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Careers in Science Q1 2022

Doing good in the world with the help of technology

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Brian Runciman MBCS

Head of Content and Insight, BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT

Careers in technology are not only fascinating, but they move at tremendous pace and can call on all the skills in a person’s armoury: education, creativity, willingness to learn, capacity for dealing with change and more.

Technology has started to become known for creating careers no-one could have foreseen – often in very short time spans.

Other careers gestate for longer, but then break out quickly. BCS started discussing artificial intelligence (AI) in the late 1950s – and have followed its progress from concept to academic discipline and through at least two winters, where expectations of its use were dashed. But now AI represents genuine career opportunities, not only in programming and technical roles, but in the ethical areas: such as AI auditor, AI ethicist and more.

What about quantum computing? This has moved out of the lab into the real world, and with the ability to play with quantum processors via classical computing devices on the cloud, it is possible to get a head start in a brand-new set of careers.

Combining creativity and logical thinking

Like many technology roles, a combination of computational thinking and creativity will be required. New kinds of algorithms will be needed. There will be a requirement to map business needs to algorithms. You don’t need to know superposition and entanglement: using Python you can manipulate machine code level instructions, or you can use higher level constructs to interact with the quantum machine.

AI represents genuine career opportunities, not only in programming and technical roles, but in the ethical areas.

There are also industry-specific libraries to be created to help end users in all fields of science and research work with existing libraries that use quantum computing. These different levels of abstraction hit different parts of the skill area.

Making a difference with technology

The beauty of technology is that opportunities exist far beyond cash rich social media conglomerates. As part of our mission to make IT good for society, we are championing technology projects that really make a difference – or have the potential to make big differences – in society at large.

For example, life savers like Dr Quillon Harpham of HR Wallingford who has used innovative technology in predicting and controlling dengue fever outbreaks. Future proofers like Dr Alvin Orbaek White whose company recycles plastics into carbon nanomaterials. Inspirers like Temi Alalade who uses technology to further social good projects in Nigeria.

This combination of exciting tech skills and the ethical considerations that are now being taken seriously, which means careers don’t have to, in the famous words of one high-profile tech entrepreneur, ‘move fast and break things.’

BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT is the UK’s professional body for computing. It promotes and advances the education and practice of computing for the benefit of society. www.bcs.org

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