Let’s face it, graduating in 2020 is full of both headaches and heartache. COVID-19 is forcing you to finish your schooling- and university lives on what I’m sure can feel like an anticlimactic, anxious note -- you’re working in isolation in many cases, without ceremony, physically away from peers and professors, and facing an unpredictable jobs market.
These times have also felt unsettled for those of us already in the market, particularly for those working in asset-heavy industries, like power & utilities, energy and manufacturing. Despite the uncertainty, those of you in the fields of technology, programming, data science, engineering and the like are in a good place to choose your own adventure. Those who are interested in consumer products and services could of course lend your talents to Big Tech, more dominant and fiscally solid than ever. Jobs would be plentiful there. Some of you may instead decide to ride out the next few years in academia. And others might opt to go a completely different direction and see the opportunities now revealing themselves in legacy and asset-heavy industries.
Finding the silver lining
Though traditional industries are among the world’s richest and economically most consequential, they’ve also taken a beating recently. But in these struggles lie opportunities. The immediate-term consequences of the coronavirus-caused economic crash combined with a mid- and long-term reckoning related to the climate crisis and energy transition is forcing these industries to reevaluate how they’re operating today and how to transform themselves tomorrow.
In order for them to get back on their feet, they’ll need your fresh thinking and talent to follow through on real transformation. This could benefit not just economies or corporate bottom lines, but also environmental impact and long-term sustainability. So why not consider helping us reinvent industry starting now? Some food for thought:
What we need to fix
To their credit, legacy industries are the first to acknowledge that they struggle to attract young tech talent. You are a core group that they will absolutely need to set themselves (and the world) up for a crucial digital and energy transition; the latter of which is necessary before 2030.
We understand after having a first look, you might want little to do with the industry. Around half of the world’s youngest demographics entering the workforce say that a career in oil and gas - and by extension other legacy industries - is unappealing (Ernst and Young, 2017). Topping the list of their concerns are the impacts that fossil fuel production has on global CO2 emissions, climate change and geopolitics. This is understandable.
Traditional industries haven’t made their jobs in attracting this new generation any easier. In the last 20 years, the industry has seen its own cultural, human resource, and PR failures. It has always lacked diversity, and frankly, still does. It has elevated few role models for young professionals to see themselves in. And it has tended to use outmoded recruitment strategies and technology.
You can’t be blamed for wanting to go elsewhere. The allure and the perks of joining Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon is undeniable, and helping Big Tech build fantastic consumer products and new services would make for a rewarding career. But one good thing that we think these tumultuous times have sparked in many of you is the need to reflect on bigger things: on wanting to be part of a larger, longer-term solution, on activism and on impact.
You are members of one of the most socially and environmentally conscious generations of the last 50 years. As a graduating cohort, you’ve proven to be passionate about making political and environmental change in the world. As you reflect on which fork in the road you plan to take, think about going to the very heart of the matter -- help us transform the highest-impact industries from the inside out.
With core industrial technology falling into place, there are no limits on how you might reshape their operations and to help problem-solve through digital transformations and the coming energy transition. Take a look at how new data-driven products are helping a Norwegian manufacturer make its factories smarter. Or how technology is allowing an operator to more efficiently power offshore assets and reduce emissions in the North Sea.
Imagine if digital tools were able to harness at scale the power of the near infinite sums of data generated by industrial assets every second. They might enable us to instantly view and act on emissions across the industry, or get us to completely rethink industrial decision making, prioritizing how sustainability investments are made and where. There’ll be no limits to how much we’ll shape the way industries reduce energy consumption and emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. On a global industrial scale, imagine your impact if you play a part in this.
And there are no limits to the positive ripple effects that such industrial transformation could kickstart, from more economic stability and upskilled workforces to more resources for social safety nets and strengthened national security.
Positioned to make lasting change
Going forward, we are going to do the necessary work to engage you better, and to show you the potential impact that you -- both as individuals and as a generation -- are in place to make on the world. Take another look at your legacy industries. For the next few years, lend your talents to where they’re needed most: to the industries that are positioned to make major and lasting change to how they power the world. You are activists and innovators at heart, and your role in this story could be a leading one.
John Markus Lervik is the founder and CEO of Cognite AS. Lervik has a Ph.D from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, where he was awarded the Esso academic award for his PhD work.