I am the corporate guy turned liveaboard sailor. While in a corporate job a few years ago, I was in a senior management level of a multinational company. Widely traveled and having a broad spectrum of experiences in dealing with industries spread over vast geographical regions and cultural differences. No, I’m not advertising myself for a job here but merely sharing on my observation on how jobs and industries have evolved over the last 20 years.
The most profound source of changes over the last 20 years is in your pocket or handbag right now, if you are not using it as I am now, writing this article. It is the mobile phone, which has evolved from a mere handphone only, to a telex machine (SMS) then to a personal computer, entertainment centre, and finally to today’s do it all personal aid. Yet it is still evolving into something which is more and more indispensable.
A recent comprehensive study revealed that through a smart phone today, we have more information available to us than was available to the president of the United States of America, just 20 years ago. That is a lot available at our finger tips. Any jobs that are knowledge based is either obsolete already or well on its way to being so. Mr Google, for example, can make you an expert chef (almost) in a instance, if you already have some basic cooking skills. It can provide you with recipes for almost any cuisine in mere seconds. If you choose not to type, just speak into your phone for a voice search. My personal preference is Swype typing which is as fast as typing on a 101 US type keyboard, or even faster.
In many of my numerous repair and/or upgrade projects on my boat, I have consulted expert views and the collective views of sailors in like minded forums. Be it a repair of my anchor windlass or how to put a lithium iron phosphate battery bank together from individual prismatic cells, or as touched on in one of my recent articles of “Learning the secrets of Marine Navigation Equipment” – DIY chartplotter and autopilot equipment using a Raspberry Pi single board computer. All it takes is time, patience to sieve through the tonnes of information, and a bit of courage to dwell into the unknown or unsure. You do not even need a diploma in electronics and electricals as a basis, as you will be able learn these along the way. If you can follow a cookbook recipe, you too can make up such equipments. Where does that leave people who have a job installing navigation equipment? Well they will still have a job as not everyone has the time to research adequately or the courage to get into something we think we do not know enough of. Although, there should be lesser and lesser work available with more and more people able to do things themselves. In reality, the likely scenario is, the willingness to do these manual jobs will not there. For the lack of time and/or courage to do so.
I do see a comeback of the “trades”, such as plumbing work, house renovation, electrical work and as I’ve discovered in my recent ventures into canvas work, that most people do not have the patience nor time to develop the skills needed (for example) to sew an awning or Bimini well enough. They would rather pay someone with the skills already, to do the job for them. Willingness and courage too play a big part in doing the job yourself. I have recently met another sailor who needed his outboard engine repaired. Talking to him, I discovered that he already possessed enough knowledge of the outboard motor to do the repair himself (I’ve been there and done that) but he simply wasn’t game enough, for the lack of confidence to tackle such a task by himself.
Specific skills which have some component of manual work and skills gained from experience, will be the type of work that will remain in demand over the future.
This will hold true, especially in the Asian culture, where manual work of any sort is considered as inferior or derogatory, shunt by much of the younger millennial generation. This same generation will be starting to carry the weight of their respective national economic structures on their collective shoulders. Such an imbalanced structure will eventually bring about the popularity of job skills involving manual work. Till then scarcity will be the order of the day. To survive in today’s world and that of the near future, having such job skills is a big plus. I have recently helped a friend with some light renovation work on an apartment. More specifically, it was a sort of detailing work for an apartment just like what is being performed on cars to bump up their resale value. To find someone with the necessary skills and patience, who has the desirable quality level of work, is not easy in today’s world. The perfectionist in me with little tolerance for a sloppy job made me an ideal candidate for such a task. The experience gained over the last few years of working on boats, which by default demanded a much higher quality of work level than a normal household’s requirement, was proving to be invaluable. Scarcity means a higher price elasticity!
Since leaving the corporate world, my perspective have broadened immensely. Without the need to be in compliance to corporate policies and norms at all time, your hands and mind are no longer tied. I have since came across many individuals who were making a living in what can only be described as a brave new world from where I came from. A travel advisor, Amazon seller, day trader and writer of trading algorithms, investors of all sort…! It’s not that I had not known about such people and professions, while in the corporate world. Just never took the trouble to look in depth into the whys and how. I read, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki and realised that all my life I had been in the trappings of “Poor Dad”! It’s all in our attitude and our attitude matters!
