My grandmother always said, “Today has traveled through the gates of the past” (translated from Dutch). There’s nothing we do today or will do tomorrow that hasn’t been influenced by the past. Although looking toward the future I am always aware it is all my previous experiences and those of my family before me that led me here. I think it is important to acknowledge that, be grateful and learn from your mistakes.
There have been major disruptions in recent years that promise to change the very nature of work. From the ongoing shifts caused by the COVID19 pandemic, the impacts caused by automation, and other possible disruptions to the status quo, many wonder what the future holds in terms of employment. For example, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute that estimated automation will eliminate 73 million jobs by 2030.
To address this open question, we reached out to successful leaders in business, government, and labor, as well as thought leaders about the future of work to glean their insights and predictions on the future of work and the workplace.
As a part of this interview series called “Preparing For The Future Of Work”, we had the pleasure to interview Caroline Vrauwdeunt.
Caroline Vrauwdeunt is an experienced project manager and daring entrepreneur. She started her career in law and today she is a leader in tech. As founder and CEO of ANDRS Projects Europe B.V. (Amsterdam (NL)) and ANDRS Projects NA Inc. (Waterloo (CAN)), she leads ANDRS’ remote global team of rockstars that work on ANDRS’ innovative software brands. Caroline is a smart creative that combines her skills and experience from leading large complex urban projects with her creative entrepreneurial talents. An innovator who believes innovation can only arise from collaboration. Her life’s motto is “Collaborate or Die ‘’.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?
I am from a town close to Amsterdam and studied International Management and right after got my Law degree. I actually started my career in law and from there on started leading large multi-million dollar civil engineering projects with a multitude of stakeholders to serve. After successful delivery of my last project in 2012, I founded ANDRS Projects — and started taking it into a new direction outside of civil engineering — but still focused on stakeholder value creation. It turned out that software technology was a pretty good match.
Life experiences that most shaped me. I would have to think about that one. I think that must be that at a very young age my immediate family moved to the United States and Canada. We have a very small family circle so we would travel and stay there for longer periods of time quite frequently. I think it gave us (I have one younger sister) a head start in life with a more international outlook on things at a very young age.
What do you expect to be the major disruptions for employers in the next 10–15 years? How should employers pivot to adapt to these disruptions?
In a time where innovation cycles are shorter, and changes are going faster than ever, looking ahead 10 even 15 years is surrounded with more uncertainty than ever. I notice my company’s efforts, in general, are always 3 to 4 years ahead of what is picked up as a good idea by others and next becoming more mainstream in the years after. But that is inherent in working in tech, I guess.
We have moved from “living in sleepy suburbs and working in cities” in the 1950s to “living and working in large metropolitan areas’’. These large metros have increasingly become highly caffeinated, with extensive road infrastructure, a good network of public transport, bike lanes, and a lot of technology & knowledge hubs as “work” is more and more focused on services.
However, I don’t see this trend continuing. I predict or maybe it is more of a hopeful view I have of the future, that we will no longer need extensive physical infrastructure to go from home to work in our city’s metropoles. As I think a counter-movement is happening right now (and strengthened by the pandemic) people actually love living in places with a lot of space and green, and they no longer feel the need to live in these overcrowded metropoles but supported by technology can live anywhere in the world and still fulfill their obligations towards their employer or their own business.
Employers will do good to not only invest in technology that supports this — but also need to be aware this is a completely different work culture. And that their talent is not only available around the corner. Also, there’s a major opportunity for the “sleepy towns”.
The choice as to whether or not a young person should pursue a college degree was once a “no-brainer”. But with the existence of many high profile millionaires (and billionaires) who did not earn degrees, as well as the fact that many graduates are saddled with crushing student loan debt and unable to find jobs it has become a much more complex question. What advice would you give to young adults considering whether or not to go to college?
It depends where you are looking for a first job and what your requirements are. I actually left university at the worst possible time to find work. I spent one whole year working two or three jobs (one low-paid wage job and one no-paid trainee job) just to give me the edge over others. And in the end, I was willing to move fairly far away from where my roots were to get my first job.
I’ve seen many students come by that were applying for a traineeship for my company, but their assumptions on salary and requirements were very unrealistic. If you got the brains — go study your ass off, but in the end, you need to love what you do else you won’t succeed anywhere. And you don’t have to get all degrees at once you know, you’ll be learning your whole life anyway.
Despite the doom and gloom predictions, there are, and likely still will be, jobs available. How do you see job seekers having to change their approaches to finding not only employment but employment that fits their talents and interests?
Yes, completely agree. As I said you will have to be creative and lower your initial expectations. But if you do want to be successful in your field of study also stay focused and try to get an edge over others applying for that job. Another option is to start entrepreneurs. Time hasn’t been better to start your own business. But also, for running your business you need to have some business essentials down. There are many startup hubs that provide easy access to business knowledge and can support you in setting up your business. But only you can make it successful.
