ProjectBlog: The Future of Work is About Change

Blog: The Future of Work is About Change

Go to the profile of Jun Wu

Are you comfortable with that? Are your children comfortable with that?


Sixty-five percent of children entering primary school will end up in jobs that don’t yet exist — World Economic Forum.

When I started work during the dot com bubble, there were many jobs out there for a technology professional. During that time, the job market was changing. I was studying Marketing and Information Systems at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

When I was looking for summer internships, e-commerce technology startups already paid a lot more than the traditional wall street firm. In order for my resume to stand out, I learned to code in Perl, CGI, and HTML. I eventually landed summer internships at two technology startups.

When I was set to graduate from college, my GPA was not high enough to interview for the largest investment banks: Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Instead, I took the only investment banking interview I could get at UBS for a position overseas. I aced that interview and landed in their New Graduate Program in Japan.

Little did I know, this would be the best decision that set me on a career path in the technology department of major investment banks for the next 10+ years.

UBS sent me to London to train with a group of amazing investment bankers. The training program was invaluable. I learned all about Accounting, Trading and Corporate Finance. It was similar to obtaining an undergraduate major in Finance. The training program was only 6 weeks, but we covered all the basic financial products down to the calculations.

It was both insane and intense. 30% of my class failed the program. They were fired. The head of HR of Technology in the Japan office was fired for hiring them. I survived just barely. I took a few of my exams twice. But, I eventually passed.

After the first year of working at UBS, a head-hunter called me. It was a head-hunter for Morgan Stanley Japan. They were looking for a Junior Programmer for their middle office technology department. I interviewed and took the position immediately. The position gave me a 25% boost to my salary. On top of that, it was a programming position.

Eventually, I transferred back to the New York office of Morgan Stanley. I worked there for a number of years on global projects as a senior programmer and a team leader.

One day, in Morgan Stanley, I sat in a presentation where an upper manager of IT presented our department’s outsourcing strategy.

60% of our department globally will be outsourced to India within the next year.

Our jobs as IT professionals would be to work directly with teams in India to train them to take on our jobs overnight. At the same time, there’s a new technology department forming to create tools to generate the code that we were creating for our systems. These tools would lessen our workload as programmers by about 40%.

Around the same time, I was notified by my manager that I was not groomed to be promoted to Vice President in my position. With much thought, I moved to a technology position on the trading floor of another European Investment Bank.

I decided to give up on programming for a while.

During the next 7 years, I switched jobs twice. I moved again from a European Bank to one of the largest investment banks in the US. This time, I was working on the complex Credit Trading Floor. I weathered the layoff storm of the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 and 2009 even though the firm I worked for went bankrupt. It was eventually bought by a large European investment bank.

My job didn’t change for a while.

Then, after helping my team integrate all of our systems into the new European bank, I was notified that I should switch to work as a junior trader. Otherwise, my job will disappear soon. They wanted to hire new blood into our team. During that time, I also received offers to work in other investment banks for a step down from my current position.

I didn’t take these opportunities. Instead, I waited for a layoff package that never came.

Since the Great Recession, I knew my job would eventually be in danger. On my spare time at night, I took 24 credits of undergraduate college math. Then, I applied for an Applied Math Master Program part-time.

For a time, I wanted to move to work as a quantitative analyst on the trading floor. I didn’t enjoy trading but I loved analysis. At the time, I was already working closely with the “quants”. It would be a natural transition.

But, my efforts would prove to be too little and too late. My adviser at my school informed me that my grades were not high enough to finish the Applied Math Masters Program. Instead, he recommended me to transfer to the Statistics Masters Program.

I was in the middle of finishing my degree when I was called to my manager’s office one day. I knew that this would be the day that I left my career.

After my manager told me that I was underperforming, I told my manager that I decided to move on.

During my entire Wall Street IT career spanned 13+ years, I either switched positions internally or switched jobs every 2 years in order to maintain my career.

I switched jobs to fulfill personal interest, improve my job skills as well as out of the pressure from constant layoffs.

Before the Great Recession, I survived 7 rounds of layoffs in the 5 years I worked for Morgan Stanley. During the Great Recession, I survived the great layoffs that saw 200,000 professionals globally leaving their jobs in finance in 2 years.

After I quit my career on Wall Street, I took a detour. I finished my Masters in Statistics. I interviewed and couldn’t find a job as a Data Scientist. At the time, most Data Scientists were hired from P.H.D programs.

I decided to pivot again. I took undergraduate science courses in an effort to apply to medical school. I thought I could use my empathy at a job in healthcare.

This decision proved to be the wrong one. When it came time to apply, my child informed me that he needed me to be a dedicated mother for a while.

I became a stay at home mother reluctantly.

