Since the advent of Uber’s cheap ride-hailing service in 2009, fears over the replacement of traditional jobs with technology have been steadily increasing. Whilst Uber’s rise doesn’t wholly depend on automation (one-tap-app wizardry notwithstanding), it brings into focus the important question of whether the evolution of technology, and with-it self-healing networks, comes at the cost of well-established jobs.
At first glance, the idea of a ‘self-healing’ network seems to logically imply that fewer engineers are needed; after all, if it can fix itself, what’s left for the engineer to do? According to Michael Bushong, Vice President of Enterprise and Cloud Marketing at Juniper Networks writing in NetworkComputing.com, the answer isn’t quite so simple. “Automation is about growing, not cutting,” he says, adding that the goal of automation is to grow and support scalability. As the company grows, it will in turn need to increase its headcount, not reduce it.
Technology is changing, and engineers need to change with it
David Mihelcic, the Federal Chief Technology and Strategy Officer for Juniper Networks writing in Nextgov.com, says the move to automation will redefine a network specialist’s remit to focus on software programming rather than network management. In effect, technology is changing, and engineers need to change with it, he says. This might not be palatable to everybody though, for the obvious reason that many specialists are happy with their role as it is. But network engineers, of all people, are used to technology constantly adapting - obsoletion is a core part of the industry, so they should be happy to go with it.
It goes without saying that the shift to a software focus is massive. Those who wish to remain more hands-on and hardware focused will still obviously have a place, however, as these upgrades can’t be performed by AI. The competition for these roles will arguably be lower, too – network specialists who wish to pursue a more software-defined track, and even those on the fence, will be won over by the inevitably higher rates and salaries on offer. SDN and machine learning specialists are in high demand, and understandably companies are willing to pay more for such skillsets.
Somebody still needs to automate the job
So, the answer to the question of whether engineers will still have a job once networks are fully automated is most likely yes, they will. As Bushong points out, a business’ ultimate goal is to scale up, and when the business scales the network will too – and that’s something that can’t be automated. The goal of automation is to aid scalability, and scalability entails more jobs. Another factor is risk: in an enterprise-scale network, there are a lot of variables that can and will go wrong. According to Gartner, network downtime can cost on average $5,600 per minute. 10-20 minutes of downtime, and a fully automated company will likely be rethinking whether it was a good idea to cut back on network engineers.
With all that said, the spectre of automation is not unique to IT. A study by PwC estimates that 30% of jobs are at potential risk of automation by the mid-2030s. This only suggests that the job could be automated, however. Somebody still needs to automate the job, and to remain on hand to make sure the automation goes smoothly - lending more fuel to the fire that an engineer may need to shift their focus, not necessarily be replaced.
To date, we’ve managed to keep Skynet (the fictional AI supercomputer from the Terminator movies) at bay. It seems that, at worst, engineers will be forced to adapt and take a more software-centric approach to networking, picking up some programming along the way. Fears of automation are spread across every industry, but perhaps the theories of job replacement can be mitigated by adaptation.
We pride ourselves on trusted partnerships, whether you're looking for a new role in IT Infrastructure, talent for your team or considering joining Franklin Fitch. Why not start that partnership today?
Copyright © 2019 Franklin Fitch | All rights Reserved. Designed by Venn Digital
Or if you prefer email your CV to email@example.com
Please indiciate whether you would like us to hold onto your details in order to keep you up to date with relevant opportunities