Organizations globally are experiencing workforce disruption at an unprecedented scale and pace. Virtually all companies shifted to a remote workforce model to protect and empower employees, serve customers, and establish business continuity. Technology companies were better prepared. For example, Wipro Engineering was able to ensure 99% of its workforce comprising 20,000+ engineers were fully operational, remotely, within 48 hours of the lockdown.
For millions of engineers globally today, with approximately 1M added to the community annually, the burning question is: what will the future look like? Will virtual workspaces be the new normal? Can innovation and engineering happen over siloed setups? Will the world be flatter for engineers or will growth opportunities be physically distanced?
Until 2020, Digital disruption & technology adoption had ensured unprecedented growth in global demand for engineers. With COVID-19 elevating technology needs even further, this demand is likely to increase but a few things for engineers will be different:
- Digital – Citius, Altius, Fortius - According to the consulting firm Everest, the current ratio of emerging skills (AI/ ML, Autonomous, 5G etc.) to overall engineering workforce is 10%. This percentage will grow beyond 14% by 2022 and increase further at a much faster rate.
- End of consumerism-driven innovation - Consumerism drove a large part of the growth over the past 100 years. Engineers provided the production and supply mechanism. Consumer behavior legend Philip Kotler believes people are likely to de-prioritize buying in favor of health-related spends that keep them fitter and happier longer. This indicates that innovation will increase in industries that will produce such products such as HealthTech. The future landscape of traditional engineering industries like Aerospace, Automotive, and Semiconductors will move toward driving greater efficiency.
- I am an automobile engineer, and … - Automotive and Medical companies are jointly building Health equipment. Companies will move into very different kinds of products. Ecosystem engineering will only increase. Open innovation will be promoted. Customers will become a part of the engineering ecosystem. Consequently, engineers will not be tied to one industry for their entire career.
- One Engineer, two jobs, maybe three - Globalization, innovation, and flexibility saw a shift from fulltime employees to Contractors to Crowdsourcing. In the future, multiple employment models for engineers may become possible and provide greater flexibility for individuals and efficiencies for organizations. But skills will remain to be important.
- Reality of Virtual Engineering - By April 22, nearly 49% of companies (as per PwC) said they’re planning to make remote work a permanent option for roles that allow it. 100% virtualized and secure engineering environments are a reality today. Even remote hardware testing is being delivered effectively. The PDLC itself has been impacted by remote working, a sudden increase in Remote collaboration platforms, Remotely connected labs and infrastructure, DevSecOps assessment and implementation for distributed work environment, High dependence on digital toolchain, Secure home workspace environment etc. This will only accelerate.
- Think Global, Act Local – Technology ensures and COVID-19 validates that you don’t need to be present at a particular location physically to deliver. Protectionism of locals enabled by stricter Visa laws will also discourage people relocating by crossing borders. This will increase pressure to scout talent in local geographies. Engineering talent and opportunity will spread globally. This hunt for local talent will only promote a healthy increase in diversity across engineering teams, especially with people who were not able to work earlier due to commitments at home, with children etc.
- With Greater Walls to China, other roads will open – We have seen major tech players and device manufacturers not only move production to Vietnam and Thailand but also set up new R&D centers in these countries. This has led to higher engineering demand in newer territories like Thailand, Vietnam, Eastern Europe, and Central America to either provide a near shore solution or reduce dependence on skill/resource availability in China. These new centers have become leading contenders for engineering enterprises to migrate their engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain presence from China.
There is no denying the fact that COVID-19 has marked the end of an era. The new era though, will mean greater opportunity for the engineering workforce. It is important for each of us to reset and reconfigure according to the new reality, while managing the crisis today, and look toward a brighter future!
- Findings from NASSCOM and Everest Group joint report: Digital Engineering – An opportunity unparalleled
- Executive Insights: Controversies, Convictions, and Provocations on the Covid-19 threat (EverestGroup)