This week was fun, I got featured in a CNBC article online. Check it out here or here on my LinkedIn if you want to follow the discussion.
The silver lining in this pandemic is that working from anywhere is a real possibility and allows us to explore new places, spend time with families and get out of the big cities and closer to nature.
I absolutely appreciate the hardship many are going through and see myself in a very lucky and privileged position compared to many others.
Making the most of what is a catastrophic 2020.
Work from anywhere
This pandemic is making it possible for workers in tech to work from anywhere. Big cities have lost their appeal. Since I moved to London, there was so much I learned, people I met and things I’ve experienced that now are not possible any longer. Musicals, concerts and even meeting friends is an endeavour.
As my wife and I both have office-type jobs where a stable internet connection and a laptop are the only hard requirements, we can pretty much work from anywhere. So we made some plans. After spending a few weeks at home with families in Switzerland during the summer we thought we should do this again.
Our plan is to visit our families again but this time we will leave our flat. We want to move to a bigger place anyways. So, in between flats in London, we will just spend a few months saving on rent and live with our in-laws in Switzerland.
If the situation in 2021 improves and we can travel again we might even get ourselves into a nice AirBnB in Spain and spend a few weeks there before returning to London to hunt for a new and bigger flat.
Why move flats?
Two people on Zoom calls all the time is hard if you’re bound to a 1-bedroom flat. A centrally located flat in London is a great thing if you can take advantage of the city. Sadly, that’s not been the case in the last six months and probably won’t for the foreseeable future.
We’ll move to a bigger place to be able to work alongside each other much better. Also, we’ll get ourselves closer to a large park just outside the very center.
Using the gap of a few months will be perfect to save some money too and get our finances on track for future projects. Hint: buying real estate.
“Work from anywhere” here to stay?
I changed jobs in January. I joined a startup, Clari, a team of five in Europe building the international expansion. No office. Few perks. Massive personal and professional growth opportunity.
When I was in the fancy Salesforce Tower in London, people would often ask but will you not miss the office?
Probably I will miss it a bit, is what I would say but I would not base a career decision on the office. What happened later in that year is something I could have not imagined. Most of my former colleagues would not enter the Salesforce Tower either for 6 months and counting.
Work from anywhere has made people appreciate simpler things, access to nature and shown that the important bit for productive work is not necessarily an office. A great culture outshines the great office and lives on remotely, in Zoom background, Slack channels and how you treat people.
Many companies and employees see the benefits of work from anywhere. Commuting to an office will become much less frequent in the coming months and years I believe.
Did you know you can learn basic Python in only a few weeks without being a programming geek already? Probably not. Neither did I. In my job, I don’t need to program, but it helps to understand the technology and how the technical stuff works on a high level. So, I should learn something about it.
The big question is, where to start?
If you randomly google “learn python” then you’ll find 206 million results. Some very technical, some super basic. I needed something that helped me. I don’t like reading about technical details. I much prefer to have a teacher teach me.
So, naturally, I started looking at MOOCs (massive open online courses) and found the absolute best course. With that course, I managed to learn the basics of Python in just a few weeks.
The one course I recommend is “Python for Everybody”. There is no better starting point to learn Python. This specialisation consists of 5 courses and is provided by the University of Michigan.
The specialisation gets fantastic ratings between 4.6-4.9 stars out of 5 with thousands of reviews on the various courses.
Chuck Severance is the instructor and starts at the very basics as he slowly progresses to more advanced topics. He shows how you can work with data in Python, access a database and even visualise data using external tools.
He is the best instructor out there. He’s leading the entire specialisation and will give you a great grounding of Python even if you have never used it before. Chuck is legendary and super enthusiastic about Python and teaching. That makes it easy for anyone following the course to learn the fundamental concepts. Not every course on Coursera has great teachers, and sometimes there are gaps in the content that make it hard for students to follow. Not here. Chuck is legendary.
What will you be able to do?
As you’re not a geek, just like myself, you probably won’t create the next Facebook using Python. One thing you will achieve is a high-level understanding of all the concepts. Learning the basics is crucial, so when you talk to a software engineer, you can speak the same language. You’ll be able to write basic Python scripts to manipulate data and visualise it using libraries like D3.
From Hello World to Awesome Data Visualisations
This course will take you a few weeks to up to a few months to complete. It’s all self-paced and suitable for beginners. That also shows in the fact that the course has over 250,000 people enrolled. Let’s have a look at the curriculum.
Course 1 – Programming for Everybody
The course starts with the basics highlighting the importance of programming. You will code a famous ‘Hello World’. The course continues onwards with helping you install the right tools that you’ll need throughout the specialisation. It concludes with you being able to set values, run basics if/else statements and loops. Which is pretty cool, considering you only just started. Also, all material is available online: https://www.py4e.com/.
