What to Learn?

Thoughts on the next set of hot skills.

Introduction

“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”

—Wayne Gretzky


In my last post, I made the case that today’s professionals and college graduates will need to learn continuously. That is, their days of acquiring knowledge won’t cease when they accept their diplomas. This begs the question: What types of skills should those seeking quality jobs attempt to acquire?

Looking for Answers

The facile answers are data and technology, but these are broad areas. Moreover, it’s downright silly to lump everything together in one or two buckets. For instance, the futures of Python and JavaScript are far brighter than that of COBOL, although current salaries with the latter are nothing to sneeze at. (In fact, to the extent that many organizations maintain legacy systems for decades after their heydays, there may be tremendous opportunity and value in learning antiquated skills. Think of this as zigging while others zag.)

Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and augmented reality are all poised to explode.

Generally speaking, though, I can’t recommend clinging to the past. Rather, it’s usually wise to go to where the puck is going to be not where the puck was, to paraphrase hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. Against that backdrop, consider the following three areas.

Artificial Intelligence

The American author, computer scientist, inventor, and futurist Raymond Ray Kurzweil has been predicting for decades that machine intelligence will surpass that of man in the not-too-distant future. Whether singularity comes in 40 years or not at all, there’s little doubt that machines will continue to usurp the positions that humans now hold. Driverless cars are a case in point. Rather than fight the future, why not embrace it? No, you don’t have to build your own Terminator, but you can immediately begin playing with different APIs that tap into AI such as those of IBM Watson. In fact, a few of my students have done just that.

Virtual Reality

There’s a reason that Facebook dropped nearly $2 billion for Oculus VR. VR is coming. One of my ex-students recently showed me a VR-based app for realtors that he has cobbled together. In short, it blew my socks off. Expect to see plenty of neat VR applications soon.

Augmented Reality

This is another area that’s set to explode in the coming years. For a neat example of what AR can do, check out this real-life video game tutorial for your Airbnb rental.

Simon Says: Get in on the ground floor.

Sure, we’re in the early innings of each area, but these three areas look exceedingly promising. I suspect that, in a decade, we’ll look back on the applications of each with a sense of amazement akin to how we view the iPhone compared to its predecessors.

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What say you?

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