Eric Johnson
Eric joined Talend as Chief Information Officer in 2018. Prior to Talend, he was the CIO of DocuSign, where he built the company’s IT vision, infrastructure design, and led its global organization. Eric spent more than a decade at Informatica in increasingly senior IT roles, most recently as Senior Vice President and CIO.

With artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning being the next big transformative technologies to take the tech market by storm, it’s no surprise that the industry is worried about AI taking over the workplace. By some estimations, AI could replace up to 40% of jobs in the next 15 years. According to a 2018 AI Study by Constellation Research, investment in AI has exploded, rising from 25% to nearly 70% of early adopters to date. Many of these early adopters who support AI and automation, believe that they could fundamentally change the workplace.

Paranoia about being displaced by machines is growing, and based on the numbers, it may be warranted. But the key to staying relevant in the workplace is to use technological advances in your favor. If given the right tools, employees can utilize technology to do the grunt work for them so they can add human value — something AI can’t do.

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The Big Opportunity

AI is a massive industry, with potential in every field from autonomous cars to human resources. It is estimated that AI could add up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030. Many of those who believe AI will impact jobs also believe that AI can create new opportunities or enhance existing professions.

One strategy to ensure job security in the midst of this changing landscape is to choose a job that is in high demand. For example, as AI and machine learning rely heavily on data to operate, the need for data engineers has never been more evident than it is today. According to the Indeed job board, data engineers are sought after at nearly a four-to-one ratio compared to the ever-popular data scientists.

The role of the data engineer is to help the company make the best use of data to accomplish business objectives, especially as it relates to AI. Data engineers can prepare companies for technological innovation and automate projects enabling companies to bring more data-driven projects into production. Essentially serving as the experts in designing, building, and maintaining the data-based systems in support of an organization’s analytical and transactional operations. Today, data engineers need to be more productive than ever before while working in a constantly-changing data environment.

When thinking about how AI could actually improve the workplace without displacing humans, Bayer Digital Farming comes to mind. Using Talend for its data lake, Bayer Digital Farming developed a WEEDSCOUT App for Farmers. The app uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to match photos of weeds in a Bayer database with weed photos farmers send in. Accessible all over the world, the photo database resides on a private cloud stored on Amazon Web Services. It gives the grower the opportunity to more precisely predict the impact of his or her actions such as, choice of seed variety, application rate of crop protection products, or harvest timing. Through this use of AI, not only does the farmer benefit, but data engineers back at Bayer can use and store this information for future recall and analysis that would not previously have been available. Adding value to their jobs as well as others in the organization.

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It’s safe to say that AI will dramatically reshape the role of the data engineer and forcing them to acquire new skills in order to stay relevant. Companies who can utilize the existing data engineers that they have today and pair their skills with the right software, will come out ahead. Adapting most successfully to the coming era will allow them to enjoy an abundance of work opportunities, but the process will require a different mindset than many software developers have today.

Feature image by Free-Photos from Pixabay.