Main image of article 3 Ways to Upskill Yourself and Adapt in the Age of A.I.

Data shows that tech professionals are eager to learn artificial intelligence (A.I.) skills on the job, but over half of employer-led training programs are falling short of meeting their needs. In fact, only 64 percent of workers think they’re receiving the training they need, and 57 percent find their training to be inadequate according to a new report from Oliver Wyman. With generative A.I. projected to impact 96 percent of the key skills and competencies that software engineers and other specialists will need in the future, tech professionals have no choice but to teach themselves how to use and work with A.I. 

The question is how to move forward. Here are three ways to build A.I. skills through self-directed learning both inside and outside the workplace. 

Start in Your Own Backyard 

Understanding the fundamentals of A.I. is the same as learning anything new in technology, the best place to start is by becoming familiar with the tools that are already available, advised Dana Lawson, CTO at Netfly. 

“Most companies will be utilizing, integrating and applying A.I. just like any other tool,” Lawson said. 

By getting hands-on with A.I. libraries, frameworks and tools that are designed to enhance your efficiency with tasks related to software development, DevOps or even data engineering (just to name a few) you'll not only learn how A.I. works but how to apply it effectively in your current role, which is paramount. 

“Be public about it,” Lawson said. “Learn from those around you by asking your teammates to demonstrate how they use A.I. tools.” Her team also shares knowledge and the application of knowledge through pair programming and hackathons. If you don’t have teammates, you can leverage external resources such open source projects to gain hands-on experience with A.I. Or use an open source LLM like the Langbase platform to create an app with language generation abilities in your spare time. 

Here’s another idea: Ask an A.I.-driven chatbot to teach you how to use A.I. in your day-to-day activities.  

“Engaging in a back-and-forth conversation is a great way to become more comfortable communicating with ChatGPT or Gemini and integrating its capabilities into your workflow,” noted Dean Batson, an instructor at ASU and Phoenix College. “Over time, add memory and context to the discussion and direct the chatbot to help you become more productive and save time. 

Knowing how to ask effective questions, write prompts for coding and interact with ChatGPT is half the battle of getting past the apprehension and learning how to use it effectively. 

Focus on Adjacent Skills  

Many people think they need to train for an entirely new career to remain relevant in the age of A.I. But learning the technical and soft skills that will allow you to excel in your current role or specialty will put you ahead of the curve, at least for the time being. 

Read job postings, news publications, blogs and online forums related to the impact and application of A.I. in your career field to determine the skills you need to learn or enhance to remain relevant in the immediate future. For instance, depending on your role and background, you may need to upskill to an advanced level with Python, R, Java and/or C++. If you want to venture into machine learning, you will need experience with machine learning and deep learning libraries such as TensorFlow, Keras and PyTorch.  

Adding complementary knowledge of A.I. ethics, UI/UX, design thinking, product management or A.I.-driven security testing for instance can help you adapt as your responsibilities change. Keep in mind that upskilling is not a temporary endeavor. You will need to embrace a growth mindset, set goals for yourself, measure progress and keep iterating for several months to a year or more.  

“However, the good news is that you can add complementary skills in your free time by taking short courses that are highly focused and offer flexible scheduling,” advised Eli Amdur, a career and executive coach.  “See if your employer will pay for training or reimburse you for inexpensive courses. But even if have to foot the bill, investing in yourself now will pay dividends down the road.” 

Begin Working in New Ways 

The most important but challenging thing for many technology pros is developing soft skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving and knowledge of A.I. ethics, and integrating them into their existing work routine. The rewards are worth the effort, especially if you’re looking for job security, because a recent study found that A.I. makes employers value soft skills more. 

To be sure, adopting new habits and behaviors takes time and is not a straightforward process, but there are best practices, methods and techniques that produce optimal results. For instance, experts agree that experiential learning is the most effective way to learn soft skills. It involves learning by doing, reflecting and applying. Therefore, putting new soft skills to work as you learn them, either on-the job or through side projects, can help you form new habits and connect new knowledge with knowledge and concepts that you already know.  

“Practicing soft skills with trusted advisors and colleagues in realistic scenarios provides a hands-on approach to mastering intangible traits and behaviors more effectively,” Lawson says. 

She also recommends finding a mentor. In fact, studies have shown that mentoring by more senior peers or managers is an effective way to nurture vital workplace soft skills, such as communication, collaboration and adaptability. 

In conclusion, while A.I. promises unprecedented efficiency and workplace transformation, developing soft skills and new ways of working will help keep your job safe from A.I. today and benefit you throughout your career.