Course 2 – Python Data Structures
After you learnt the basics of navigating data, we’re going deeper into the different structures. You will see how easily you can pull data from a file, process it, manipulate it and store it back into a file. This part of the course is still quite simple but sets you up for success in course 3.
Course 3 – Using Python to Access Web Data
This course goes into the detail of how the web works and how you can get external data to play around with. It’s a fantastic starting point to get your programming skills to the next level. Because here, you will use the basics you have learnt to take data not just from your input or a file on your desktop. You will go onto a website and use that data in your program. Until this point, you’ve played around a lot, but all will be forgotten unless you store it somewhere. That’s when databases come into play.
Above is a screenshot of what the course video looks like when explaining networking. Professor Severance explains everything in great detail and will use an interactive drawing technology to draw up concepts so you can follow along easily.
Course 4 – Using Databases with Python
Now you need to think about data for the long term. That’s when databases come into play. You use the standard SQL language in Python to write data into a database where it can be stored for future uses. This is great as it’s the first time you’re work lives on beyond the black terminal window.
Course 5 – Capstone: Retrieving, Processing, and Visualizing Data with Python
The capstone ties all knowledge you have gained throughout the course together. You will deal with some ambiguity too as there is a lot of code that is reused to save the effort of getting everything ready from scratch. It lets you focus on the core part of this which is to retrieve, process and visualise data.
Above is my visualisation from a large text file of emails. I created a word cloud using a third-party library, and that’s the result.
Each course features a quiz with real-life exercises that will get you some hands-on experience with Python. Assignments are also part of the specialisation. You’ll help review other students’ code as well.
That’s it. An amazing 5-course specialisation on Coursera which get you up to speed on the basics of Python. How to boost your career with Python now? Read on.
How to Get Started
It’s super simple. I used Coursera to complete this course. Coursera is a fantastic platform, as it provides free courses. Some you can try for a whole week to see if you like them before going for a paid version which includes a certificate. If you want to start the course on Python, follow this link and get immersed.
Once you complete the courses, you’ll be awarded a certificate which you can share on LinkedIn.
More importantly, you’ll have a good basic understanding of how applications are built in one of the most popular languages out there. Here’s my certificate which I shared on LinkedIn.
Then, I started to gain some recognition for it on my LinkedIn profile and even more Coursera themselves liked my post. This led to a significant increase in profile views. There were over 36,000 views of my post and over 350 people liked it. That’s by far more than anything else I’ve ever posted.
Many of you will do this course to learn something new. The certificate is a nice to have as well. Now, I’m sure that also some of you will use this to get a new job, a better job, a job that requires you to know Python.
Well, this is great evidence to show you that people on LinkedIn will notice you. If you’re looking for a new challenge in your career, this could be a great way to let others know. The world is small. Someone might reach out if you use LinkedIn the right way.
I hope this review was helpful, leave a comment, follow me on Twitter @realSemir.
Jobs of the future will look different than today. AI – or artificial intelligence – is a hyped term that’s been thrown around a lot in the past few years. Many say it will change the jobs of the future radically. The fast progress on algorithms, data capture and processing power has led to a swarm of startups trying to disrupt industries from auditing to shipping and everything in between.
With that, a big fear has emerged that AI, machines and AI-powered robots will replace humans. That’s likely true. To some extent at least. But you can prepare yourself for a job of the future and set yourself up for a successful career by developing a few important skills.
Always remember, jobs won’t just be replaced, it’s also true that new jobs will be created. History serves as a good guide as the same happened in previous disruptions. A good example is what happened when the first ATMs were introduced in the US in the 1960s. Many people were afraid that machines would replace humans.
What happened when the ATM was introduced?
In reality, the number of bank tellers in the years following the introduction up to the 2000s increased as James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute points out in an article from 2016. (The cited research is from a book by James Bessen, if you’re interested you can find it here.)
Career Opportunities Despite AI
It’s crucial for the future workforce – that’s you!– to understand what opportunities will be created during the digital revolution. AI will replace jobs but not all, I hope this post gives you a good idea of what you can do to pursue a great career.
One of the true thought leaders in AI Andrew Ng who teaches at Stanford said to Forbes:
“If a typical person can do a mental task with less than one second of thought, we can probably automate it using AI either now or in the near future”.
That gives us some idea already.
Creativity is often mentioned as a skill that won’t be replaced by AI any time soon. Along with critical thinking, communication skills and imagination these are the things that can set you apart in your career regardless if you’re a recent graduate, a low-skilled worker, somewhere in middle-management or anywhere else.
But how can you develop these skills?
How to Be More Creative in Your Job?
You might wonder how can you be creative in your work and that’s a valid question. Many career brochures in universities are absolutely outdated and the image of a successful graduate is portrayed in a big four account firm, as a financial analyst or something else that is very clearly structured and defined and needs someone with attention to detail, rigour and stamina.
Guess what, a machine can be all of that, 24/7, all year round, for much less money.
