We’re at a point in which we may have to “unlearn” many of the skills and methods we may have learned back in university or earlier in our careers. That phrase was coined by Gregory Prastacos, dean of the School of Business at Stevens Institute of Technology, referenced here in my previous post. “Be willing to continuously learn, unlearn, and learn again,” he states.
That puts schools and universities in an interesting position, in that they need to look years, and even decades, into the future to prepare the incoming generations of professionals and managers to build and lead the digital enterprises of the 2020s and beyond. On a recent visit to Stevens Institute, I had the opportunity to sit down with Prastacos to discuss what skills and abilities are needed by today’s and tomorrow’s enterprises.
One of the most important points Prastacos emphasized was the blending of technology and business skills now in demand. Technology professionals need to understand the business, and business professionals need to understand technology. Stevens Institute has historically been a technical school, but within the past decade, it has been growing a business school — to meet the surging demand for technology-savvy business leaders.
Currently, across the educational landscape, the pendulum may have swung too far toward over-reliance on technology-driven processes, he cautions. “What people don’t have is the ability to critically look at the data — to understand what data is good, what data is not good. They need to how to synthesize, and how to think critically about data. This is becoming extremely critical.”
There needs to be more of an emphasis on teaching people “how to distinguish between good and bad data,” Prastacos says. “Understanding the value of data, using data, and understanding how to select the data that is useful and important for decision-making.”
The rise of technology-driven enterprises is increasing demand for communications skills, he continues. “Communications and writing will continue to be very important. You will need to interact with people, you will need to be able to communicate your vision and your products.”
Teamwork is another skill that will carry professionals and managers through the 2020s and beyond. ”With the elimination of al the intermediate levels of hierarchy, people communicate more in a flat way,” Prastacos says. “We have to be able to work together with not only our own team, but with many teams.”
Still, professionals and managers will require technology skills as well. ”The digital skills that everybody will need are numerical skills. You have is to use technology to analyze data. Can you do data mining? Can you run statistical tests? You need to be able to draw inferences, conclusions, understand your environment. You need to be able to understand new techniques coming out, like visualization.”
Executives and managers even require a degree of coding skills. “I have a friend who works for a major financial company told me that the way they worked is that they developed models, then gave models to IT, who developed the software, checked it, then gave it back. He told me they learned Python, and were able to work ten times faster. No matter what degree one graduates with, they need coding.”