Pamplin Management students learn how AI can shape their careers

“You want to ride the wave rather than getting slammed by its disruption. You don’t want to be Blockbuster Video or Sears, you want to be Netflix or Amazon.”

That was how Dave Bluey, assistant professor of practice and career advisor with the Department of Management, explained the reasoning behind the Department of Management’s symposium, “How Artificial Intelligence Will Impact Your Career.” Over 250 hundred students gathered for a panel discussion led by industry experts to hear about – and in some cases see – the impact artificial intelligence may have on their future careers.

The event was a partnership between the Management Department and leading firms in the areas of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and robotics in an on-going Digital Transformation Series at Virginia Tech. Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technology Management (EIT) students within the Management Major were offered the rare opportunity to see demonstrations on the latest advancements in artificial intelligence as well as interact with representatives from robotic process automation pioneer Blue Prism, cloud computing company Appian, IT consulting firm Avanade, and consulting firms Deloitte and KPMG as a part of their in classroom experience.

“We want the students to understand how artificial intelligence will affect them,” explained Bluey. “Artificial intelligence and digital intelligence will disrupt every career to some extent.”

Machine learning and the ability to transform digital data into real-time, actionable applications, are essential to industries looking to take advantage of artificial intelligence.

“Businesses are using artificial intelligence to be more productive and more competitive,” said Mark Mondry, professor of practice in entrepreneurship. “Students are being invited into new roles and thus need to be equipped with the right knowledge.”

Much like Major League Baseball was forever disrupted by the influx of data analytics, with bunts and the hit-and-run giving way to spin rates and defensive shifts, the influx of artificial intelligence into all types of business has the potential to change the framework of a career in a short period of time.

Pamplin Management students learn how AI can shape their careers

“I have a former student whose job in accounting has changed considerably after only five years due to digitization and artificial intelligence,” said Bluey. “It is amazing to see how fast things are changing and moving. For example, robotics have even infiltrated the fast food industry from ordering kiosks to the actual preparation of the various menu options.”

To say that the world of business is changing rapidly should not surprise anyone, least of all business students. Rather, how to best take advantage of those changes was a large focus of the symposium.

“We want business students to look ahead and be able to capitalize on the changes,” said Bluey. “We don’t want our students to be afraid of innovation.”

He continued, “During the question and answer session, there were many amazingly deep questions. It goes to show that our students are thinking about this very subject.”

Mondry explained that by learning how artificial intelligence applies to business, today’s students find themselves in a unique position. “It is a huge opportunity for our students to differentiate themselves from others in the marketplace of ideas.

Pamplin Management students learn how AI can shape their careers

“Businesses are eager to recruit students who can work across disciplines, ask the right questions and identify opportunities.”

While those companies who attended the symposium were more than happy to discuss what innovations they may be developing, the event also served as something of a recruiting tool.

“These companies are in a highly competitive recruiting market and are looking for the best and the brightest,” explained Mondry. “Events like this provides our students with opportunities to have face-to-face meetings with exciting companies.”

Pamplin Management students learn how AI can shape their careers

Much like during the dot-com boom era of the mid- to late-90s, entrepreneurs and business owners alike find themselves staring down a future of unimaginable possibilities and limitless potential, with no blueprints as to the best way to tap into said potential. That’s where Virginia Tech students can come in.

“Not all companies have a clear understanding of how artificial intelligence will help them. It’s highly contextual,” said Mondry. “Our technology-savvy students could provide a valuable perspective as champions of innovative and ethical ways to apply artificial intelligence.”

Written by Jeremy Norman