Will AI put IT specialists out of work? These competencies will be key (INTERVIEW)

Luc Williams

Should IT specialists be afraid of AI?

Is the average IT specialist in 2024 working on an algorithm that will make him redundant in two or five years?

Until recently, in the ongoing discussion about artificial intelligence in the US, we were actually quite focused on how it would affect jobs. Now this is changing a bit because we know more about the areas of AI use and we can more accurately indicate the positions on which it will have the greatest impact. I believe that some roles may be replaced by algorithms in the future, but others will become more important thanks to this technology. During this transition period, we will all learn how to enhance our capabilities through AI. The current era requires us to learn throughout our lives. Also to make the best possible use of the opportunities appearing on the horizon. However, I do not think that the development of AI will cause any dramatic changes in the labor market, especially in the technology sector.

So how should we understand the marked slowdown in the IT industry and recent employment reductions? What does this mean for the further development of jobs around the world and in Poland?

Some technology companies hired many new employees during the COVID-19 pandemic because there was a crisis need. When the situation calmed down, a natural process of employment rationalization began. This has nothing to do with the development of AI. I think that some companies also faced cost pressure, which increased due to high inflation. At the same time, it seems to me that technology companies are trying to present a very flexible approach to people because they are aware that they will need more of these people – with appropriate competences. I believe that the job cuts in the technology sector that have been so loud recently can be seen as one-off corrections rather than a trend that would strengthen in the coming years.

So we should expect new recruitments?

It is obvious that technology will be of key importance for economic development – entrepreneurs around the world already know this. At the same time, many countries are striving to digitize administration and public services. Therefore, I look at the job market for IT specialists with great optimism. I would even say that here, in Poland, this optimism may be even greater, because the digitization process is very intense thanks to the strong involvement of the government and business.

Competencies of the future

If you were to advise heads of schools and universities: who to educate, who will be needed on the labor market in 5 or 10 years?

Regardless of the function performed, the ability to analyze data and the ability to take actions based on it will remain extremely important. Many people also believe that what we used to call soft skills will gain in importance and will become an even greater differentiator of talents. I've always believed so, and today I believe it more than ever, because the AI ​​debate is talking more and more about the human factor and human competences. I would advise the heads of schools and universities to give students the opportunity to use new technologies in practice, experience them and experiment. Let's take a regular calculator…

What does it have to do with AI?

A lot! Most of us use it for everyday calculations, knowing that we do not necessarily need to know how these calculations are performed or how to do them with paper and pencil in hand. It will be similar with artificial intelligence in the future – it will be an excellent tool that will allow us to perform many tasks faster, more efficiently and more effectively. We should learn today, for example, how to ask the right questions to get the best possible data in response. There are many more of these skills. We will all become engineers in some way.


Yes, because one of the key competencies will be to creatively combine your own observations and thoughts with the perspective of generative AI. However, due to the potential of this tool, we should devote equally much time at universities to talking about the responsible use of artificial intelligence. The fact that we can do something does not mean that we should do it.

Legal regulations regarding artificial intelligence

Does the rapid development of new technologies, especially AI, require new national or international legal regulations? Scientists postulate the establishment of new frameworks and boundaries that we, as humanity, must not cross. What is your opinion?

This is a very important issue. All over the world, we are learning the possibilities of new technologies and trying to expand these possibilities, and at the same time we are trying to find a golden mean between supporting innovative solutions and ensuring people's safety. We have an obligation to protect people against the misuse of technology, we have an obligation to protect human privacy, human data – we must always remember this when taking further steps in the world of artificial intelligence. Therefore, yes, there is a need for some level of legal regulation. I must add that we, as the private sector, also create such regulations. Just mention the responsible AI practices we have implemented at Cisco.

Gender and the development of AI

You once said that you became a feminist at the age of 5, only to later understand that in some areas it is about more than gender. Last week I hosted the “Women in Technology” debate. We said, among other things: that, according to the latest research, women constitute approximately 30 percent in the technology sector, but among IT company owners – only 12 percent, and among engineers working on the development of AI – 13 percent. The debate participants expressed fear that men are programming the digital world, transferring old prejudices and stereotypes to it. Does gender matter in programming the world, in the process of training algorithms and feeding them with large data sets?

