One of the biggest and most important responsibilities of parents is to prepare their kids for future success. For our parents, this seemed relatively straightforward. Good grades, solid extracurriculars, internships and a college degree would prepare them to achieve personal and professional satisfaction. Since the current generation entered the workforce, these elements no longer seem sufficient. Faced with crushing student loan debt, the destruction of the lifetime employment contract and an increased integration of technology into every aspect of our lives, we now have to prepare our kids for a much more uncertain professional environment.
This new normal will be characterized by rapidly growing companies that are less durable and more susceptible to disruption. In this environment, we must prepare our kids to work at 5-10 different employers in 5-10 different specializations throughout their careers.
Instead of specific majors (computer science, engineering) being useful for differentiating and distinguishing them from their peers, the key thing employers will be looking for is those who are able to solve problems. The challenges of the next 10 years will not necessarily be those of the subsequent 10 years. Since most solutions will heavily lean on technology due to the scalability and efficiency, the greatest skill for the next generation to develop is computational-based problem solving.
In essence, this is understanding how to utilize technology to solve problems. But, not from the standpoint of technology for the sake of technology. Instead, it’s understanding that technology based solutions can drive the biggest impact for a given organization because the scale benefits that come from adding servers to an intelligent algorithm are more value added than simply increasing the number of employees or reducing costs through putting pressure on suppliers or fundamentally changing the product or service.
For some emerging technologists, their skills will present themselves traditionally as a programmer, developer or engineer. For others, they may be more interested in marketing or sales. However, this will not exclude the need for them to develop their solutions through the lens of technology. Even within these verticals, there will be an expectation to utilize computational based problem solving skills to rely on the underlying data to run campaigns to attract additional leads or better leverage the customer relationship manager (CRM) to pursue opportunities that have the highest probability of conversion.
Going forward, each and every part of the organization and subsequent talent within the company of the future will require computational problem solving acumen. The future leaders will develop remarkable insight at knowing when to deploy technology in partnership with talent and when to fully automate a capability because the technology can either be built or bought to accomplish an outcome.
This decisions are beyond simply understanding how to analyze big data in Python or develop mobile applications in Ruby on Rails or create virtual reality environments for remote workers. Fundamentally, this gets to what value creation has always been about in organizations - who are the leaders that can push the boundaries due to their unique insights. The ability to see around corners and recognize trends doesn’t come from simply learning how to build robots or designing 3D models. True differentiation is most visible when one is right more often than they are not about the key investments an organization needs to make in order to best satisfy customers.
There will be many employees who understand a portion of the technology stack. They will be well compensated for these fundamental skills given the huge jobs gap that is already present and only expected to grow in the coming years. But, those who understand not just how the technology works but also when, where, why and how it should be implemented will guide organizations to solve really difficult problems at a wide variety of companies. These computational-based problem solving skills are the ones to begin developing now by providing your kids with an opportunity to really dive deep and develop a wide range of exposure to the numerous technologies that are currently developing all around them.