“AI will replace software developers by 20XX...” Does this kind of alarming forecast sound (too) familiar to you? How do you stay relevant in the workforce of the future? What are the essential skills in the age of AI to hone or to develop?

That is the question...

Now, what we do know is that:

  • you definitely need to (re)adapt to remain competitive in the context of automation processes, a highly automated workplace
  • … and software-driven machines that can now process unstructured data meaningfully
  • there are skills that can't be automated: soft skills become increasingly valuable
  • more and more businesses will be interested in bringing “fusion skills”, a mix of human and machine talents, into their workplace

In other words: as we teach machines to learn, we, too, need to start learning from them in order to remain relevant and competitive in the workforce of the future. It's definitely not a “one-way street”.

1. Understanding AI and Its Disruptive Power

What do you think of when you say “artificial intelligence”?

  1. shopping recommendation engines?
  2. chatbots?
  3. voice/image recognition engines?

These are the most common applications of AI, right? 

And they're all powered by... data:

There are massive amounts of raw data all around us, waiting to be processed... meaningfully. Data that's powering any organizational decision these days.

Now, here's how AI turns all this data into actionable knowledge:

  • first, it's the big data techniques that unlock the power of the unprocessed data
  • next, there are the machine learning algorithms that enable computers to assimilate all these huge volumes of data
  • and finally, there are the deep learning and neural network patterns that add “meaning” to the process up to the point of... predicting human behavior

“And how precisely does AI impact my job?”

The immediate impacts of Robotics Process Automation on your job as a software developer will be:

  1. disrupting all those repetitive, mundane processes and operations (and thus enhancing your job)
  2. providing you with more... time

“Time” that you could invest in honing all those skills that can't be automated: soft skills (or people skills), the ability to engage in creative researches etc.

2. Thriving in the Age of Automation: Upskill Yourself

There's no denying it:

In order to stay relevant and competitive in the age of AI you need to skill up. Constantly...

You need to make learning an integral part of your daily work as a software developer.

And thank God, there's a whole plethora of:

  • platforms for open online courses
  • AI incubators and university labs (Carnegie Mellon or MIT)
  • competency-based training tools
  • open educational resources (EdTech)

… for you to choose from.

Go for bite-sized upskilling sessions and turn it into a continuous process!

3. Skills in the Age of AI that Can't Be Automated

And this is your trump card in this “human meets machine” or “AI threatening to replace developers” type of debate:

Soft skills become extremely valuable in the age of automation because... they can't be automated. 

What skills I'm referring to here?

  • creativity
  • critical and innovative thinking
  • collaborating skills
  • social skills
  • empathy
  • adaptability

In short: those type of skills that are outside the purview of rigid algorithms.

Hone your “people skills” to thrive in a workplace based more and more on collaboration. And on crafting authentic human experiences.

Perfect your creativity and critical thinking to generate out-of-the-box solutions to common problems.

4. Develop These 5 “Fusion” Skills

"Fusion skills” are the must-have skills in the age of AI.

I'm talking here about the kind of abilities that result from human & machine interactions turned into a continuous collaboration, such as:

4.1. Intelligent Interrogation 

Develop the skill of asking machines the “right” questions. 

It will become a crucial one since, as human, you can't predict interactions between complex layers of data working independently. You cannot probe overly complex systems...

4.2. Bot-Based Empowerment 

Instead of constantly fearing it and fighting it back:

Embrace the power of AI bots.

Let them empower you to:

  • boost your career as a software developer
  • become more productive (they're taking the mundane operations off your back, remember)
  • extend your competencies

4.3. Judgment Integration

One of the truly powerful skills in the age of AI is anticipating when a machine can't make a decision. Due to lack of ethical context, let's say.

It's then that you can intervene and provide the needed input.

4.4. Reciprocal apprenticing

As already stated here:

The learning process is no longer a “one-way street”. You, too, need to learn from the AI agents integrated into your workplace, not just the other way around.

It means that you'll need to:

  1. develop all those new skills needed for performing tasks in collaboration with machines
  2. learn how to successfully carry out AI-enhanced processes

4.5. Relentless Re-Imagining

Keep honing — or developing it if you have none — the skills responsible for reimagining the status quo.

Dare to re-think how AI can improve business models, organizational processes and overall your entire work as a software developer.

Once you've managed that, you'll be ready to... adapt yourself to all those imminent changes. To start perfecting all those relevant skills in the age of AI.

5. Aspire to Be an Expert-Generalist Software Developer 

Organizations will be “hunting” expert-generalists, so make sure you're prepared to... stand out. 

Not just as a specialist, but as a well-rounded software developer:

  • with expertise in multiple areas
  • who's an excellent communicator 
  • who's always the first to volunteer for challenging projects
  • who's curious, highly trainable and extremely adaptable

In other words: to stay competitive you'll need to go from having in-depth expertise in one area, to... having a broad breadth of knowledge and multiple expertise areas.

6. The Workplace of the Future: AI + HI (Human Intelligence)

In the end, perfecting/developing the crucial skills in the age of AI comes down to this common sense criterion:

Invest in honing those skills that enable you, as a software developer, to collaborate with different AI agents.

The workforce of the future will not be focused exclusively on human intelligence (not anymore) or on AI, but on... collaborative intelligence. 

In other words: let AI empower you in your work, perfect those skills that machines can't automate and... learn to collaborate with AI systems.

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash.



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