Technological disruption is said to change ‘everything’. The speed of this disruption is increasing, resulting in what a Harvard Business Review article recently referred to as ‘Big Bang’ disruptions characterised by unencumbered development, unconstrained growth, and undisciplined strategy. These technology disruptions have also been referred to as high or low ‘attacks’ depending on how effective they are in impacting the market. Disruption in technology is becoming so constant that the term can be considered by some as a meaningless buzzword.
The real disruption I see is not just in new technology options. The disruption comes at the core of industry competition and the fundamental structure of employment.
Consider this article that outlines how incredible wealth has been created for a technology industry that employs a relatively small number of people earning a disproportionally large amount of money. These companies are also returning less tax revenue to their homeland economies based on loopholes available from the virtual nature of their product. Yet Americans give the technology industry a 72% positive rating while crucifying automobile industry executives in 2008 for having private jets.
As noted in the article:
“This is an equation that defines inequality: more and more wealth concentrated in fewer hands and benefiting fewer workers.”
Yet this inequality comes with incredible opportunity to break down traditional class status barriers.
Breaking down the barriers
If I want to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or other professional, requirements must be met for qualifications. If I want to be an auto mechanic or a brick layer, I must first participate in an apprenticeship that can last up to four years. And yet if I want to be a programmer, I can get a computer when I am 15, take a few online tutorials, and hit the market at 19 with four years of experience and a few apps under my belt with an earning potential well in excess of peers my age.
This may seem an overly-simplistic approach. I also respect in a down economy that there are those in the IT profession who struggle to find a job and I will not minimise their challenges. Just because barriers are being reduced in one area does not mean other barriers such as age or gender will go away as easily.
Yet I know colleagues in management who have been programming on the side to cross-skill for the past 12 months and will soon be in a position to access a whole new range of job opportunities. When I hired developers, top scores on a recruiters competency tests were weighed equally with a resume of self-published applications.
We see examples of the disruption happening through funding such as the 20 Under 20 Fellowship which gives money to teenagers who start their own company. Rags to riches stories are perpetrated by stories about tech giants like Yahoo giving $30 million to a teenager for his app.
I consider these stories as I become aware of the disparity in Australia between the educated and the uneducated. I listened to a presentation by Teach for Australia (TFA) recently where they shared about how education levels in remote areas of Australia can be as much as two grades lower for teaching in the same age bracket. TFA addresses this by embedding leaders into these areas to act as a catalyst for change.
I highlight a program such as TFA in that teachers are required to inspire and cast the vision for young people who may not otherwise realise the opportunity. Despite the potential, the number of domestic students graduating from ICT courses halved over the past decade. CIOs from large organisations such as Commonwealth Bank and Westpac cajole students, leading the charge of those who ask how we go about getting youth interested in a careers in IT. Celebrities have even stepped up in video campaigns based on a concern with what most schools don’t teach.
Framing the opportunity
For those entering the workforce or even those looking at a career shift, the opportunity can be framed as those who are looking for a job, for those looking for a career, or for those looking for a cause.
Looking for a job
If you want an industry with job potential, look no further than IT. Worldwide IT spending is forecast to surpass $3.7 trillion in 2013, a 3.8 percent increase from 2012. By 2015, 4.4 million IT jobs will be created globally to support Big Data, generating 1.9 million IT jobs in the United States. Every big data-related role in the U.S. will create employment for three people outside of IT, so over the next four years a total of 6 million jobs in the U.S. will be generated by the information economy. These same correlations can be considered for Australia.
Looking for a career
If you want a career, IT is a safe bet. The average weekly wage for the technology industry in Australia has increased by 47% over the past decade, the most out of all the industries. IT is now the third-highest wage potential industry after the mining and electricity sectors. These careers are not just for programmers, with options for training, project management, sales, change management, design, and more.
And as I’ve stated previously, the IT industry is ideal for closing the gender pay gap and accommodating virtual work to balance career and family. The same thoughts could apply to opportunities for work for people getting older when compared to more physical industries.
Looking for a cause
Finally, IT can be an option for those who want to make a difference with their lives. There are plenty of examples of people doing social media for social good, and platforms like micro-lending site Kiva, awareness-raising sites like causes.com and good.is, and micro-volunteering site sparked all aim to make a difference. The potential is significant to use a bit of skill to reach a large audience if you are so inclined. If you want to make humanity a better place, you can do a lot of it using digital.
Take advantage of the potential
Technology is creating disruption and with it a form of inequality. It is also creating its own opportunity to address that inequality with a relatively easy path for new entrants to the market. I do not begin to think that everyone will desire a career in IT. But the industry is structured, at least for the near future, such that anyone can take advantage of the benefits of ease of access.
The disruption is not so much in the technology delivered through monopolistic supply chains controlled by the few. The disruption comes from a generation who will use the technology to challenge status quo in ways we have yet to imagine.
If you are looking for specific direction, please feel free to comment below or ping me in my social channels to the right. Recommendations depend on what you want to do and your situation. It would not do justice to the opportunity to list the options in the short space remaining in this post.