Where can innovation take your future career?

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While technology remains the primary playground of innovation, there are few careers safe from modern disruption. Have you got the imagination and creativity required to stay ahead of the curve in your dream industry?

Make a virtual career a reality

Dr Greg Bowtell’s job sounds like something from the future. He’s a teaching scholar specialising in Virtual Reality (VR) at Deakin University.

His advice for those pursuing a job building virtual worlds is this: nail the basic building blocks of tech systems development now, in order to be first in line once VR matures. ‘As the industry is still very young, the job titles are still derivatives of analyst, developer and manager, with VR tacked on the front.’ As the technology improves and becomes increasingly commercially viable, he says coders, software developers, those who understand the principles of design, UX and UI will all have a competitive edge.

But if you’d rather play a role in defining the future of this field, Dr Bowtell says there’s huge potential for those willing to push existing boundaries. ‘It’s difficult for large organisations to innovate as effectively as while they have the clout to enact big decisions, they are hampered by a relative lack of agility. Individuals can create their own jobs and career,’ he explains. In other words, start experimenting with the technology and create solutions to problems that might not even exist yet.

Citing innovators like Jessica Brillhart, who pioneered the role of a VR filmmaker and has since landed a job at Google, and Palmer Luckey, who started out in his parents garage and went on to invent the Oculus Rift which was famously bought by Facebook for $2 billion, Dr Bowtell says the future of VR belongs to the tinkerers.

Arming kids with future skills

‘Innovation in education means teaching students the skill of enquiry,’ says Dr Julianne Lynch, a Senior Lecturer in Education at Deakin University. If you want a future inspiring young minds you’ll need to learn creative ways of teaching critical thinking to students whose industries will evolve rapidly throughout their careers.

She suggests young people with the ability to design games and develop software are already setting themselves up for bright futures. Google Cardboard, which allows teachers and students to go on virtual reality field trips, and National Geographic’s Dinosaur Chatbot, which allows students to talk to a T-Rex over social media, are part of an increasing field of technological skills leveraged to inspire curiosity and wonder for students says Dr Lynch.
‘But we can’t get hung up on technology. The means has to fit an end,’ she cautions. The true evolution lies in disrupting the way in which students acquire knowledge. Those with a desire to be at the forefront of education would be wise to seek out careers in this space. Innovation schools with curriculums dedicated to disrupting traditional lesson plans, and out-dated classroom settings will drive the future of teaching.

Cutting-edge schools like NuVu in Boston teach students to solve problems through collaboration on large hypothetical projects. ‘We shouldn’t expect that traditional educational institutions will house all the careers for the teachers of the future,’ Dr Lynch suggests.

The future of fighting crime

Traditionally, fighting crime hasn’t been a creative pursuit. But as crime evolves and moves online, Darren Palmer, Associate Professor of Criminology at Deakin University says it’s time for people in this industry to use their imaginations.

‘Policing and security organisations increasingly need staff to be able to use technology and to be creative in thinking about how new technologies can be utilised to enhance performance,’ he says, So if you’re looking to go into traditional criminology roles like data analyst, forensic scientist, researcher, or security specialist you’ll need to master the latest in data mapping and presentation to stand out from other candidates.

In addition, using virtual reality to reconstruct crime scenes, collating social media posts to capture sentiment and building apps to map crime data across a city are slowly coming to define the duties of the modern criminologist.

'Policing and security organisations increasingly need staff to be able to use technology and to be creative in thinking about how new technologies can be utilised to enhance performance'

Darren Palmer, Associate Professor of Criminology,
Deakin University

The science of winning

‘We’re all made slightly differently,’ says Paul Gastin, an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health at Deakin University. ‘But with big data we can make decisions about how to manage an athlete more effectively.’

If you’re passionate about sport, you can find your way into a meaningful career by specialising in performance management, analytics or data systems to build targeted performance programs like personalised hydration for athletes.

For those who prefer the people and community side of sport and health, there’s also a promising future ahead. Prof Gastin claims there is a great need for management roles to help collate information, build processes and ensure that as complexity in the field increases, there’s a guiding voice channelling all efforts towards better performance.

In order to achieve these roles, he recommends adding a management masters to a tertiary qualification to become a high performance manager – a once rare but now increasingly sought-after role allowing people to be at the forefront of the changing needs of major sporting institutions like the AFL.

Visit Deakin’s career planning tool, Explore, which features more than 150 different careers in innovation in science and technology. With more than 600 paired uni courses and careers, Explore can help plan out your professional future, whatever it may be.