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As You Like IT: Future of the Workplace Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Sofya Mezhorina, Jun 29, 2005
Technology   Opinions
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As You Like IT: Future of the Workplace “What will your ideal work environment be like in the future?” they were asking me. What will it be like?.. Well, I don’t know. I’m not yet in the future, I thought. That was in March. Today it’s almost July, and I have graduated, but still I am not sure about what my future workplace will resemble. Not because I have never thought of the future of work – just the other way round, I have spent too much time thinking.

I have nothing left here but to blame it all on Microsoft, which decided to urge this ultimate question onto the bright heads of the emerging NetGen leaders (this is what those big tech guys call us, young and ambitious 20-something-year-olds). It was Microsoft who brought together this June 12 promising youth from 10 countries around the world to impact information technology development with their ideas.

I doubt that any of the twelve actually new what was awaiting us when we arrived in the cozy Budapest airport. Ahead of us were three days of intensive brainstorming and reflecting, imagining and analyzing, thinking out of the box and going way beyond our own earlier perceptions about what kind of technology can human brainpower originate. We officially became members of the Microsoft Information Worker Board of the Future and were about to discover new dimensions to which technology may eventually be brought to enhance productivity of tomorrow’s information workers.

Fully equipped with brand-new tablet PCs, we made a head-start on Monday by analyzing preliminary results of the survey entitled “Future Perceptions” put up by Microsoft for young people aged 18-24. Working in three groups, we looked at the patterns in the personal, social, and technology adoption trends of our peers around the world and made recommendations that will help Microsoft better understand youth as a customer base segment and design software products which may better fit our growing needs as information consumers. My inquiring mind of a social, youth, and information worker was especially interested to discover what my peers’ life is like around the world and how it is different from my perceptions about that – and it was rewarded. The results turned out both inspiring and dispiriting, and confusing at the same time. Inspiring in the sense that the majority of the respondents alleged to value more the community impact they may produce in their activities than the monetary compensation they will get, but dispiriting in the sense that still a lot of young people believe they are not integrated into the society - rather, they feel like outside observers. These were much more questions to be analyzed, both about personal and professional sides of life, to get rid of the confusion, and it was already very late at night when we finally arrived at decisions as what to recommend to Microsoft.

Tuesday morning came the press-conference. In the room crowded with Hungarian and international journalists, Microsoft and HP specialists and three Board of the Future members talked about the results of the survey and what it may mean to the future of information work in general. The three main ideas that we dwelled on revealed our belief that technology should become an efficient tool in maintaining work-life balance, it should become more social (as opposed to the society’s becoming more technical), and be as simple as a button to press. After a row of interviews and hot discussions, the day continued with our reflections on educational experiences in home countries and the timeline of our technology use as customers to recommend better ways of integrating technology into school curricula so that future students will be better prepared to take advantage of the technology capabilities available to them in the workplace than were we or our parents. During this session an HP specialist presented two classroom projects that are now being implemented in Sardinia and Northern Ireland, which gave us a chance to get acquainted with the collaborative initiatives put up by local governments and international tech corporations and the ways they influence education level and the overall community development.

All these hours through, keeping me from enjoying the party an annoying thought was rolling in the back of my mind, “Oh when is that gonna happen in Russia? In the city where I live? In the school I went to?.. Is it ever going to?..” These thoughts however disappeared later in the day, when we got completely carried away by discussing and developing specific recommendations on how to integrate technology in the sphere of humanities and sciences at both elementary and secondary levels at schools. But I am still very much concerned about feasibility of such projects in Russia, where education has been experiencing harsh budget cuts over the last several years…

Day 3 was the hardest, but the most rewarding. All together, we took a peek at Microsoft’s ideas of how the technology use will look like by 2015 – Microsoft’s Dan Rasmus showed us interesting videos exampling future software and hardware products and everyday life scenarios of how information workers use them, and, of course, all of those were made mostly with computer graphics, because almost none of the featured products yet exist. The Board members (a.k.a. “the kids”) also presented four scenarios which we had prepared the day before, featuring our ideas of how young people will be using technology and what overall aspirations they will have given specific political, social, and economic conditions in which their countries will find themselves by 2015. The huge brainstorming session we had after allowed us, the NetGens, to make our own forecasts about how technology will evolve over the next decade, and what those technological advancements will mean to the future of both us and today’s schoolchildren as the future citizens of the information society. I guess Microsoft people are still reading through the tons of post-its and feedback e-mails that our young and creative minds had generated ;).

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