Posted onAugust 10, 2017
It was 2008. The financial meltdown of 2008/9 was nowhere on the horizon. Offshoring was at its peak. At a tavern in the mid west, I was having an engaging conversation with the CFO of a neo age telecom operator, on "India rising" visavis the despondency in the US! An interesting evening, but what didn't strike me then but it does today was the remark he made regarding America's infinte ability to bounce back and the kind of initiatives that had and were coming into play to drive automation across industries and business processes!! The set up in North Carolina was something he seemed really excited about. However, I was in no mood to take this seriously - I guess, the Offshoring euphoria ( and I was working towards closing one of the largest deals that my company had ever won) and the general sense that our time had come to conquer the world were reasons enough to look askance - and, the wine made it easy!
Today, what he was talking about is in our face - and, I have absolute clarity of thought on what the term "myopic vision" implies! And now that we are worrying about singularity and the role of humans visavis robots and even the future and survival of mankind, I tell myself that I will not make the mistake I made in 2008 and that rather than reinventing the wheel, I will learn a few things from Nostradamus - after all reuse is key not only to the world of technology but to historians as well!
So, what do I see? I see quite a lot of things but most of them are blurred - I am trying my best to focus and at this point of time have one picture that seems to be reasonably sharp!
I see a lot of "People Managers", the erstwhile darlings of the IT services industry, struggling to find their raison d'etre in the current paradigm! The very skill that they were rewarded and promoted for i.e. managing people, spreadsheets with KPIs & metrics like bench, utilization, pyramid etc., creating and reviewing various reports, handling 200+ emails on a daily basis had suddenly gone out of vogue!. In fact, they are being questioned for not reinventing themselves, not being innovative, missing the bus and very far from being the "full stack developers" that the current world requires. How could they be so myopic not to have been at the forefront of the ML, AI & RPA world - after all, they were the leaders the industry relied so heavily upon. Alas, the times they were a changin or had it changed already?
Now, what makes matters worse is that a large proportion of these People Managers are experiencing a mid life crisis and have to live with the powers and limitations of the "grown up brain"! A brain that is quite low on "fluid intelligence", a brain that finds picking up new cognitive skills cumbersome and challenging. Challenges should be welcome, but only those battles should be picked up that can be won and esp. if it is a battle for livelihood then it has to be won as there is no other choice but to face damnation! Should these middle aged People Managers strive towards re skilling themselves on the latest technologies which requires high fluid intelligence or should they be doing something else? But, the key questions is there something else and if yes, then what is that "something else"?
Before, I come to that "something else", let's look at the strengths of the middle aged brain - a brain that is more balanced in terms of left and right orientation ( dominant left in early youth move towards right and vice versa), a brain that can see patterns easily and quickly and is better at making judgements, finding solutions and even regulating our emotions ( ref. The Secret Life of the Grown Up Brain by Barbara Strauch). So, shouldn't our middle aged People Managers focus on leveraging these strengths rather than focusing on aspects that is best suited for their younger colleagues? Again, this is directional and there are always exceptions/outliers and each has to decide for themselves. My point of bring this up is that there can be alternatives and that not all is lost!!
So, what is that "something else"? That "something else" can be visualised as the pyramid below