Tuesday, April 16, 2024

GUEST BLOGGER SERIES: Dr. Alicia Abella “Technology is Changing the Workplace”


Latinovations would like to thank Dr. Alicia Abella for her contribution to La Plaza.

Who knew we’d get hooked on watching someone’s dog roll over on YouTube? Who knew we’d hear from that long-lost high-school friend, now many years older and many pounds heavier, on Facebook? Who knew we’d devotedly follow tweets of a loved (or hated) political figure, on Twitter? Who knew all this would happen in the span of few short years, and not among the usual early adopters of such technology, but rather from the Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers and retirees?

But there is more beyond the fun and games. Who knew that LinkedIn would become a go-to place for employers to find talent? Having started as purely whimsical (remember that dog rolling over?), social media is maturing and getting serious. From hiring to purchasing decisions (you do read Amazon comments, don’t you?), there is more often than not, an online social network lurking in the background. There is logic behind this evolution from making friends to making customers. First, we wanted to have fun. Then we realized that we, as customers – either shopping in the labor force, or in a bookstore – could capitalize on other’s experiences.

What is next? We have already redefined the meaning of friendship (I never knew I had so many friends until I joined Facebook) and changed the way we go about reading the news, watching a movie, shopping for clothes, and finding a good restaurant. Next, we will transform the way we work. Our work environment will be as location-independent as our friendships and shopping experiences are today. Just like the videophone predated video chat by almost 40 years, today’s telecommuting will be a distant ancestor of a location-free office, and a location-free business organization.

In a service-oriented economy this will be a monumental change. Both as employers and employees, we will change the way we think about working from home. Office parks will turn into apartment complexes. Sales of suits will decline, fluffy slippers increase, daytime TV will never be the same (Tuesday afternoon football anyone?).

By adopting and adapting today’s social media technologies we can curtail the current practice of shipping thousands of tons of biomass during morning and evening rush hours. These technologies will evolve, and we need them to at a global scale; we need to substitute information and communication for transportation.

Abolishment of the 2000 year-old seven-day week? Perhaps not, at least not just yet. But an increase in the pool of potential little-league coaches? Definitely. Current stay-at-home moms rejoining the work force? Very likely.

This will happen. We are coming home. And staying online.

Dr. Abella is Executive Director of the Innovative Services Research Department at AT&T Labs Research, where she manages a group of multi-disciplinary technical staff specializing in data mining, user interfaces, IPTV, mobile services, SIP/VoIP technology, and environmental sustainability. In 2008 she became a member of the elite group of AT&T Science and Technology Medal award winners and the recipient of the 2008 Hispanic Engineers National Achievement Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement. Dr. Abella has helped serve to increase the pool of women and minorities in science by serving as Vice President of the Young Science Achievers Program and chair of the AT&T Labs Fellowship Committee.