Digital Disruption and Your Career

 Have you paused to consider that you’re living through an industrial revolution? 

Does this sound daunting, or exciting? Or is it simply a fact of life? While the pace of change has escalated of late, our ancestors also lived through significant transitions. Consider three earlier industrial revolutions:

  • 1784 – Introduction of mechanical production, powered by water and steam: Edmond Cartwright designed the first mechanical loom in 1784 and patented it in 1785, leading to the manufacturing of cloth in English textile factories.
  • 1870 – Division of labour with the introduction of electrically powered mass production: Assembly lines in Cincinnati slaughter houses were among the early examples in the 1870s. Typewriters were mass produced not long after, and Henry Ford’s automotive assembly lines followed in 1913.
  • 1969 – Electronics, IT systems and further automation of production: The 1960s were a time of great music, cultural change and PLCs. Huh? PLCs? Engineer Dick Morley created the first programmable logic controller (PLC), in response to needs in the automotive industry. These industrial digital computers simplified on and off switches (and more), which until that point were controlled by a series of hard-wired relays.  They were implemented in a broad range of products, including robotic devices.

Flash forward to the Fourth Industrial Revolution

That brings us to today, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0)

… which, according to Klaus Schwab, a professor who founded The World Economic Forum (WEF) in 1971, is already upon us. Dr. Schwab’s credentials include doctorates in Engineering and Economics, and a Master of Public Administration.

Schwab and others note that Cyber-Physical  Systems (CPS) are all around us. They take the form of genome editing, artificially intelligent robotics systems (AI), smart grids, autonomous (self-driving) car systems and more.

As explained by the World Economic Forum, they involve “…  entirely new capabilities for people and machines. While these capabilities are reliant on the technologies and infrastructure of the Third Industrial Revolution, the Fourth Industrial Revolution represents entirely new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies and even our human bodies. Examples include genome editing, new forms of machine intelligence, breakthrough materials and approaches to governance that rely on cryptographic methods such as the blockchain.

What’s the impact upon your world?

What does this mean for you?

That’s what we’re exploring in this panel series. You’ll likely have read predictions of workforce displacement, with the WEF noting one estimate that, globally, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation represent a threat to almost 50% of existing jobs.  However, as with past industrial revolutions, some jobs are sure to evolve rather than disappear, and new jobs will also emerge.

Consider the challenges educators (and society in general!) face in light of projections that up to 65% of the children now in Kindergarten / elementary / primary school will grow up to work in job classifications that don’t even exist in today’s workplace.


Considering AI and digital disruption: My 2017 panel

Regular readers will be familiar with my Real Careers series. Since June 2015, I’ve interviewed more than a hundred high performing admin. professionals from 21 (and counting) countries. These women and men, many of whom are leaders within their own professional associations, are generous with their insights on the profession and with advice on how to succeed.

For each of my Real Careers panel series, I reach out to some of the Real Careers alumni and pose a series of questions on a topical theme. For this one, I’ve turned to the following panelists from Australia, England, Norway (by way of Brazil), Sweden and the USA.  Read on for an introduction to this particular panel, and you can tap into each panelist’s Real Careers interview by clicking on her name.


Sofie Koark, from Sweden, is Executive Assistant to the Founder/CEO and Group management of Academic Work ( Sofie has been an Executive Assistant for 11 years, and has around a thousand colleagues and many more consultants at Academic Work. This is a private sector staffing and recruitment company, specialising in finding jobs and building career for young professionals.

Sofie began her admin. professional career as Executive Assistant to a Founder/CEO within the retail industry. She is situated in Stockholm, Sweden, but her international company also has offices in Denmark, Norway, Finland, Germany and Switzerland.


MistiLynn Lokken, of the United States, is an Executive Assistant.

She’s held an administrative career for 15 years, and began as administrative assistant to district manager at a retail company.

MistiLynn is based in Seattle, Washington.




Janice Parker of London, England (by way of Australia) works at a private, corporate organisation. She has between 250 and 300 local colleagues, and a thousand worldwide. She is Executive Assistant to the Partner and Head of Procurement & Supply Chain Practice at Odgers Berndtson, and has been an admin. professional for eight+ years.

Janice’s first proper PA role (rather than taking on administrative tasks in events roles) was as Assistant to the General Manager of a regional golf club back in her home country, Australia.


Helen Rees works near Winchester, Hampshire, UK. She began her career 23 years ago, as an Admin. Assistant at Hampshire County Council’s Arts Department, helping process grant applications from arts organisations and community groups.

Helen is PA to the Chief Executive of Marwell Wildlife, a Not-for-Profit conservation charity. There, she has approximately 250 colleagues. Helen is also the Founder of South Hampshire PA Network, and Vice Chair of The Executive & Personal Assistants Association (EPAA) Regional Board.


Julia Schmidt  is originally from Brazil and lives and works in Oslo, Norway.

A C-Suite Executive Assistant, she works in the private sector and has approximately 400 colleagues, 250 or so of them local.

Julia began her admin. career 25 years ago, as Administrative Secretary at Alliance Française de Rio de Janeiro.


Check back next week for more in this series!

%d bloggers like this: