Sunday, May 24, 2015

What kind of prata does your job resemble ?

The Thosai article has attracted quite a lot of attention so I'd thought I'd follow up with a similar article about career management. This framework is inspired by Robert Reich's The Work of Nations has been explained before in my previous books but I have updated my ideas to include some new insights from Law School.

a) Mechanical jobs resemble Roti Kosong

I think by now, people agree that many jobs are dead end jobs in Singapore. If you are manufacturing worker who performs mechanical work, you are probably already jobless in this country. Even in China, automation is rapidly changing the modern factory  why hire a villager when a robot can do the task with greater precision and will not commit suicide or engage in industrial action.

It's not just production operators who need to be afraid, I would consider legal work which fills templates equally at risk as this work can be fronted locally but outsourced to India. This is the same for stock brokers who just enter enter orders and send out house research mechanically every week.

If you career resembles Roti Kosong, be prepared to go hungry quite soon. How many people can be full after eating just one Roti kosong. In fact, you need to eat two pratas to be minimally satiated.

Better hold two jobs if you are stuck doing mechanical work.

b) Service jobs resemble Ice Cream Prata

Some jobs cannot be outsourced and are a safe haven from outsourcing. Taxi drivers, sales representatives and hair dressers belong to this category.

Service jobs are relatively secure but the problem lies in disappearing mechanical jobs forcing the bulk of citizens to fight for service oriented employment. This keeps a lid on salaries. In the 90s, my haircuts at Sri Dewa at Coronation Plaza was $8. These days my haircuts cost me $5 in the Woodlands heartlands. Malaysian staff relocate to Singapore to help Singaporeans with affordable haircuts.

Ice-Cream Prata looks sweet just like service staff and can be filling, but after a while you get hungry for meat and want some proteins in your diet.

c) Symbolic Manipulation jobs are like Murtabak

Highest paying jobs invariably require very solid symbolic manipulation skills. The ability to use personal knowledge to produce insight and advice to solve very complicated problems.

Software engineers in Silicon Valley command $100,000 premiums. SMU's recent information on law students show 97% employment rate and a starting pay of $5,500 - Although I advice my classmates not to be too cocky - the restriction of a few universities play a big role in this.

But degree holders should not be too happy to read this. Robert Reich wrote his book prior to the Second Machine Learning revolution. A lot of symbolic analytical work is getting replaced by artificial intelligence. The learning for symbolic analysts should never stop, a good programmer needs to develop strong domain knowledge and architecting skills to stay ahead of the curve, otherwise he can get drowned by competition.

This is why the Enhanced Diploma Programmes from our local Polytechnics is crucial to develop the consistently evolving symbolic analysts of the future.

Murtabak is ultimately rich and filling, you can vary what goes into the prata and come out with combinations of your own, results can be surprising and delicious. The problem is Murtabak is expensive and costs $7 a piece these days. Degrees cost time and money and there "paper thosai" problem I highlighted in an earlier post.

d) Convergence jobs are like Indian fusion cuisine from a 3-star Michelin Chef.

I thought I'd go beyond Robert Reich to talk about jobs which do not exist yet. There's something to be said about symbolic analytic work which spans multiple domains. Potentially a lot of innovation and great jobs await those who are schooled in multiple disciplines.

The best jobs of the future is similar to fusion cuisine. Imagine Indian prata wrapping a nice slab of Wagyu Beef and then infused with blend of chilli hot-sauces then served with a dessert derived from Lassi and molecular cuisine.

I experienced it personally in Law School, I saw a problem with regards to awarding contractual damages which top academic legal minds struggle to resolve. Contracts are based on words and absolutes. I tried to adopt the view of an options trader and found various hidden derivatives in the contracts and was able to suggest an innovative way to look at future rulings.

It's not just me, AI experts are now trying to predict which english words are likely to become extinct and making a lot of headway in English Literature. A paper was released recently on looking at Big 5 personality traits from Facebook posts.

This evolution of jobs is not entirely good news for policy makers. The biggest innovations and opportunities for job creation will come from insights from multi-disciplinary studies. This means that folks need to spend more time in school to power these new companies.

Perhaps a possibility is to adopt your career in stages and move from Murtabak to Indian Fusion Cuisine later in life when you have more capital to invest in your studies.

This is a highly advanced area of financial planning and career development which involves tactical asset allocation of your human capital. I bet no one has even invented this discipline yet.

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