Worried about the future of work? If you can’t beat the robots, join them.
This week, we’ve been looking at automation, both as a whole and specifically in the world of careers.
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that automation pretty much goes hand in hand with the future of work, which, incidentally, isn’t so much in the future any more – it’s in the present.
However, to date, the conversations have been around the jobs of the future. And, while many are set to panic about the number of jobs we could lose to automation, there is another side to the story.
We’ve already explored the historical background of the ‘robots taking jobs’ line and, thankfully, we’ve shown that the advances within technology will bring a more skilled workforce and create more jobs as it develops.
Jobs in AI
Jobs in automation and artificial intelligence (AI) already exist, with AI architect considered one of the hottest jobs of the future.
But how do you actually upskill and switch into a career in AI and automation? The first thing you need is an understanding of the different levels of expertise within AI.
Neill Gernon is the managing director of Atrovate, an AI lab based across London, Lviv and Dublin. Gernon is also the founder of Dublin AI, a community platform to connect AI engineers and researchers in Dublin.
Gernon said within the broad umbrella term of AI, there is a combination of roles at various levels of expertise. “Your foundational stuff is probably your data architects, your software engineers and then your machine and deep learning engineers.”
Beyond those two levels, Gernon said specialist research engineers would come next, including those that specialise in computer vision, language and speech.
So, out of the broad range of roles within AI, which ones will be most in demand as we enter the future of work? “All of them,” said Gernon.
“A lot of generic software engineers or data engineers are looking at upskilling and jumping on the sexier bandwagon of AI and machine learning by becoming machine-learning engineers,” he said.
“They’re all needed for the next generation of AI-powered products. You need specialists that can do the large-scale deep-learning stuff.”
Obstacles from industry
When it comes to AI, it’s not just a matter of the technology advancing to a point where these jobs exist.
Research from September 2017 published in MIT Sloan Management Review shows that almost 85pc of business executives believe that AI will allow their companies to obtain or sustain a competitive advantage, but only about 20pc have done something about it.
Despite wanting and needing to develop alongside AI, businesses are reluctant to truly embrace the change, and this can have a knock-on effect when it comes to upskilling and developing the talent.
Claire Burge is a tech entrepreneur and speaker fascinated by the intersection between systems and human behaviour. She believes that if people are going to spend so much of their lives at work, it should be the place where their souls, hearts and minds come alive.
Burge, along with her customer success company Wndyr, has carried out research into how man and machine will become partners in the future of work.
According to Burge, there are a huge number of jobs that will come into the fray, some of which already exist. These include automation specialists, customer success data scientists and process optimisers.
The dreaded skills gap
Because AI is a relatively new career track, there aren’t exactly streams of graduates waiting in the wings for the jobs that are becoming available.
Gernon said the barrier isn’t at the first tier, but at the second and third tiers. “Data engineers or software engineers can upskill pretty easily with online courses that are available,” he said. However, for those looking at advanced machine learning or deep learning, things become trickier.
Gernon said many strong product engineers lack the mathematical or research background to support their skills. Meanwhile, those with a strong academic and research background don’t have the large-scale production experience. The talent gap for AI lies in the crossover of those skills.
Luckily, an education that can prepare you for a career in AI is becoming easier to access. Earlier this year, University of Limerick launched Ireland’s first master’s degree in AI, which aims to educate more than 300 people within the next five years.
Additionally, the Irish Centre for High-End Computing offers training courses to third-level institutions.
Online, there are number of options available for those who want to enter a career in AI. Gernon cited Fast AI as just one of a number of resources interested candidates could check out.
There’s also a wide variety of online courses for those who want to take some time to upskill in machine learning.
When it comes to moving into a career in AI, it’s never a one-size-fits-all scenario. Different areas will need different levels of mathematics, computer science, robotics, engineering and analytical science theory.
It’s important that you become familiar with the area you want to enter and do your research into the trends happening in that area. From there, you can learn more about the kind of skills and expertise you need to spend time working on.
There are a huge number of industries you can work in if you want a career in AI, and they don’t revolve around tech or engineering companies.
There are also options available in healthcare working with medical devices, in aeronautics working with flight simulators and drones, and also within the education sector.
Even the financial sector and banks such as Bank of Ireland are welcoming AI to the industry in the form of robotic process automation labs. Just last month, the Centre for Finance, Technology and Entrepreneurship along with Ngee Ann Polytechnic announced the first major online course for AI in finance.
AI is an emerging field that is disrupting the world in which we work. However, the sector also provides many new career paths and job opportunities for those who want to explore them.
Update 3:34 pm, 18 May: This article was amended to correct the spelling of ‘Wyndr’ to ‘Wndyr’.