On 12 September, 2018, UNICEF hosted the TomorrowReady event — a discussion about how tech and innovation are going to shape the future for children and young people.
I went behind-the-scenes to get some advice from the panelists: Nicholas Thompson, Editor-in-Chief of WIRED; Stephanie Sy, CEO and Lead Data-Scientist of Thinking Machines; and Hannah Godefa, a current university student and advocate for education and girls.
We have to prepare the children across the world for the churn that’s coming
– Nicholas Thompson, WIRED
Here are six ways you can proactively prepare for a tech-centric career … even if it doesn’t exist yet!
1. Familiarize yourself with how machines work and communicate
One of the coolest things about technology is that it’s always changing, and no one knows for sure what will be the next big thing. The tech we use now will be irrelevant in the future, but learning to be comfortable while working on and communicating with machines will be an essential qualification for any job. Basic computer skills like typing, navigating the internet, or finding information are the ways in which humans can communicate with machines, so studying this language as a young person will make you better prepared to quickly adapt to new technologies valuable to your future employer.
2. Foster a culture of resilience and diversity
Everyone wants to be successful, so accepting that something didn’t work like you thought it would is hard. We need to create a culture that accepts failure as part of the learning process, so that when we’re the ones leading institutions we can encourage others to try out new innovations without fear. Young people will also be major influencers in pushing companies towards more diverse workplaces. Teamwork, leadership, and communication skills will be even more important, since collaboration and creativity are what set humans apart from machines.
3. Get ready for artificial intelligence, ‘cause it’s here to stay
Artificial intelligence (AI) systems are continuing to get smarter, and it’s undoubtedly going to change the way we work and the type of jobs that will be available in the future. AI will start to fill jobs that used to require human intelligence, like translating, visual perception, and even decision-making. But don’t worry – the adoption of AI across job markets means new jobs for young people. We can start preparing for these careers by getting familiar and interacting with AI technology in everyday life – like personal assistants on your smartphone, smart homes devices, video games, and recommendation algorithms on many apps.
4. Learn to love open data, and make sure others do too
Open-data platforms, where organizations can share and collaborate on data, help make things more efficient for everyone. Smaller organizations may have more of an ability to adopt and try out new innovations, while big organizations are better able to collect and evaluate large amounts of data. Young people should take advantage of, and therefore encourage organizations to continue creating open-data sets. Thanks to the internet, information can easily be accessed and shared across the world, so don’t underestimate the contribution you can make when you’re able to access the right information.
The capacity to accept failure is key for innovation
– Stephanie Sy, Thinking Machines
5. Take advantage of all the educational opportunities you can find
You can make yourself more qualified for a future career by making use of the free online tools and courses available on almost any topic or skill, which will improve your resume and help you stand out as a candidate. Hannah Godefa specifically mentioned Coursera and W3Schools as tools that she’s used for online learning. Online education is especially great for learning to code, which will be an increasingly essential skill for new jobs.
6. Stay flexible and open to change
Learning to be flexible and adapting to changing work environments is crucial for careers of the future, and being open to change sometimes means getting out of your comfort zone. People tend to solve the problems they see around them, so if you’re not exposed to the problems that most need solving, then you won’t be a leader in the solution. Travel, read, watch, and learn as much as you can, so that you can make the best decision for you when it’s time to pick your career.
Noelle Elmore is a student at King’s College in New York.