AI on the Job: How artificial intelligence could create new careers
Jul 21, 2023

AI on the Job: How artificial intelligence could create new careers

In the final installment of our series, we look at how one entrepreneur implemented generative tools to make a business out of "consultative sales AI."

All week, as part of our “AI on the Job” series, we’ve been reporting on the ways generative artificial intelligence tools like chatbots are changing how we work. Today: the careers this technology is helping to create.

New fields are being developed, such as “consultative sales AI,” Shridhar Marri told us. He had been working in tech and customer experience for years when he got an idea for a new business last summer.

Shridhar Marri (Courtesy Sainath P.)

Marri’s daughter was getting ready for a party after her college graduation. She had been searching for just the right outfit and accessories online. “She wanted something effortless, cool,” Marri said, “and any cosmetics would have to be not tested on animals. They have to be eco-friendly.”

She scrolled and scrolled, filtered and sorted, but still couldn’t find quite what she was looking for. So, Marri decided to create the solution: an AI chatbot that could recommend products based on conversations with users. The new company is called Flyfish.

The chatbots “bring in this multitone, conversational capabilities,” he explained. “What Flyfish [brings] to the table is the hyperpersonalized product recommendations, product advice at the time of actually buying.”

And to make that business a reality, he needs workers — from engineers to experts in user design, sales and marketing.

A report recently published by Upwork, a platform for freelancers, shows that hundreds of companies are looking to hire more people to integrate AI into their businesses.

“Sixty-four percent of C-suite executives said that they do plan to hire more professionals in order to keep up with the demand that generative AI is causing in the workplace,” said Kelly Monahan, managing director of the Upwork Research Institute and author of the report, which surveyed 1,400 U.S. business leaders.

The most bullish-on-AI industries, she said, are “business and professional services, software technology, media and telecommunications, and then finally financial services.”

Kelly Monahan (Courtesy Upwork)

Not all these new jobs are for STEM experts, or specialists in science, technology, engineering and math. Monahan sees AI as something that co-works with humans, who will still be relied on for “soft” skills — things like interpersonal communication and out-of-the-box problem solving. “So develop the human skills, but also learn and recognize what generative AI is and what it’s not, and learn how to incorporate it into your workflows,” she added.

Marri said that as he scales up his startup, he’ll be looking for applicants with a range of skills. “The arts and humanities people would come in, probably define the ethics, probably define the philosophy of what we’re doing and why we’re doing, how we should be doing,” he said.

He’ll need the help. Marri said a number of large brands — some of them household names — are pilot testing his consultative sales chatbot.

More on this

That’s it for our series “AI on the Job.” This isn’t the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last time that we cover the massive, unfolding shock of artificial intelligence in the workplace. There are so many unanswerable questions about how this will play out, which is why we grounded our coverage in what’s happening right now and what’s happened in the past when disruptive technology came to work.

There are also big caveats. Innovations, even fast-moving ones like AI, take time to filter through the business world. Our economy is still adjusting after the shock of pandemic labor shortages, and unemployment remains near historic lows.

Just how disruptive this transition turns out to be could hinge on how quickly it occurs. Will it follow the patterns we’ve seen before — ones our experts alluded to — brought about by tractors or calculators or word-processing software? Or are we staring down a fundamentally different force? It’s a giant question we’ll keep asking as we continue to track AI on the job.

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The team

Daisy Palacios Senior Producer
Daniel Shin Producer
Jesús Alvarado Associate Producer