Jodi’s Journal: Taxes, young professionals and quantum computing

Jan. 28, 2018

It took awhile, but I finally figured out why this idea for a message was cohesive and not the catch-all that my headline might indicate.

Because everything I’ve encountered lately that seemed to fit somehow together really is about the future.

Technically, I still qualify to be part of the Young Professionals Network.

But the proverbial tables turned a bit when they asked me to be the guest speaker recently for A Seat at the Table, a recurring lunch event when YPN members can hear from someone in the community and ask questions about his or her career.

They are the future of our business community. I was honored so many of them wanted “a seat at the table” with me, and I couldn’t wait to hear what they wanted to know.

The fact that I’m struggling to remember some of the questions verbatim a couple of weeks out is likely further proof I’ve aged out of the group, but a couple of themes stuck powerfully with me.

One person asked me how I continue to improve my writing.

Writing is like a muscle, I explained. If you want it to work optimally, you have to use it frequently. If you don’t, you feel it. The best way to become a better writer, other than writing a lot, is to read a lot. Good writing really can rub off.

Another person asked me whether I thought financial services was declining as a major industry in Sioux Falls and what might take its place. First, I said, don’t count out financial services. While some major players have reduced their presence for various reasons, others like Meta Financial Group — recently profiled here — are experiencing significant, exciting growth.

As for growth industries, I’m excited about biosciences, software development and data sciences. I think we can’t do enough to encourage entrepreneurship because the best big businesses for communities often are the ones that start small locally.

But there’s so much more bubbling beneath the surface that I barely scratched in my hour with the YPN.

Let’s start with recent tax policy changes, whose implications are going to have short- and long-term ramifications here and everywhere.

We’ve already seen announcements from businesses ranging from Walmart to Great Western Bank of wage increases, bonuses, improved benefits and additional community giving.

It’s hard to find a flaw with any of this.

But here’s my cautionary message to workers, from those around the YPN table to those late in their careers working in established industries.

I am willing to bet that most businesses will place as much or more of their tax savings in one-time investments than they will in ongoing operational expenses like pay and benefits. And that just makes sense. Who knows what the landscape will look like when the current policy sunsets in seven years.

I anticipate many of these investments will take the form of new equipment and technology designed to make businesses work more efficiently, including automating processes currently performed by people.

That means it’s more incumbent than ever on workers to invest in themselves, in their own continuing education and development. Do not expect a business to do this for you. Many will, and it’s a sound investment, but ultimately your success in adapting and thriving in a changing workplace is on you.

That’s why, I said to the group, my success in my profession is driven by much more than continuing to hone my writing. It’s an ongoing awareness of what’s happening to change my industry and how my work and skills must adapt to it. That’s true in every industry I can think of today.

Right before I went to speak to YPN, I stumbled on a column I knew I’d quote in my talk to them. You can read it here.

It’s by one of my favorite columnists, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, who noted that while we’ve all been focused on what’s coming out of Washington, D.C., a lab at IBM has produced the world’s first quantum computer.

“Who cares?” Friedman wrote. “Well, if you think it’s scary what we can now do with artificial intelligence produced by classical binary digital electronic computers built with transistors — like make cars that can drive themselves and software that can write news stories or produce humanlike speech — remember this: These ‘old’ computers still don’t have enough memory or processing power to solve what IBM calls ‘historically intractable problems.’ Quantum computers, paired with classical computers via the cloud, have the potential to do that in minutes or seconds.”

Full maturity might be a decade away, but that’s a blip in the context of human history – and this is a development that will change the world fundamentally.

“Every job will require some technology, and, therefore, we’ll need to revamp education,” IBM CEO Ginni Rommetty told Friedman. “The K-12 curriculum is obvious, but it’s the adult retraining — lifelong learning systems — that will be even more important.”

I stopped short of reading the entire column to the YPN group, but I will leave you with the same message I did them:

This much I am fairly certain of in the future: While I don’t know what the jobs will look like, I am confident they will be able to be performed from pretty much anywhere. That means it is more incumbent than ever to build communities of choice. These are places where your education – from birth through nearly all of life – is designed to help you succeed in a changing world and where your quality of life can stand up against nearly anywhere in the world. Sioux Falls is cohesive and nimble enough to be a leader in this new paradigm. But our collective and individual futures depend on our ability to stay ahead of the shift.

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Jodi’s Journal: Taxes, young professionals and quantum computing

It took awhile, but I finally figured out why this idea for a message was cohesive and not the catch-all that my headline might indicate: Because everything I’ve encountered lately that seemed to fit somehow together really is about the future.

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