we need to do here is to spell out some clear strategies for how to stay relevant and prevent your job from being outsourced to a machine.




Before doing so though, let’s take some advice from Andrew Ng, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He points out that as more of the world gets digitized and the cost to store and process that information continues to decline, artificial intelligence will become even more pervasive in everyday life. “There will always be work for people who can synthesize information, think critically, and be flexible in how they act in different situations.” Ng raises a good point, suggesting that the workers of tomorrow will need to find jobs that involve competencies and cognitive tasks that machines can’t touch – and these positions will require higher and higher levels of education.

So here are some steps to take to keep your job skills relevant and retain your position in the age of smart machines, robots, and other forms of job-outsourcing automation.


Ongoing learning & development

In order to stay relevant in tomorrow’s competitive job market, you’re going to have to settle on solidifying your current skills and learning new ones. Fortunately, there have never been more opportunities to do so. You may have heard of MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, but if not they are usually credit-less, online courses that are either free or available for a modest fee through portals like Udacity, Coursera, Khan Academy, and edX. Here you can study any imaginable area in business, innovation, and technology at your own pace.




If you like a more structured approach, then enroll in a local college and take that web development class or learn a new programming language. Anything in Big Data is going to be a major opportunity. In fact, it’s estimated that the United States will have a shortage of between 140, 000 to 190,000 people who have deep analytical skills and 1.5 million managers who can make decisions based on Big Data.


Go the extra mile on your day job

When offshoring and outsourcing do come to your organization, you’ll want to be well-positioned as a person who is irreplaceable. To prepare ahead, get into the mindset of over-delivering on your work and providing the highest results. Become a thought leader and subject matter expert across different lines of your business. Develop an innovative mindset that embraces creativity and out-of-the-box approaches to solving old problems. Take ownership of your role and imagine where you want to see yourself in the next 5-10-15 years.




Focus on what you’re good at

Ultimately, you’re going to want to focus on what you’re most passionate about. This goes for both individuals and organizations. For a great read on this topic, check out the recent book called Creativity, Inc. It’s a story about Pixar, its beginnings and early years, the struggles, the successes – and the ideals and techniques that went into producing some of the most successful films ever made. Ed Catmull, the author of the book and co-founder of Pixar, recounts his own dream as a young man to make the first computer-animated movie, and how that vision unfolded and led to the philosophies that have guided Pixar through the years.




Try a startup

Eventually you may not have a choice but to try a startup. The following blurb will explain why:

Consultants and freelancers are cheaper than full-time staffers with benefits, software developers overseas cost a fraction of what they cost in the U.S. and, by 2030, robots will be able to perform most manual labor . . . Even employees who are employed in large corporations are encouraged to be “intrapreneurs,” meaning that they are in many cases given company time to come up with disruptive ways of thinking about corporate organization and practices.

You get the point. Competition is getting more and more fierce and (for the reasons already outlined in this series) employees today will increasingly find themselves constrained to think and act innovatively and to brainstorm new ideas and ways of doing business. All of these on-the-job skills easily translate to entrepreneurial opportunities that transcend the day job. In other words, skilled workers today are more and more likely to try additional gigs in their off hours. In the not too distant future, everybody will be running a startup!


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About Jeffrey Walker

Jeff is a business development consultant who specializes in helping businesses grow through technology innovations and solutions. He holds multiple master’s degrees from institutions such as Andrews University and Columbia University, and leverages this background towards empowering people in today’s digital world. He currently works as a research specialist for a Fortune 100 firm in Boston. When not writing on the latest technology trends, Jeff runs a robotics startup called, along with oversight and leadership of - an emerging market assistance company that helps businesses grow through innovation.