The book “Techproof Me: The Art of Mastering Ever-Changing Technology” by A. Siddharth Pai is the ultimate guide that can help readers remain relevant in the fast-changing world of technology.
This book is about the new roles we need to play in our technology-oriented world. Discussing themes such as AI, machine learning and the Internet of Things, among others, the book prepares readers for massive technology-led disruption.
A. Siddharth Pai is a co-founder of Siana Capital and a venture capital fund manager for deep-science and deep-technology start-ups that ideally have social impact.
Read an excerpt from the book below.
We will always have new twists and turns in the development of technology. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has given a sudden turbo boost to all sorts of technology business models that were lacklustre twenty-four months ago. Or these are technologies that were already well developed but have received new attention due to their sheer ability to step into the void in a world that was facing uncharted waters during the pandemic. This is the right time to start reading a book about becoming techproof the only way most of us will ever be able to: by diving in head first, just as some of these new-world businesses have done.
I am not suggesting that we go off and become computer programmers. There is a better way of getting tech-ready and tech-proficient than learning how to write computer programming code.
We only need to understand the broad working and application of a technology to truly become techproof. So, it is critical to understand the actual businesses we are in and the models that will make them prosper or wither. And importantly, a thorough scan of our own capabilities—especially as human beings—will be the capstone of the arch through which we will enter the world of using technology effectively in our businesses without allowing it to disrupt us or our businesses.
Wherever I look online, I am bombarded with ads for courses by trained information technology specialists who promise to teach coding skills. Everyone seems to think that the pandemic has shifted the world firmly towards technology and digitization, and that the only businesses of the future would be technologically-enabled ones, or at least those that can quickly pivot themselves to a digital, remote delivery model. Displaced workers are signing on for these courses in droves, in the hope that a newly-minted certification from an online learning app or a ‘massive open online course’ will make them employable again. And then there are parents of schoolgoing children who seem intent on producing a Sundar Pichai or a Satya Nadella at home, even if not a Bill Gates or a Sergey Brin or a Larry Page.
In relatively private conversations (insofar as WhatsApp or other messaging applications are still private), I hear from parents of schoolgoing children who have been enrolled in such classes. Almost down to the last person, most of these are complaints about the quality of such classes. Many parents claim that these courses and the companies running them are frauds. They allege that they are rife with false marketing, aggressive sales, and use photos of computer greats such as Bill Gates without their express permission along with false claims of millions of downloads. This last bit causes a ‘fear of missing out’ (colloquially called FOMO) among parents of young children and also among workers who feel they are not tech-savvy enough to take on the new world.
Preying on the gullibility of displaced workers or worried parents is not hard. To start with, most of those who are in this class think that the world is a tough place, and that one needs to adapt to what is definitely going to be a watershed event (the COVID-19 pandemic) by retooling or upskilling oneself to meet new demands of the future. The tumultuous changes that are going on in the world have hastened the adoption of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain and the Internet of Things.
The pandemic will also serve to speed up the use of automation and technology in a bid to reduce human-to-human contact across a variety of business functions. India’s computer industry body NASSCOM even has a website devoted to future skills. But in my observation, those who trained in other disciplines before finding themselves in careers that required a deep knowledge of several types of technology have two sure-fire ways of making themselves future techproof. One is to truly understand how a given technology works at a macro level, and the second is to figure out how to adapt oneself to the changes it brings.
While this is probably an overly simplified explanation of a tough task, learning how to leverage technology does not demand that you become an expert programmer. In reality, it only needs the application of certain specific filters to truly understand a technology, so that one can play the role of a via media between a person with only a passing knowledge of that technology and someone who is so deep in its workings that he or she cannot understand its broader implications. This is an old consulting secret that is not freely shared even among consultants of the same firm since it allows those who are adept at it to gainfully occupy that middle ground for decades.
The first rule of understanding technology is to approach each new breakthrough in an attempt to understand all the nuances of the ‘functionality’ that the new technology offers—at the individual, group, industry and societal levels. All that functionality means is a translation—in simple English—of what the technology actually achieves. For instance, understanding what blockchain technology actually does (it removes the need for a central verifier of transactions such as a bank or a credit card clearing house) allows you to become fluent in extending that understanding to various levels of aggregation—from the individual to a firm or nation.
Once you understand the functionality of the technology, filling in the gaps around the technical minutiae of how it is delivered is a much easier task, and can be left to the ones who know how to write code.
The second is to internalize the gross logic of how and why the technology functions, and its logical design sequencing within the economic value chain of an industry. In other words, one will need to learn why the functionality of the technology one has now understood has economic impact. For example, block chain could conceivably replace credit cards. The basis for this logic can come from a variety of areas: breaking existing trading groups, statistics to predict outcomes, user-friendly access and so on.
The third is to learn from where the technology gets its data or information on which it acts to provide the above-mentioned technical functionality. Once these three components are properly understood, one will then be armed with enough knowledge to see how to adapt to it, or better still, profit from it!
The genesis of the thought process for this book was the realization that any top tier strategy consultant only uses a simple set of methods, married with sound bites of information in order to seem as if he or she were an expert in technology or a specific area of business. The art lies in not getting too technical and losing your audience by throwing about too many acronyms, but in explaining it to them in a way that makes them understand the broad brushstrokes around what a certain technology can actually do for them. The consultant does that while simultaneously convincing them that he or she is the perfect person to convert the fable into reality for the organization or executive they are talking to.
In order to accomplish this, the consultant (usually unconsciously, but always from having watched masters at this act do so when they were young) puts on a role that he or she plays for the organization he is working for or selling to. They become ‘TechImpostors’. This role varies based on whom they’re speaking to and what they’re speaking about, and fall by and large into a set of roles that we will discuss in this book.
Excerpted with permission from Techproof Me: The Art of Mastering Ever-Changing Technology, A. Siddharth Pai, Penguin Portfolio. Read more about the book here and buy it here.