COVID-19 has impacted us all in some way or another. This has forced most all of us to change how we do things – including our jobs. More than ever before, we have needed the Cloud.
Despite my best efforts to avoid it, I caught the COVID-19 virus in late November. I was working from home at the time, as were most of the AFT staff. The Cloud enabled me to continue my work even though I was sick. Further, it has been a huge help in allowing AFT to continue to serve our customers.
Let's talk about how the aftermath of COVID-19 will shape the future of engineering.
The COVID-19 vaccines that have recently become available promise to help the world return to normal life in the imminent future. The pace of modern technology is truly amazing, isn't it?
I have read with interest the current trends towards remote work. It has led to many people being enabled to work remotely long term or even permanently. Some of these people have chosen to move away from congested and expensive urban areas to smaller cities or more rural areas. Many are saying that remote work is the future. Is it?
When some people think of remote work, they think of a professional person who is married or living with another professional partner. That idealized situation is optimal in my opinion and may work for many people. But many other people do not live in this situation. Some have children in the home, or elderly family members. Some live alone. Children can be a huge distraction to remote workers trying to do their work. For those who live alone, being isolated from others you work with can feel quite lonely.
My view on the post-COVID-19 impact on engineering will depend on one's job. For production companies, I believe the trend towards automation (e.g., robotics and AI) will continue, perhaps at an accelerated pace. But it is hard to see how many engineering jobs in production companies can ever be automated. In this case, I am not thinking of manufacturing lines so much as I am about power generating stations, chemical plants, oil refineries, water treatment plants, etc. Aside from the general automation trends, I do not see the remote work trend supported by Cloud-based technology having a large impact on these.
I also have a hard time seeing how automation (robotics and AI) will impact jobs in engineering design firms any time in the near future – if ever. The potential change in engineering design firms is remote workers supported by ever-improving Cloud tools. And frankly, I have a hard time seeing how this can be successfully accomplished by long term, remote workers. Engineers are human beings, and humans are inherently social creatures. We tend to do better in groups than individually. Further, much of engineering is collaborative. Building teams of people, creating a positive work culture, and collaboration are all far better accomplished in person.
As for my own experience with COVID-19, I was quite careful to follow social distance guidelines and am surprised that I caught it. I was fortunate that it was a mild case – about the equivalent of a moderate cold. I have been far sicker in the past. I had a deep cough and moderate nasal congestion for about 10 days. This transitioned into a moderate cough and mild congestion for another four weeks. For the last few weeks, I have not quite been 100%. But I am close.