“The challenge for employees of the future would be to stay relevant and add value to self. You can do it through intelligence augmentation, using technologies to augment your own intelligence and improve the value you can bring to the company. You select new things that are of relevance and interest to you to learn whenever you want.”
– Ping na Thalang, Human Resources Advisor, Bangkok Airways –
Following the successful Aviation Festival Asia 2018, we’re launching an eBook featuring some of the industry’s most forward-thinking digital innovators to talk about their digital innovation journey and where they think we are headed. Download our ebook here for full interviews. Below is an excerpt of our chat with Ping.
You have been heavily involved in the IT sector for over 35 years. What are the key changes in the IT space comparing then and now?
Ping: When I started my career, IT was new, and it had a very big divide between common day-to-day operations, the general public and the technical world. Once when I went to the user side, when I jumped from the one creating systems to the one using the system, I noticed this big gap. That was when I realised that without proper integration, we are going to have a problem. So that is why you can see my personal development — shifting away from technical into the world of user domain like strategy, safety and HR. But still I keep an IT mindset all the time. IT and the rest of the business domain must be one and the same. They can’t be separated.
Where is the bridge between HR and IT?
Ping: My first non-IT job was in Strategy. At that time, I thought that strategy drives everything in a business. Later, I realise that strategy comes from people. If you have problems with strategy, it is always because of people. And not just strategy. IT, operations, safety… everything comes from people.
The root cause of everything is always the mindset, knowledge and attitude of people, and I’m not only talking about employees, I’m referring to clients and the public as well. Technology and systems, these are all downstream. The upstream is how people think. Why is it that some IT companies fail, while some succeed such as Microsoft, Apple, Google and Facebook? It is all about the mentality of the leaders, the mentality of the people. You have IT companies that fail, because they think only in their own world of IT, and not about people. This is the reason why I came into the HR space.
What do you think will be the biggest technological disruptor or enabler for HR in the aviation industry?
Ping: In the long-term future, I believe AI is going to impact employees greatly. With true AI, a programme, once set by a programmer, will be able to machine-learn and make its own decisions. We are already seeing this happen in the world right now. Google’s DeepMind has created a Go-playing AI, AlphaGo, that has outplayed the human world champion. This is a holy grail in the IT world because Go is a game that relies heavily on a human’s intuition, and AlphaGo wasn’t pre-programmed to make its moves, it learns and makes its own decisions during games.
Sometimes, the AI that people are talking about are not true AI. For example, majority of chatbots are what I would term smart or expert systems, not AI. It cannot think for itself. It simulates human responses but it’s all programmed answers. With true AI, you can have philosophical discussions with the machine, you can argue with it, and it can argue back. It can even “laugh” at a joke.
With this, you can imagine how easy it might be in the future for computers to take over an employee’s specific tasks. And as a company, if you are presented with this option that requires high initial investment but long term wise, lower costs, almost 100% productivity, safety, no complaints, no bonuses, no salary raises, no welfare… who would not want that? A company is not a charity, it exists to make money for shareholders, that is the fact of life.
The challenge for employees of the future would be…
Join us at Aviation Festival Asia 2019
Now entering its 15th year, Aviation Festival Asia 2019 (27 – 28 February, Singapore) is Asia’s largest airline leadership conference, gathering leaders from FSCs, LCCs and airports with a size of 150+ speakers, 1000+ delegates and total 2,000+ attendees. Want to join us? For sponsorship & exhibition enquiries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or to explore speaking opportunities at the event, contact email@example.com.