By Graham Byars
“Lifelong learning” is a phrase that has entered the common vocabulary in the last couple of decades.
In part, that is because the world of work has been transformed:
– The rate of technological change has made the day-to-day work of any professional very different to what it was 10 or 20 years ago;
– The concept of a job or a profession for life has essentially disappeared; and
– We’re seeing the continuing rise of the gig economy.
Those who are equipped to navigate these new work realities (and even thrive in them) demonstrate two characteristics:
1. They are quick to recognise and engage with change
2. They are life-long learners
Engaging with change on a personal level will be the subject of a future blog, and with Akari having a highly-regarded Change Management practice internally it may be one of my colleagues who shares their experience in that area.
I’d like to share my experience as a life-long learner, and how that has led to a brand new skill as a Robotic Process Automation (RPA) engineer – a career that is currently growing in demand and accessible to those with the two key characteristics mentioned above.
When you hear the term “Robotic Process Automation” you might immediately conclude it is not for you. It sounds technical and complicated, and likely requires a long expensive training course. At first glance there appear to be significant barriers to entry.
Let me use my experience to put (most) of those myths aside:
– Although I have worked in IT for over 15 years, it has been mostly in management positions, and I have never been a coder or developer.
– My 12 years experience as an Accountant before going into IT were probably more relevant, as they taught me to have a patient, methodical approach to work.
My experience as a Project Manager taught me to think in terms of processes and tasks, and how to optimise them.
It’s no surprise to me that as many RPA engineers come from a business background as an IT one.
The “citizen developer” who becomes the professional developer is common in RPA.
– My experience in RPA is less than 15 months, and in that time I have built highly complex software robots that are in daily production use.
– The vast majority of the training I have done has been 100% free, as have the tools used for that training.
– Most of the development I have done has not required programming skills. I have acquired a little of these, but only in small “bite-sized” doses to solve a particular requirement.
– I am over 50 years of age (I know, I don’t look it, so I had to call it out 😊 )
I said I’d put MOST of the myths aside. I should highlight that “the vast majority” of the training has been 100% free.
– Once we saw real results from the free training, and the potential that RPA offered to our business, Akari did invest in a 5-day course to accelerate the development of our in-house skills.
That was very practical and I would recommend it if you can afford it. But time-wise it is a drop in the ocean compared to the amount of free and good quality training available.
– And we did pay for me to sit one certification exam, to demonstrate to customers that I had achieved the highest level of competence. All the preparations for that exam were free.
So why look at RPA for a career move?
1. Gartner says the RPA industry is the fastest growing segment of the enterprise software market, and it is expected to grow at double-digit rates at least till 2024. From an employment perspective, that means demand is increasing for RPA skills, so this is a good time to get into it.
2. Most training is free, and there are free versions of the software tools for training purposes. So the initial barrier to entry is low.
3. From a personal perspective, the work itself can be hugely enjoyable.
Your time and creativity are invested in the creation of each software robot.
There are enormous “highs” when you’ve laboured over a problem and it all comes together (in an office environment it is not unusual to suddenly hear someone shout “YES!!!”, jump up and punch the air – and then become self-conscious over their involuntary outburst).
These “highs” far outweigh the “low” times when you can’t quite see how to make something work, and the lows are quickly forgotten when the solution is found.
There is tremendous satisfaction in seeing the end product handed over and daily producing results without a need for you to maintain it.
If you are a parent, you will probably recognise most of the emotions in that third point.
I’m sure I am not the only RPA engineer who refers to the robot they are working on at the time as “my baby”.
To sum up, I would highly recommend looking into RPA as your potential “next career” if you are seeing the need for change in direction and you love to learn new things !!