A few lives ago, I was a farmer. I was much better equipped, mentally, to deal with the changing business world than I was as a corporate guy. Conformity is the killer of creativity. Worse than having your hands tied is having your mindset tied by the needs to conform. Where the mind does not lead you towards, that destination does not even exist!
My recent venture into canvas work for yachts, is a fine example of an evolving a mindset. After that first step into the journey, I was looking for ways to better my sewing skills. This is far more than just needles and threads. To do such a job well, one has to have a good understanding of shapes and structures of the work at hand. The characteristics of the material(s), principally, the stretch characteristics of the fabric material you are working with, both in the weave direction and cross direction. In order to put the pieces together well, one needs to understand not just the 3D structural shape of the underlying object but the interplay of stretches and how the joins and seams affect the compensation for these stretches. When I had a forced few days of break, due to the shortage of snap-on fasteners, I tried to hone my sewing skills by trying to make sling bags out of off-cuts of Sunbrella canvas material. How ambitious! A challenge that was almost a couple of bite sizes too large for me to swallow. It took a few attempts to even get the first one off the drawing board. Since then, the perfectionist in me had not let the matter rest. This has since developed into a fourth prototype, during my off work hours. With that much time and effort having gone into trying to make a perfect sling bag, it would have been a waste of resources to just let it all stop there.
Starting from the 3rd prototype (Mark 3) I have sold some, to sailors locally and abroad.
The marina was having a Garage Sale for sailors and boat owners recently, on a Sunday, and I took the opportunity to create Mark IV (with further improvements) to sell at this Garage sale.
I created a logo for them, at the suggestions of friends. It’s called the “bb sailor bimini bag”. “bb” for my sailor dog “BooBee”. Why a bimini bag? Part of the canvas material (the navy blue part) was the Sunbrella fabric from my old bimini! The proceeds from the sales of these bags will help to supplement my sailor dog’s rather high cost of maintenance. She has become a fussy eater. Roast chickens being one of her favourite, she would only finish her meal if it has her favourite. Roasted or fried chicken. Just the day before, the Admiral and I decided to go for a drive through to get a quick bite. “bb” in tow, in the rear seat, she was visibly excited as we neared a KFC outlet. I bought a 3 piece meal for myself. Ate a piece of them and the rest for the sailor dog. The Admiral, decide to get a fish fillet meal from McDonald just adjacent to the KFC outlet. Sailor dog didn’t like those fish fillet as much although fish is her other favourite. The heavy batter encrusting the fish, is my guess for the reason.
The evolution of this corporate (ex) guy’s mindset was:
Firstly, in accepting a tangential nature of work to what was within my comfort zone.
Secondly, to further develop skill competencies in this new type of work. The tasks encountered thus far in my canvas work did not require such level of intricate details but the knowledge of materials and techniques gained from this will produce a higher level of quality in my work, undoubtedly. The underlying philosophy is simple. If I am to do this type of work for the longer haul, I want to be the best that I can be, in this line of work! Some would consider it as a commitment, others, a passion or enthusiasm. To me, it is simply taking pride in my work. If this is to be my work, it better be good enough that the perfectionist in me can live with it.
The evolution process was from mere acceptance, to full commitment!
My take on what jobs will be more in demand in the near future, will be those jobs involving skilled manual work. The younger generation will needs to have a more flexible mindset with regards to a career. In this sense a technical education (i.e. a diploma in HVAC repair and maintenance) is perhaps of more employable value than say a pure academic discipline such as Accounting, just as an example. This change in mindset will not be one that is easily adopted. But Economic will be the major determinant of such outcomes. With scarcity will come the inevitable price adjustments, which in turn will drive how we ourselves will perceive the different types of career choices.
Stay tuned for more updates on the sailor dog’s adventures. In the meantime look at the bright side. There is still so much life to live.