This is something we absolutely must pay attention to. In fact, there is a risk that if the teams creating AI algorithms are not diverse, artificial intelligence will be skewed and not inclusive. We must therefore treat the diversity of teams as an absolute priority. Fortunately, awareness of this is increasing. In the US, we participate in the work of the AI ​​council, and one of the threads of our discussion concerns how to make the technology inclusive. If we prioritize this thread, if we make it part of a broader public conversation, it will lead us to engage diverse teams.

Centers for work on breakthrough technologies

Where are the main centers on the world map where people work on the development of breakthrough technologies? And where is Poland on this map?

From Cisco's perspective, Poland has always been a strategic place. When I came to Krakow for the first time, 15 or 17 years ago, to meet with university rectors, I tried to determine whether we should have our headquarters here. We quickly realized that this is a talent center located in the middle of Europe with many other beneficial and important features. Therefore, it is no accident that today it is our largest location in Europe. However, if we look at the world more broadly, we must also take into account a factor such as demography. For this reason, we have been paying a lot of attention to Africa lately. This is where Nigeria stands out…

A country that has increased its population from 123 million to over 220 million since the beginning of the century…

That's true. At the same time, the local government strongly focuses on educating its citizens. Of course, there are many problems, but they work hard to solve them and set themselves really ambitious goals, investing in knowledge. Another such place is India, the most populous country in the world today, which also strongly focuses on education. From Cisco's perspective, this is a land of great opportunities. Of course, I would like the United States to remain one of the places where the future is forged. For technology companies, the availability of a talent pool is crucial, as well as the government's approach to knowledge, education, language teaching, and innovation.

The role of Poland as a technological hub

Please say a few words about the future of the technology hub in Krakow – I am asking about it in the context of Cisco's acquisition – for USD 28 billion – of Splunk, which also has a large hub in Krakow. What about the employees and what will the hub's activities focus on in the coming years?

We have approximately 3,000 employees in Poland, most of them work in Krakow in several great teams, focused on, among others: on the digital security of our customers. Splunk creates monitoring and security software, so our integration seems natural. Cybersecurity, data security, is of key importance to our customers today. This means an excellent prospect for Cisco and an excellent prospect for our hub in Krakow – also from the point of view of the talents we attract.

Did Poland's location – so close to the ongoing war – make you focus so strongly on cybersecurity in Krakow?

Yes and no. No, because cybersecurity itself has become a global need in recent years. Yes, because we are committed to solving global problems, and one of the most important is here in the Central European region. When I came to Poland two years ago, about two weeks after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, I saw our employees going to the border to help refugees, how they took in strangers from Ukraine who needed support… Really, employees did everything then everything they could, and we as Cisco tried our best to support them. At the same time, as a company specializing in cybersecurity, we support Ukraine in the fight against cyberattacks. We were doing it before the war broke out, so it's no wonder we're still doing it now. In this sense, location matters.

The future of remote work

One of the main demands of IT sector employees, not only in Poland, is the possibility of working remotely, at least partially. From the point of view of the management board of a large company – what is the future of this model?

In our opinion, the future is a mixed, hybrid model. However, I do not think that there is a universal model that is the same for everyone. We have 85,000 employees and I can point to examples of those who can successfully work remotely, and at the same time provide good arguments that some of them should perform their duties, or part of them, in the office. The way we work depends on what tasks we perform and how we do it. Flexibility is key to Cisco's approach. Technology supports us in this.


In the past, when you, as a remote worker, joined a meeting in which others were participating on-site, you were usually at a disadvantage: the others quickly forgot that you were even there. It was difficult to speak up and take part in the discussion – if only because the delay on the connections made it difficult for the conversation to flow smoothly. We believe that technology can be an equalizer. It can make everyone equally visible and audible, which promotes cooperation and integration.

Which technologies will most significantly change the world in the coming years and who should benefit from it?

We have already replaced both. These are AI and cybersecurity solutions. Generative artificial intelligence will change many industries and all of us. Right now we're trying to understand how we can use this technology to differentiate ourselves, be innovative, be more profitable, and we're seeing AI being used in ways we didn't anticipate. This signals great opportunities for growth. When I talk to students, they admit that they want to be part of this great change. However, the role of security in the cyber world increases with the progress of digitization and the development of AI, which – like any technology – can be used for both good and bad purposes. This is all the more reason why we must look at its development and applications – always from a human, and not only technological, point of view.


Luc's expertise lies in assisting students from a myriad of disciplines to refine and enhance their thesis work with clarity and impact. His methodical approach and the knack for simplifying complex information make him an invaluable ally for any thesis writer.