The tasks that can be automated by AI are typically mundane, clearly-defined, repetitive, simple tasks. If that sounds like your job, then it might be replaced soon.
So, the big question is, how do you stand out? How do you bring creativity to your job? How do you elevate your position above the mundane, repetitive work and think outside the box?
An Important Skill – Being Entrepreneurial
Being entrepreneurial is one of the most creative traits a person can have and combines all the above skills that I’ve mentioned like critical thinking, communication and imagination. Being entrepreneurial doesn’t require you to be an entrepreneur, you can be an intrapreneur in your company or just someone who takes initiative.
You have to know that “mundane, repetitive, clearly-defined” are very comfortable and if a job is like that and probably pays well then you won’t like change. But it’s the only way to long-term success.
Being entrepreneurial, being a challenger, being someone who is creating something new – creative – requires initiative, courage and optimism. The skills you train are invaluable for a future in which AI will become interweaved with all jobs.
How To Start Being Entrepreneurial?
There’s no set recipe on how to be entrepreneurial but there are great resources, people and opportunities to train your thinking. Today, I want to share to very practical ways of how you can stimulate your creative juices in ways no AI can.
Use Ideation Techniques
There are countless ideation methods. We often revert the same old such as brainstorming but there’s more. I won’t list all of them here as you’re smart enough to use Google. Google for “ideation techniques” or “creativity techniques”.
You’ll be surprised to find things like the Disney method. The story goes that Disney would go through ideas from three perspectives in the order of the dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler/critic.
Another one, I personally like to use is to listen to customers or client when they say: we want to improve X by 10%. And I think, wow that’s a lot, that could be millions for some customers. But then I challenge myself on that and ask myself what if my customer just said 10x of what they’ve said. In my example it would mean, how do I improve X by 100% or go even more crazy by a 1000%?
Imagine, if a customer, boss, client, whoever approaches you to improve a process.
Let’s say, improve the speed at which coffee is served for Starbucks baristas. The CEO might ask if we can take away 10 seconds of the preparation process that would save millions. You get right to it but you’re thinking is slightly restricted as it’s a very incremental, traditional, non-creative thinking that you’ll likely fall into.
Now, imagine the Starbucks CEO told you 10x that. What if he said that he wants the coffee preparation time to be improved by 100 seconds.
Sounds impossible, right? Well, the CEO pays you to come up with something and suddenly you’ll notice how creative you’ll get.
Today, I can order my Starbucks coffee on an app and collect it without even waiting a single second. Maybe that came out of a 10x ideation session.
The last one, I often use is the opposite-method, the goal is to brainstorm what your customers, your boss, your clients, whoever would never say about you. For example, if you ask a citizen to renew their passport/driver’s license they would probably never say “wow, you have really great opening times and I don’t even need to take a day off”. That will highlight gaps and opportunities for new ideas.
Develop Mental Models
Mental models help you see the complex world in simplified ways and allow you to make better decisions along the way. I strongly recommend that you check out the #1 resource on this – the Farnam Street blog by Shane Parrish.
So, what’s an example of a mental model and how does it help you to get ready for jobs of the future?
“First-level thinking is simplistic and superficial, and just about everyone can do it. Second-level thinking is deep, complex and convoluted.”
It basically means that if A happens then B follows is simple and everyone can see that. But what happens with B and how does it impact C? D? E?
It’s a great way to develop critical thinking skills about actions and unintended consequences. Thecobra-effect is a great example. Back in the days of the British empire, the imperial government was concerned about the number of venomous cobra snakes in the capital of Delhi. In the true spirit of first-order thinking, they’ve decided to offer bounties to people for every dead cobra. On the surface, this seems like a fantastic idea. The strategy worked initially and many snakes were killed. The British were happy.
The second-order impact, which they could have thought of had they employed the second-order thinking mental model came to them as a surprise. Entrepreneurial people started to breed cobras. That, of course, is very creative and would supply them with extra income. Unsurprisingly, the new business idea spread and the government got wind of it. The rules scrapped the program and cobras became worthless. The entrepreneurs realised that and set all the snakes free into the wild. This had the very opposite effect of what they initially wanted to achieve. It backfired and made everything worse than it was.
Time To Get Creative for the Jobs of the Future
AI is reshaping the world we live in and the digital revolution is only accelerating. As an innovator, entrepreneur, intrapreneur or anyone else who’s willing to go beyond simple, repetitive, clearly-defined tasks will succeed. You must challenge the status quo and show creativity. It’s not easy, it’s hard. But it’s worth it. It sets you up for a long, successful career that’s safe from automation.
My recommendation if you want to be ready for the jobs of the future is to brace yourself for the digital revolution that’s happening and you need to reinvent yourself to stay ahead of the curve. That will lead to a sustainable successful career that won’t be replaced by an AI. Time to get creative.