Automation and AI: graduate area of work

Build and implement the systems that will define how people work and use technology in the future.

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The primary goal of automation is to reduce friction between production and consumption.

Theoretically, AI concepts and theories have been around since the 1950s, but the hardware and computational power to practically implement them have only become mainstream in the past few years. Automation has been a key driver for the development of software disciplines, with the latest trend being RPA (robotic process automation). Automation is now being augmented by AI technologies to extend its capabilities, and in industry the term used more commonly is ‘intelligent automation.’

What are the new developments in automation and AI?

AI is also enabling new applications, such as chatbots or digital assistant and NLU/NLP (natural language understanding/processing). These technologies are key enablers for digital transformation, enabling business to become more efficient and improve their customer’s/employee’s experiences. The primary goal of automation is to reduce friction between production and consumption.

Every business relies on process and each process is made up on tasks. We’re now able to hand simple tasks to ‘software robots’ – essentially small pieces of software that can be taught to replicate tasks and mimic the actions a human would do. Intelligent automation is now being leveraged to remove the ‘human glue’ that is necessary when these software systems aren’t integrated or don’t work well with each other. The goal is for the future workforce to be more productive, so that people are able to focus on cognitive and high-value tasks, while handling off more mundane tasks to robots.

Many large technology consulting firms are offering automation services to clients in nearly every industry in the public and private domain. Start ups that specialise in building AI platforms and technologies also operate in this sector, and partner with consultancies to offer specialist solutions to business problems.

Graduates wanting a career in automation in IT need to know…

There are numerous new technologies that can become part of the overall automation ecosystem. Emerging technologies, like blockchain, DevOps, and immersive, are also becoming increasingly important. For example, DevOps discipline is almost a standard of how technology teams build and deploy software, and involves leveraging a great deal of automation. Immersive technology, such as augmented reality (AR) and VR, is also becoming more prevalent in industries like aviation, retail, healthcare and is allowing for more streamlines customer/employee experiences.

The introduction of 5G technology in the next few years will open up new avenues for automation by reducing latency and thus improving the productivity of robots, for example in the manufacturing industry. Automation technologies combined with AI and immersive and underpinned by a 5G infrastructure will form the foundation of Industry 4.0 – the next phase of industry and manufacturing.

Career progression in automation and AI

While, obviously, a technology or engineering background is beneficial to work in this sector, it’s not necessary. Programme management, project management, client management and business skills are equally important. Larger organisations, such as consultancy firms, run graduate programmes with the option to specialise in AI and other emerging technologies. There is also a lot of demand for new talent in start ups.

Progression can involve moving into the leadership side of engineering, helping to manage projects and to implement larger-scale projects for clients.

Choose a career in automation and AI if…

  • You enjoy a fast-paced environment and can think on your feet.
  • You want to be able to work across, and gain experience from, multiple industries – automation is being introduced in many sectors.
  • You enjoy solving people’s business problems and care about improving people’s experiences using technology.

SUMANT KUMAR is director of digital transformation at CGI UK . He has a degree in computer science from National Institute of Technology, India and an MBA from Cranfield University.

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