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Redefining Jobs: The Impact of Microsoft Copilot and AI on IT Careers

AI is changing the game for professionals everywhere. From speeding up the content-generation process to writing usable code, the lines between people and technology are starting to blur. Now, with the launch of Microsoft Copilot, the applications for AI look set to grow exponentially.

Crimson’s Mark Britton and Martin Gallagher discussed Microsoft’s latest AI addition on the most recent episode of Digital Lounge. “Copilot revolutionises the agent experience – especially customer service,” Martin said. “It resolves and answers complaints in real time.”

Beyond that it will have a number of applications in the following areas:

  • Financial data management
  • Invoice processing
  • Decision making
  • Inventory
  • Creating and enhancing marketing strategy
  • Power automate
  • Chatbot – but very data compliant
  • Visual search
  • Email response writing
  • Email summary writing

Yet despite these technological advancements, human skills remain intrinsically valuable – especially in IT. Professionals will have to adapt to a changing environment where their soft skills outweigh their technical expertise. And if they hope to thrive in an AI-first world, it’s that innate human ingenuity they’ll have to rely on.

The changing landscape of IT careers

IT has always been an incredibly versatile field, that’s why it has attracted so much talent. From development and testing, to support and cybersecurity, the skills needed for an IT career vary dramatically and require different levels of technical expertise.

But the proliferation of AI in recent years has led to the emergence of a number of new roles, combining artificial intelligence with traditional IT. With tools like Copilot able to automate much of the day-to-day gruntwork, IT firms are increasingly investing in administrative roles to help manage and monitor their AI. For example:

  • Deep Learning Engineer
  • Data Scientist
  • Machine Learning Engineer
  • Cybersecurity Specialist
  • Business Intelligence Developer
  • Data Analyst
  • Technology Risk Manager

As these roles require less technical knowledge, traditional entry barriers for the IT sector, like higher education, can be broken down. Though at the same time, jobs like customer support will become obsolete.

AI's influence on skills requirements

That being said, IT workers shouldn’t just stand by and wait for AI to take over their jobs. Now is the perfect time to hone the soft skills that technology will never be able to replicate – and if there’s one thing we know how to do, it’s adapt.

Emotional intelligence, creativity and critical thinking remain innately human, and will allow professionals to continue to work alongside AI without being replaced. Similarly, decision-making and management skills will be valuable for taking a big-picture approach to business operations, while AI can get bogged down in the details.

Reskilling and upskilling IT professionals

It’s all well and good to say that IT professionals need to upskill, but it’s another thing to put that into practice. With AI advancements being made constantly, there’s a requirement for continuous learning and development if humans hope to keep up. Organisations should start by implementing a reskilling strategy as soon as possible.

For those with smaller budgets, online platforms like Coursera, Udemy and Skillshare are a good place to start. But if you’re looking to invest in your staff long term, there are a number of accreditations like AI4IT and BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT) Essentials.

AI and IT leadership roles

C-suite executives might be tempted to think that AI advancements won’t target them – but they’d be wrong. Implementing artificial intelligence could be the difference between making informed decisions and leading your company down the wrong path.

Business leaders should find a way to leverage AI tools like predictive analytics, natural language processing and fraud detection, as part of their traditional workflow. Particularly, AI will complement areas like:

  • Vision and strategy
  • Strategic partnerships
  • Investment and funding
  • Ethical considerations
  • Change management
  • Stakeholder engagement

Ultimately, leaders shouldn’t feel at odds with AI – they should embrace it to drive meaningful and data-driven change. While human qualities like curiosity, extraversion and emotional stability will be more valuable to those at an executive level.

AI specialists vs. generalists

Understanding how to incorporate AI into your own career development should be the first step before making any dramatic changes. Specialists will have a niche area of knowledge which could be vital for bringing clarity to the ever-changing AI landscape – for example, prompt engineering or natural language processing.

However, generalists are increasingly in demand for their understanding of how to apply AI more broadly to computer science, software engineering or business – though they may lack in-depth knowledge of more specific applications. Identifying the right path for your (or your team’s) career growth is a must.

Balancing human and machine collaboration

Just because AI has the power to improve productivity, doesn’t mean it will. Many professionals largely distrust it, and nearly half of workers are undecided whether it should be viewed as an opportunity or a threat. This isn’t surprising considering 300 million jobs could be lost to artificial intelligence in the coming years.

Of those who are willing to apply AI to their work, even fewer trust the technology to carry out important tasks. Over 50% say they'd be wary of AI writing emails without human supervision, and 70% don’t have confidence in its ability to make strategic decisions.

And none of this takes into account the potential ethical debates of adopting AI into the workforce. From potential copyright infringement to eliminating the need for vital entry-level jobs in the sector, leaders must consider these concerns before rolling out AI tools en masse.

Clearly, employers must foster a collaborative work environment to help alleviate these stressors and promote the benefits of leveraging AI. Organisations shouldn’t seek to replace entire roles with bots, but encourage workers to phase in AI to make their existing workflows more efficient – for example, automating manual tasks, resolving customer queries and generating simple code.

Diversity and inclusion in AI-related careers

In its relatively short lifetime, AI has prompted plenty of heated debate around diversity and inclusion. Chatbots made headlines earlier this year after some users shared creepy encounters and examples of racial bias in the tool’s content (including one journalist who was encouraged by Bing’s chatbot to leave his wife after the AI professed its love for him). A US government study also found that most AI face-scanning algorithms had a harder time processing non-white faces.

But AI only reacts based on the examples it’s given, and considering the lack of diversity in the technology workforce, these reactions are just a small part of a wider problem. IT leaders must work to create an inclusive environment and recruitment opportunities for candidates from all backgrounds, particularly women, Black, and Latinx communities who are severely underrepresented in the industry.

How your company can successfully adapt to AI

AI is there to help you, not hinder you. When used correctly, it could make your operations more efficient and boost business productivity. Here are a few areas you should apply AI to:

  • Recruitment: writing job descriptions and screening candidates
  • Projection and analytics: predict future trends and adjust strategy accordingly
  • Customer service: chatbots can resolve simple customer queries
  • Automate basic tasks: writing emails and admin tasks
  • Sales: booking calls, doing automatic outreach

AI isn’t going away. It’s time to embrace it

If history has taught us anything, it’s that when technological advancements happen, it’s our ability to adapt that keeps us ahead of the curve. Whether you’re for or against AI, the focus now should be on harmonising people and technology to create positive and transformative change.

Business leaders and IT professionals alike must focus on embracing their innate skills, like creativity and curiosity, while upskilling or reskilling for the changing needs of their roles. And workers should make an active choice between specialising in a particular area, or adopting a generalist approach to AI.

But we want to hear from you. Have your say on all things AI in our Digital Leadership Report survey, closing on 15th September.

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