Losing the direction of my career path was the biggest shock. It took me a year to recover. When I eventually recovered from this disappointment, I started to write. Soon, I set up a blog.

In an effort to monetize my blog, I started to write on Medium.

By this time, our financial situation deteriorated significantly.

I found myself looking for work as a freelance writer.

It turns out that writing is the best career choice I should’ve made a few years ago.

  • Writing allowed me to use the marketing skills I studied in college.
  • Writing allowed me to use the creative writing skills that I studied in high school.
  • Writing also allowed me to use venture back into data science.
  • Writing also allowed me to work from home while taking care of my son as a single mother.

I’m grateful to finally finding my way.

The greatest skill that I learned in the past 20 years is to be able to adapt to change.

This is the skill that life teaches you.

It’s a skill that you practice over and over again as you progress through your career. There’s no certificate that people will give you that says that you are proficient at change management. There’s no course that you can take to improve this skill. There are only a series of tests that you will take over and over in life to prove that you can manage change.

In order to improve this skill, you have to weather storms.

As we move into the Age of Artificial Intelligence and the Gig Economy, change is everywhere.

Most people who are still holding onto their jobs feel the pressure to learn new skills, to hustle on the side and to look out for new opportunities. As I look around, people with traditionally safe professional careers such as doctors, lawyers, and technologists are all struggling.

  • Surgeons are learning to work side by side with robotic assists.
  • Doctor’s work is being managed by patient management systems that made recommendations.
  • Lawyers are working on cases where research and discovery are made by AI systems that combed law books and internet websites for information.
  • Technologists are banking on multidisciplinary skills other than coding. Many are training to gain skills in other areas of science, engineering, and liberal arts to complement their technical skills.

When it’s time to usher our kids into the workplace of the future, there will be no requirement for a diploma; no requirement for a traditional educational path; and no requirement for a vanilla set of skills.

Instead, the only requirement is: Can you do the job better than anyone else?

  • AI interviewers will conduct skill testing to ensure each candidate’s skills are evaluated with no bias.
  • Managers will select candidates who possess unique skills that other candidates do not have.
  • Managers will receive candidate recommendations from large professional networks.
  • Candidate’s skills at using systems and robotic devices to come up with creative solutions will be valued.
  • Change management skills, creative skills and people skills will be valued.
  • Creating your own position will be just as important as finding a suitable job.
  • In the workplace of the future, an entrepreneurial spirit will equate “the right attitude”.

Don’t be scared. We’ve all been there already.

If you lived in the real world in the last 20 years, you have already lived through the internet age that caused many disruptions. You’ve weathered storms large and small in your work life and home life.

This change is big. But, it still just a change in our mindset.

When you stop banking on a career, a diploma and a job to provide a safety net, you start to learn real skills.

Teach your children the importance of learning new skills and following new interests.

Top notch education will still matter.

Our education system is still important to teach children the needed skills required. However, it won’t be the only road to success.

The value of higher education will be to gain network connections, gain soft skills such as teamwork and gain an understanding of professional possibilities. It will continue to be the stepping stone to careers in research and development. It will also be a good place for people to study many different subjects in an interdisciplinary fashion.

Alternative educational paths will provide more dedicated skills training for specific positions. They will also provide for opportunities for people to continuously pivot all throughout their career.

Chances are your children will need both.

Freelancing and entrepreneurship will become the norm.

As more startups disrupt the traditional work place, more people will find themselves in the position of freelance and entrepreneurship.

In fact, freelancing may become the training ground for entrepreneurship. As your children rise through the ranks of their freelance career, doors will open for your children to acquire more and more dedicated clients who will then invest in their companies.

Just having a good idea is no longer enough.

Entrepreneurship is much more about the viability of this good idea. It takes real management, technical and communication skills to create teams who will implement this good idea. Competition will be everywhere as everyone will come up with their own ideas. The short lead time to make your children’s businesses succeed will mean that initially, there will be tremendous sacrifices.

Failing over and over again while creating many businesses will become the ticket to success.

Are you ready for less safety and more change?

With an understanding of the nuances of the future of our workplace, you can prepare yourself and your family to manage the changes that will occur.

Start simply by changing your mindset. Stop believing in the dream of a 9 to 5 job that will provide security for a lifetime.

Start by following your own interests. With time, these interests will lead to hobbies. They will lead to side hustles. They will lead to new experiences where you can taste the freedom of entrepreneurship.

Then, in time, you can teach your children all that you have learned. You can model a lifestyle of learning to your children. You can show them how to take initiative. You can show them how to fail.

With time, you will have set them on a path to success by creating success for yourself. This new change in the future of our workplace will be an after-thought as you are fully immersed in managing this change.

Source: Artificial Intelligence on Medium

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