The TV channels in India in the last week or so have been agog with rumors of tens of thousands of people likely to be laid off in the tech industry due to the darkening clouds of protectionism, the onslaught of automation and artificial intelligence and the inability to cope with new skill demands of digital transformation ! Let’s take a thoughtful view of the present and future and dispel some myths.
If there have been any layoffs in the industry recently its pretty natural at appraisal time. An industry that employs four million people is surely entitled to weed out one percent because of poor performance. And the changes in the H1B visa regime are still somewhere in the future and if the dreaded lottery system is replaced by something sensible that enables highly skilled people to work across borders that would actually be desirable. And there is absolutely no reason to believe that local hiring in the US or any country will cause job losses in India.
There is indeed a threat that tradition programming, applications and infrastructure support and testing jobs will be replaced at least partly by automation. It is possible that large repetitive processes who were hitherto managed by five hundred IT coders could be optimized and managed in future by fifty geeks supported by a few dozen AI enabled Smart Bots. Continuous learning and re-skilling / up-skilling has always been important and in a fast-changing technology environment, keeping one’s skills updated and embracing digital capabilities is essential.
Digital Up-skilling can happen across five layers of capability with six skillset families. To move from being a digital novice to a digital professional one must have a broad understanding of User Experience and User Interface Design, Cloud, Mobility, Social Networks, Analytics and Cyber-Security and these lead to deeper skill sets that have to be acquired to become a digital expert. A knowledge of the applicability of these digital skills to the vertical domain – Manufacturing, Retail, Financial Services, Insurance etc will create truly valuable expertise and for the very few there will be an opportunity to train to be further trained as digital architects!
Every industry goes through inflection points and this time is no exception. It certainly is time for the youth of the country , in colleges and firms to re-skills themselves but there is no cause or time to panic !