The Digital Tsunami: How the evolving digital scenario is disrupting the way careers are built

26th Sep 2016
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The tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean in 2004 could possibly rank as the most devastating on record. More than 150,000 people lost their lives. The most damaging tsunami on record before 2004 was the one that killed an estimated 40,000 people in 1782, following an earthquake in the South China Sea. In 1883, some 36,500 people were killed by tsunamis in the South Java Sea, following the eruption of Indonesia's Krakatoa volcano. And of course, who can forget the tsunami of 2011 that ripped open a nuclear reactor in Fukushima, Japan.

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Could a tsunami be nature’s way of warning us about massive changes? Look at the timing of the four tsunamis. 1782 and 1883 roughly coincide with the first and second industrial revolutions. Work shifted from agriculture to manufacturing as factories became the main sources of employment. This saw the rise of the blue collared workforce.

In 2004, 100 million people joined the mobile revolution in India. The mobile made geographical boundaries irrelevant and changed how people could work. A hyper-connected world was born. While electricity had extended the workday in the factory, mobiles blurred the line between work and leisure. The issue of work-life balance became part of employee conversations. White collared work and workers had changed forever.

What about the tsunami of 2011? The Indian telecom operators had added more than 225 million wireless subscribers in the 12 months between March 2010 and March 2011. India was adding nearly twice as many subscribers every month as compared to China until March 2011. Several digital technologies were exploding. Facebook had just crossed half a billion users. Uber leveraged the power of mobiles to launch their taxi service in June 2010. On March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9 earthquake shook northeastern Japan, unleashing a savage tsunami. Was it just nature’s way of warning us about the digital tsunami being unleashed?

Expertise and not degrees

In the analogue world, job ads specified how many years of experience would be essential to be hired. Experience matters when the future looks fairly similar to the past. When someone does the same job over and over again, they are building and acquiring more skills. The employers pay a premium for relevant work experience because the new hire can hit the ground running.

In the digital world, the future does not look like the past. The future, in fact, bears almost no resemblance to the past. Amazon advertises for hardware engineers for its drone project by saying:

“We're looking for an outstanding hardware engineer intern who combines superb technical, research and analytical capabilities with a demonstrated ability to get the right things done quickly and effectively. This person must be comfortable working with a team of top-notch developers and collaborating with our research teams. We’re looking for people who innovate and love solving hard problems.”

This job ad is a good indication of where jobs will lie in the future. The ability to solve problems while collaborating with other specialists will command a premium. The ability to learn something quickly will replace degrees and qualifications.

The digital world will create new roles, none of which have existed before. Experience will get replaced by the ability to learn. The future belongs to curious learners. The rest will get washed away by the digital tsunami.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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