An open letter to my college-bound son during the age of disruption

by Clar Rosso, Executive Vice President-Engagement and Learning Innovation, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

Work is changing. More and more tasks are becoming automated, and artificial intelligence is improving. Industries are being disrupted. While change has been a constant over the past several decades, the pace of innovation is increasing.

So what does that mean for students heading to college? What will a career in accounting, engineering or a similar profession look like in a decade?

Clar Rosso, Executive Vice President-Engagement and Learning Innovation at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, wrote this letter to her son, Ansel, to congratulate him for graduating high school. She shares her advice on how to be successful during the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Read on for more.

Dear Ansel,

Congratulations on your high school graduation! It’s incredible to see how you’ve much you’ve grown, and I’m so proud of the young man you have become.

What a time to be heading to college. The world is changing so rapidly, and, as a computer science major, you’ll be at the epicenter of change.

I know high school had its ups and downs. It was frustrating, at times feeling pointless – but the opportunities presented to you were meaningful. The Project Lead the Way engineering classes were project-based and purpose filled, supercharging your brain with valuable information. College will be similar, a mix of the seemingly pointless and the remarkably significant. But rest assured that computer science at University of Illinois at Chicago will be project-based and purpose filled.

It will teach you even more than you think. Engineers, just like accountants, scientists, and so many others, are now poised to change the world. Why? They have always needed more than just technical competencies to succeed. Each day, creativity and design-thinking are necessary to adapt their belief system and solve complex problems. Critical thinking, judgment, decision making, coordinating with others – it’s all part of your future job description. For you, the World Economic Forum’s 2020 skills won’t be an afterthought. They will be part of your core competencies.

This is so important to understand because your job will constantly morph and evolve. You will create and leverage technology in ways we cannot conceive. You won’t shrink from change – you will create and drive it.

Know that the more you seek out people different from yourself and challenge your belief system, the more likely you are to achieve your goals. Success doesn’t just come from being good at what you do. It comes from being innately human, with skills such as:

Complex problem solving : The future will require you to solve new kinds of problems that may not be well defined.

Critical thinking : Objective analysis of facts and issues will be key in exercising your judgement.

Creativity : When you think of creativity, you probably picture an artist, but the kind of creativity I’m talking about is technical creativity, which drives new ideas, theories and technologies.

People management : Creating a rock star team and getting the most out of them will continue to be valued in the workplace.

Emotional intelligence : Success will require you it identify and manage your emotions and anticipate the emotions of others around the office. Handling your relationships with empathy is key and a skill you’ll be able to develop throughout your career.

You can find more information about these skills in a blog post I wrote, Future-proof your career: be more human. Let’s call it required summer reading!

In a nutshell, make sure you focus on people. Different people. People whose ideas are different from yours, because it is with these people, you will solve the world’s problems.

And above all, remember to always be kind. Be kind to yourself, kind to others – there certainly can never be too much of that in the world.

Good luck, Ansel. I can’t wait to see all you accomplish. Oh, and one last thing: Chicago’s going to be cold. Please wear a coat!