Why digital literacy is essential to traditional, old-school careers too

Digital literacy
Industries such as law, finance and accounting have become increasingly tech- and data-driven, and need graduates with the right skills to enable their transformations. Image: Shutterstock

Computer science isn’t just for modern startups – digital literacy is in hot demand across traditional careers too. 

Thinking of ditching computer science (CS) for legal studies or commerce because you “probably won’t need it”? Think again. Even if your dream job has been around since before the digital age, digital literacy should be high on your list of must-haves. Clothing companies such as Adidas are developing richer customer-centric user experiences, which are boosting brand loyalty, and journalism is increasingly using data analytics to identify potential articles from large data sets. Industries such as law, finance and accounting become increasingly tech- and data-driven, they need more graduates with the right skills to enable their transformations.

Jobs on the rise

Banking is another industry experiencing rapid digital transformation. A World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report in 2016 predicted the financial services and investment sector was due to undergo a significant shift, “with major job growth for computer and mathematical roles such as data analysts, information security analysts and database and network professionals”.

Those surveyed for the report anticipated the computer and mathematical field would have
a huge surge – not just in the information and communication technology (ICT) industry but across a wide range of industries.

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Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) is planning to invest more than $5 billion over the next five years, much of it directly into the bank’s technology systems – both on the security and service front. While Dutch multinational ING is creating global digital architecture, which involves using data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and robots – ING currently uses about 1200 ‘robots’ – including chatbots with names like Inga, Bill and Marie that respond to customer queries 24/7.

Legal (tech) talk

The legal profession is evolving rapidly. Many larger firms in Australia are now developing their own practice management as well as document management software in-house.

“The adoption of in-house systems means there is an increased demand for people with excellent STEM skills to develop and manage them,” says Sydney-based solicitor Claire Nielsen.

The legal industry is also becoming automated, with a push towards using AI. For example, search engines will be able to analyse legal decisions on particular types of cases over a period of time, to find the current status of the law on certain issues, says Claire. Machines can analyse the vast number of decisions much faster than humans – but they need to be programmed and taught how.

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“Everyone is talking about how we can change the profession to move it forward. Everyone is looking at how to deliver those services to clients more cost-effectively and efficiently,” Claire says.

Tech + finance

Christopher Head is in his third year of a dual business and mathematics degree at the Queensland University of Technology – and he reckons computational maths (basically learning how to use computers as super-powerful calculators) is becoming increasingly pivotal in his favoured profession of finance.

“Since the crypto boom [digital currency], finance has started to look much more like a main course of computational mathematics with a side order of finance, rather than the other way around,” says Christopher.

Christopher Head
Christopher is in his third year of a dual business and mathematics degree at QUT.

“I knew I wanted to go into finance before I chose my uni course,” he says. “I chose to do computational mathematics as well because I thought it would give me an advantage in the finance industry.”

Christopher’s advice: “Computer science and computational mathematics are growth areas so I’d advise anyone to really examine this landscape to see what’s changing. Make your studies as broad as possible so you get a more varied skill set and better job prospects.”

Tech + law

Angus Vos – about to start his fifth year of a double degree in law and science, majoring in computer science at ANU – is particularly interested in how the public accesses legal services.

“You can use computer science to improve how lawyers work but also how people access the law,” he says. “The legal system is meant to be a service to the population. It’s not great if you have a system that most people find inaccessible.”

ANGUS VOS
Angus Vos is particularly interested in how the public accesses legal services.

Angus’s studies started with something completely different, however. “Initially I was going to do a science degree, in biology,” he says. “But I realised I could do law with it and was quite keen on having diversity in my studies. I also realised the opportunities with computer science were greater than with biology. You can work on regulation and writing contracts, as well as on improving how the law works.”

Angus is currently undergoing an ICT cadetship at the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Agency, which helps other government departments improve their digital services. “I’m in a tech team but also work with the policy team and do some legal work, with a focus on privacy,” he says. – Matthew Brace

Computer science + business study:

Bachelor of Computer and Information Sciences, Auckland University of Technology

Bachelor of Electronic and Computer Systems, Victoria University of Wellington

Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Mathematics, Queensland University of Technology

Bachelor of Law (Honours) / Bachelor of Science, Australia National University

Computer science + business jobs:

Systems engineer:
A$64K–A$125K / NZ$47K–NZ$90K

Business analyst:
A$61K–A$114K / NZ$52K–NZ$98K

User experience (UX) designer:
A$49K–A$115K / NZ$60K–NZ$131K

Senior software engineer:
A$79K–A$146K / NZ$81K–NZ$128K*

*Source: salaries according to Pay Scale

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Code 2019.

STEM Contributor

Author: STEM Contributor

This article was written by a STEM Contributor for Careers with STEM. To learn more, please visit our contact page.

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