Information technology will be a key on-ramp to career growth in 2013, but making it up that ramp will require an understanding of how careers in general are transforming, and what you need to do to navigate that transformation.
That’s the assessment of Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti, vice president and managing director of the Apollo Research Institute, who has made some interesting predictions about job trends and opportunities in 2013. Wilen-Daugenti has held global management positions with Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and Apple Computer, so she has an impressive tech-industry background that makes what she has to say about the IT sector well worth some consideration.
I spoke with Wilen-Daugenti on Wednesday, and we discussed her prediction that IT will be one of six sectors that will provide opportunities for career growth in 2013 (the other five are business services, education, health care, nonprofits and manufacturing). I mentioned to her that lot of my readers have become very disenchanted with IT as a career, because they’ve seen so much work being offshored, and so many IT jobs here being taken by people from other countries, primarily India, who are here on temporary work visas. As a result, I noted, they’re strongly advising young people, including their own kids, to steer clear of IT as a career. I asked Wilen-Daugenti what she would say to those readers who feel that way. She said they need to do a better job of thinking this through:
Outsourcing is returning to the U.S., and a lot of it has to do with advances in technology, specifically in robotics. There’s a lot of excitement that U.S. firms will eventually re-control a lot of the manufacturing processes, thanks to technology. But specific to your readers, I think technology is always a major sector that people should consider. We have statistics that show that 75 percent of the jobs in 2020 will have a technology component—there’s a lot of opportunity in IT, computer programming and software. One of the things readers should think about is where the growth is in the United States: Small- and medium-size business is growing exponentially in the United States, and a lot of that is because the barriers to entry, which is pretty much cash, have gone down, because so many people are starting businesses using the Internet—you don’t need those large funding pools to help you anymore. So we have a lot of home-based businesses, and a lot of these businesses need IT support. The other area is, of course, health care. With the new health care act there’s an expectation that health care will push out to the community—you’ll see a lot of different models, and these new models in health care will require a lot of IT support. So the opportunities are there. People just have to think through what’s happening dynamically in the United States, and where the focus should be.
In the course of our conversation, I also mentioned that I had come across an article (registration required) by Thornton May, a futurist and columnist for Computerworld, in which May suggested that the word “career” has become obsolete, and that we live in an age when the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills. I asked Wilen-Daugenti for her thoughts on that. She said that careers have absolutely transformed, and that the transformation has to do with a lot more than just skills:
I think careers have absolutely changed and transformed. I don’t think it’s just skills, though. All of the research we’re coming out with in career development shows that education is a critical factor for people to stay employed, in addition to skills. So I would say the Big Three are education, skills, and technology proficiency. Skills just get you so far. One of the concepts that came up in our think tank on the future of work was that what people are really looking for in employees is being trans-disciplinary, which is the intersection of being highly-skilled, educated, and innovative.
Another of Wilen-Daugenti’s predictions for 2013 is that “as women and younger workers look for new ways to blend work, family and other life pursuits, the career ladder will gave way to a labyrinth of stops, starts, and lateral moves.” I referred to my recent interview with Aaron McDaniel, a remarkably successful tech worker in the millennial generation who said it’s not about work/life balance anymore, it’s about work/life integration. Wilen-Daugenti said she agrees:
I think it’s very intuitive of that person, because the reality is the younger generation is going to be living much longer than the current generations [in the work force]. People are projecting that your work span will increase to at least 50 years, perhaps 60. So all of that stuff that previous generations needed to squeeze in to a 20- or 30-year work span has now expanded. People can actually plan their lives much more effectively—what pieces they want to integrate with other pieces. But I agree—education has to be a daily event. You can’t just do one stop, because your degree from the ‘60s or ‘70s or ‘80s is not going to keep you in the work force in 2030. Just think about how much technology has been released in the past 10 years. I also think that career planning has to be a daily event. We saw some statistics that people spend 90 minutes a year on career planning and development. In reality, you need to spend an hour a day on career development. You have to think about how you’re going to make the most of your 50-plus working years.