Author: Jennifer Chandler
It’s one of the fastest growing and fastest changing industries on Earth. So, what does it take to have a future in IT? And what does the future of IT look like? We caught up with Dr Haifeng Shen, IT Discipline Leader at ACU to find out.
Information technology is everywhere. It’s part of our work, our study, our leisure, our travel, our health and even our shopping. Once the realm of technicians and programmers, the rise of digital technology has brought IT skills into the mainstream and created whole new industries within the field.
That’s good news for those considering a career in IT says Dr Haifeng Shen.
“There’s never a dull moment in a career in IT, it is constantly evolving and there’s always new opportunity,” said Dr Shen.
A career in IT is not really a career in IT – it’s a career in any industry you want.
“IT graduates are working in banks, in cyber security, in medicine, and even sports science. Every single industry relies on IT in some shape or form. That means graduates can really choose their own path.”
There are the architects, analysts, developers, engineers, designers and security experts.
“Information technology is about shaping the way we work, socialise, communicate and help one another,” said Dr Shen. “You could specialise in cloud architecture, data mining, or become a machine learning engineer.
“Many of these jobs didn’t exist 10 years ago, and in another five years there will be a whole host of jobs that haven’t been invented yet.”
Because technology is evolving so rapidly, Dr Shen said his approach to teaching goes beyond just the hard skills. Instead, he also embraces the soft skills students will need to excel in the future.
“What we try to do is give students the skills to make their own path. We teach them programming, analytics and math, but we also teach them to be adaptable, creative and life-long learners.”
It’s these skills, he says, that makes it possible for graduates to adapt, predict and create change.
“My favourite quote comes from computer scientist Alan Kay:
‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it,’ and that’s what we teach our students to do.”
So, what’s required to succeed in this world of constantly evolving technology, where the jobs of today may look entirely different in the future?
Dr Shen said there are certain core skills you need to consider for a career in IT.
“You need to be strong in math, be creative in problem-solving, love design and have an analytical style of thinking. But above all else you need to be a life-long learner.
“It’s a field that’s always changing, so you need to be able to keep learning, be resilient and adaptable. You can always learn new skills, languages and technology as they evolve, but it’s important to enjoy that process.”
Dr Shen also wants future students to understand that technology is ultimately about humans, not code and machinery.
“The work that we are doing is human-centred. We are not building technology to replace humans, we are building technology to make our lives easier and more efficient. Big data gives us insight for our decision-making, the cloud makes it easier to collaborate, and automation removes repetitive tasks so we can focus on creating and problem-solving. Technology can improve our quality of life, and even save lives. For someone who is really passionate about helping people, IT provides a lot of opportunities.”
Dr Haifeng Shen is an Associate Professor and the Discipline Leader of Information Technology in the Peter Faber Business School at ACU. He has published over 110 research papers at international conferences and journals. He develops and studies intelligent human-centred collaborative and social software systems through the seamless integration of artificial and human intelligence.
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