/ 26 January 2024

Future-proof your career: Advice for school leavers

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Dr Mmaki Jantjies, Group Executive of Innovation at Telkom and Adjunct Associate Professor at UWC.

Learn how technology impacts your sector, and how you can use it to advance your career

The journey from the classroom to the professional world has never been more critical — or more demanding — than it is for school leavers today. Dr Mmaki Jantjies is Group Executive of Innovation at Telkom and an Adjunct Associate Professor at UWC. As a trailblazer in innovation and technology, she shares invaluable insights on how young people can future-proof their careers as they venture into an exciting but challenging future.  

Jantjies emphasises the pervasive impact of data sciences, artificial intelligence (AI), and automation across sectors. “Regardless of which sector you pursue, always understand how technology impacts your sector and how you could use it to enhance your career,” she advises. 

Trends shaping the future

Psychologists, for example, are using technology to augment psychological support for patients through automated chatbots. “During the pandemic, we also saw how healthcare and biotechnology are such important areas, with more considerations of how technology is not only enabling access to healthcare, but is also allowing quality healthcare to be scaled across communities.” 

The pandemic highlighted the importance of technology in healthcare, education, law and beyond, showcasing the intersectionality of careers and the need for advanced technology courses for all. “Many higher education institutions are responding to this by offering advanced technology courses to cater for people, beyond the technology experts,” she says. 

Bridging the digital divide

Addressing the prevailing inequalities and the growing digital divide in South Africa and the continent is crucial to ensure that every young person has the opportunity to meaningfully engage in the world of tomorrow. 

Jantjies advocates for early exposure to unique fields that interest them: “Exposure to role models in these fields is important, as this provides young people with an opportunity to understand how they can apply knowledge and what their future might look like.” 

She encourages young people to adopt a lifelong learning approach, using free learning platforms to overcome barriers and support continuous learning. “Be open to learning beyond the traditional approaches,” she urges. 

Jantjies recommends various online learning platforms, including Coursera, IBM online training programs, Get Smart, Telkom Learn, and zero-rated platforms like Lightbulb. Non-profit organisations also play a role in providing basic digital literacy skills to bridge the digital divide. “Establish which platform of access works for you and leverage the community programmes to your advantage,” she says. 

Fostering success

Highlighting the importance of lifelong learning, Jantjies advises young people to identify and use MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that offer both free and paid courses. Emphasising the value of strengthening both technical and interpersonal skills in the rapidly evolving technological landscape, she says “a prolific career is always supported by lifelong learning”.  

Basic digital literacy is deemed invaluable in the knowledge economy, but Jantjies goes beyond that, stressing the significance of critical thinking, adaptability and teachability. “In every work environment, these life skills are essential,” she says. “The ability to identify a problem, analyse it and apply knowledge to make an informed decision in solving problems is such an essential skill that will carry you — regardless of which career you pursue.”   

Careers of tomorrow 

Beyond the mentioned trends, Jantjies points out the significance of cybersecurity in the digital transformation journey and the emergence of careers focused on climate change and sustainability. “Sustainable engineering, renewable energy, and sustainable agriculture present exciting paths for those interested in making a positive impact on the world as we face unprecedented environmental crises.”  

In closing, the doctor offers school leavers one of her favourite quotes by Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbour, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”