Workflow automation, continuous integration, and people skills; Grace Cheong, Vice President, HR, APCJ, F5, shares the importance of these three areas, and how individuals can go about sharpening their skills in them.

We live in a vastly different world now than we did just a year ago. The world came to a complete standstill as we faced off against the COVID-19 pandemic – bringing economies across the globe on a sharp downward trajectory. While many markets have begun to cautiously reopen businesses, the fact remains that we are in for a much steeper uphill climb towards economic recovery.

From airlines to oil conglomerates, many business headlines today reflect the significant layoffs that are impacting industries of all shapes and sizes. There is undoubtedly a dark cloud looming over the global economy but there are ways that we can begin the ascend towards recovery and in time, prosperity. That silver lining is skills development.

In line with this, it comes as no surprise that a growing number of organisations are investing in skills development and improvement at both the macro and micro levels. For instance, Singapore government is continuing to invest in its SkillsFuture movement as well as Singapore's Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 plan to further strengthen Singaporeans' foundations of skills and innovation to combat the growing unemployment rates in the city-state.

In fact, even companies are doing their part to support re-skilling and upskilling programs such as IBM partnering with SkillsFuture to invest in a skills program that targets mid-career professionals to hone their AI and cybersecurity skillsets. In addition, companies, such as F5, provide an always-on training program for members of the public that are keen to get hands-on lessons for the various tools and services that these companies are offering, and are also investing in soft skills development among employees to further elevate their skillsets.

With so many initiatives and programs to support skills development and improvement, what are some key areas of expertise individuals should be sharpening their skills on? 

1. Workflow automation

Workflow automation may sound complicated and daunting but the skill itself is meant to remove complexities from many tasks, such as sieving through millions of data points to generate actionable insights. With the amount of data passing through our IT systems – especially the influx brought on by COVID-19 pandemic – it becomes a necessity for organisations to automate the process in order to gather relevant information right away.

For example, the contact tracing applications that are tracking movements of millions of people across multiple touchpoints and places need to be able to quickly detect patterns to determine the locations visited by infected individuals and generate a list of people who may have come in contact with them by matching locations and timings data. Imagine if this was to be done by a handful of people racing against time to get this information out to the relevant authorities - unthinkable in today’s fast-paced climate! This is precisely the reason why workflow automation is a key skill that can enable the majority of the workforce to move from mundane tasks to tasks that would be a better use of their time, such as problem-solving.

Interestingly, despite being a valuable skill, it does not require a huge amount of time to get certified. Institutions such as NTUC Learning Hub and Ngee Ann Polytechnic provide beginner courses that take only less than a week to gain beginner level mastery on this subject.

2. Continuous integration

Yet another technical-sounding term that may throw people off from pursuing this particular skill, but it is a highly sought-after skill for developers. Continuous integration is a practice where application developers add the codes that they are working on into a shared “folder” multiple times a day for the system to test and raise any potential issues that need to be addressed. By doing this, developers no longer need to manually scan codes to unearth bugs, are now able to rectify bugs in a much quicker fashion and deliver applications and/or updates efficiently.

To get started on the journey to continuous integration certification, beginners can head on over to glean insights and learn more from resources provided by technology companies or enrol in courses by institutions, such as T courses Singapore, that take only a day’s time.

3. People skills

While hard to quantify, this particular set of skills can further polish and refine the value employees bring to the organisation. Deemed as ‘soft skills’, these are fundamental in developing a growth mindset – an aspect we all need to get behind sooner rather than later. In today’s skills economy, employees with a growth mindset are the ones who would truly thrive as they are keen and eager to develop and sharpen their skills, constantly growing, evolving, and improving themselves. From leadership, creativity to communication and collaboration, these soft skills, previously overlooked in favour of the ‘hard skills,’ are of great value and most certainly something worth investing in especially in today’s challenging times.

There are many courses available for interested individuals to kickstart their people skills development. In Singapore, organisations, such as Coursemology, and Singapore's National Employers Federation are conducting courses around communications, professional relationship management and even effective email writing.

These skills are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many different skills we can pursue and invest in for our lifelong learning journey, and encourage employees to do the same. The key is to always find areas that we may be lacking in and chart a course to develop and improve ourselves to adapt to the needs of the economy. Who knows, perhaps a year from now, there will be a whole new set of skills in demand for us to add to our growing list of expertise!

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