The statistics of artificial intelligence and automation eliminating millions of jobs appear frightening to some. For example, Walmart aims to eliminate cashiers altogether and Dominos is instituting pizza delivery via driverless vehicles. How should people plan their careers such that they can hedge their bets against being replaced by automation or robots?
People still need to plan, code, support or override these automated services. These don’t keep running without issues forever. Trust me. This is what happens when we innovate and make progress, old jobs will disappear new jobs will be created.
Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?
Absolutely. As I said people will no longer need to live close to where they work, and they no longer want to. Young people find life fulfillment goals important and are looking for a better work-life balance. What people say about working from home adversely affecting your work-life balance — just a myth. As there are more myths surrounding remote work policies.
What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?
I currently see large cities or metros still competing heavily promoting their city as the best places to work and live. They’re especially keen on pointing to startup and technology hubs within their boundaries, the benefits of great educational resources, and big-name employers.
But the truth is — there is also something as an overheated housing market as the pressure on cities for living accommodation increases. Overcrowded green spaces and outdoor facilities. All symptoms adversely affect newcomers to settle in large metropoles while opportunity towards technology-driven employment gives people the freedom to work from anywhere.
Looking at my business — we are completely remote (no brick and beam office) and work with global talent, as we were not able to find the talent we needed locally. As I am assuming more businesses (like ours) are more easily finding the way to global talent and are using the opportunities that come with setting up your business remotely.
I would assume cities and technology hubs for instance could do better to support this globalization trend, instead of focusing on selling local talent locally and supporting physical long-term moves of businesses to their cities.
Slowly there are towns campaigning to attract those remote workers — seeing they actually can compete with the big cities. They’ve made their initial “sleepy and slow” into a selling point.
What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employers to accept? What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employees to accept?
Ha-ha — yes, I’ve noticed that people are very used to their office meetings. Zoom is now booming, and it seems the way work was organized in the office is now taken one-on-one to the work-from-home or remote environment. But we can do without those face-to-face daily (long and dreary) meetings you know.
It kind of reminds me of the first pilots we set up for our Map Your City app. People can map locations together with their community. The first thing people did was photograph the physical trail signage or heritage plaques of places. Instead of adapting to the new opportunities, they were literally taking the existing physical elements into the new technologically advanced environment. It’s weird how we, once we have grown used to certain elements, feel uncomfortable to let that go.
But working remote is a new setting with new rules and new opportunities. If we fail to let go of those existing conventions — it is doomed to fail. But you will have to be made aware of that. And I think currently businesses during the pandemic have been offered the technology but have hardly been guided in adapting to their new environment and embracing new opportunities.
The COVID-19 pandemic helped highlight the inadequate social safety net that many workers at all pay levels have. Is this something that you think should be addressed? In your opinion how should this be addressed?
Yes, like your previous question, if the way we work changes, then social security (in terms of financial stability) should be better organized. Democratic access to additional insurance opportunities or access to global health care. But also guiding people from a young age towards a more entrepreneurial way of life and its pitfalls should make them more aware and creative in how to create their own financial security.
Despite all that we have said earlier, what is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
That it will have a huge impact on fighting the climate crisis we are in — maybe even a crucial impact. But also that when remote work becomes the norm for most companies, it will have a positive effect on the inclusiveness of work. I do not have to be born in, studied in, or move to a wealthy part of the world to land a job I am qualified for or start a successful business, or find skilled personnel.
And that when we look back at this pandemic — we can also say that was a pivotal moment when we entered remote work.
Historically, major disruptions to the status quo in employment, particularly disruptions that result in fewer jobs, are temporary with new jobs replacing the jobs lost. Unfortunately, there has often been a gap between job losses and the growth of new jobs. What do you think we can do to reduce the length of this gap?
Mmm — historically it took time to educate people for new jobs or re-school the ones in jobs being replaced. I think we should go to an educational system — that like software development is short cycled and continuous. And can deal with changeups in job requirements — for instance, make students more adaptable or flexible to changes.
Okay, wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Watch In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
I can do even better. We’ve gathered the top 5 trends to watch in a video for you.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how this quote has shaped your perspective?
My grandmother always said, “Today has traveled through the gates of the past” (translated from Dutch). There’s nothing we do today or will do tomorrow that hasn’t been influenced by the past. Although looking toward the future I am always aware it is all my previous experiences and those of my family before me that led me here.
I think it is important to acknowledge that, be grateful and learn from your mistakes.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Wow, I love to have the chance to have a chat with Oprah Winfrey — a leading example of someone who has worn and still wears many hats, and her hard work and success in business and staying on the top is simply inspirational.
Our readers often like to follow our interview subjects’ careers. How can they further follow your work online?
I occasionally tweet (@andrsnu), write some blogs on Hackernoon (and Medium). Or if you’d like, connect with me on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/carolinevrauwdeunt/). I also show a little bit of my creative side on carolinevrauwdeunt.com
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.