Michael Bayer, CFO, Wasabi Technologies: “We need to invest now in the jobs and infrastructure of the future”

Over the past three months, we have been publishing interviews with thought leaders about the future of work. How will AI affect future jobs? What skills will people need in ten years time? In our latest interview, we’re delighted to speak to Michael Bayer, Chief Financial Officer at Wasabi Technologies and a man who has stayed at the cutting edge of technology for over 20 years.

Wasabi is a leading provider of cloud storage services, an area Michael knows plenty about: back in 2009, he co-founded a SaaS-based platform for mobile and web-based analytics. Now he sees huge opportunities for young entrepreneurs, and later you will read his passionate advice about their need to upskill. Now!

You will sense Michael’s passion for learning and education below, so it should be no surprise that he is an Adjunct Lecturer in Finance at Babson College, a premier business school focused on entrepreneurship. So, take notes. We will be testing you at the end.

Michael Bayer, CFO at Wasabi Technologies
Michael Bayer, CFO at Wasabi Technologies

What was your first role in tech and what is your current role today?

I started out in tech with my own computer consulting company while I was in college, delivering custom database applications for commercial clients. That morphed into an investment tech business managing a trading platform for a family office.

Over the years, I’ve been in a bunch of different tech firms — from early internet, to mobile, to cleantech, to audio solutions — and now I am CFO at Wasabi Technologies, my second business in the storage industry.

What jobs do you think AI might replace?

I’m excited about what AI will do for the next generation of the workforce. Are there many jobs which will get automated away? Sure. But many other roles will be enhanced by AI tech, not replaced.

Spreadsheets didn’t do away with accountants. Spreadsheet technologies advanced what they could do, so they could spend more time analysing rather than summing columns of numbers.

Desktop publishing tools didn’t make designers go away. It opened up many new creative avenues and reduced the time required to do many tasks, so it became cost effective to have designers work on many new projects.

Will there be fewer workers required in many professions? Absolutely. But brand-new professions will evolve. Who would have thought there would be a job for a “Chat Prompt Engineer” just six months ago?

What are the major factors influencing the future of work?

AI, for sure. Work from home is here to stay, and the hybrid workplace will need to evolve. And work from anywhere wouldn’t work from anywhere if we didn’t have the cloud.

The decline of education means employers will need to do more teaching and coaching.

Globalisation means more diverse workplaces, and time boundaries are going away as the sun never sets on many businesses, even small ones that used to be narrow.

The gig economy has to get better and provide a real wage for so many of its workers, but the idea of flexible professions and jobs will expand across time and space.

Which tech skills will be in most demand over the next 12 months? And ten years?

The CFO is the new CIO. Sticking to my knitting here, the role of the finance professional will require increasing levels of technical sophistication. The best financial analysts and managers will know how to determine the most important metrics for the business, find the data to support them, access, clean and analyse that data, and report on it, creating visualisations that facilitate decision making.

Does that mean Python or R or Power BI or Excel or PowerPoint or chat engineering or LLM modelling? I don’t know. But the savvy financial pros will learn the tech skills that support their ability to support decision making. I recommend that financial pros learn computer science along with a broad base in economics… that’s a winning combination.

How do you think the work office will change in the next ten years?

The hybrid office will evolve, and work from anywhere will become a norm. Managers will need to learn to supervise less and coach more, and organisations will have to rebuild their entire approach to managing culture for a remote, tech savvy workforce.

What jobs will be gone by 2030? And what new jobs might be created?

Don’t we still have COBOL programmers? Jobs won’t be gone, but there may be fewer demanded in many different professions. If you can take your daily task list and accomplish a good part of it using ChatGPT or one of the other emerging tools, then you should start thinking about reinventing yourself.

My business is focused entirely on cloud storage, and many of our customers are migrating from operating their own data centers to leveraging the cloud. More and more, tech savvy professionals from every walk of life will leverage cloud tools. So I think much of what will happen over the next 5-7 years will be evolutionary, as existing professions embrace cloud tech, AI, and so forth. Accountants won’t go away… but their jobs will be entirely different.

Now that doesn’t mean there won’t be “new” jobs. We hire “cloud developers” all the time. That’s a new job. (Shameless plug: if you are a cloud developer, stop by our careers page! We’re hiring!) And when did “social media influencer” become a career? What about EV charger technician? Or cryptocurrency programmer?

2030 is an eternity from now in tech cycles. There will be a whole bunch of new jobs that capitalise on new tech. I think young entrepreneurs and workers should think about what life will be like when you can have all the tech, all the time, and those technologies that are cost-prohibitive now. Those technologies will become cheap enough for the masses, and entrepreneurs will need to skill up to use them.

Which areas of society do you think will be more impacted by technology?

The world will further splinter between the “Tech-Haves” and the “Tech-Have-Nots.” This is a very serious problem, and I wish our government, educational institutions and society at large would wake up and start planning for it.

I keep hearing “this will be like industrialisation, where farmers became manufacturing labourers”. Sure, that happened over a century ago… but the pace of change is going to drive that transformation in the blink of an eye, not over a whole generation. We need to invest now in the jobs and infrastructure of the future.

What fields of work or industries do you think will accelerate because of technology?

Analytics will take off. Our customers are drowning in data — that’s why they are moving it to us to host it in the cloud. Turning that data into actionable information, that’s the trick.

But there are just too many professions and industries that will accelerate to try to name them in an organised way. Appliance service techs using AI and virtual reality to diagnose and repair a problem? Farmers enabled with climate-tech and micro-forecasts to optimise water use and crop growth? Teachers assisted by AI “explainers” to better individualise lesson plans and improve education? Doctors leveraging AI agents to help them improve diagnoses (not to mention their bedside manners)?

Every. Job. Will. Accelerate. Every single one.

What is a recent example of technology disrupting work that you found interesting?

Here are some examples of how AI is disrupting the finance industry:

  • Fraud detection: AI can be used to analyse large amounts of data to identify fraudulent transactions. This can help banks and other financial institutions to protect their customers from fraud.
  • Risk assessment: AI can be used to assess the risk of loans and other investments. This can help financial institutions to make more informed decisions about how to allocate their capital.
  • Customer service: AI can be used to automate customer service tasks such as answering questions and resolving complaints. This can free up human employees to focus on more complex tasks, such as providing personalised financial advice.
  • Investment management: AI can be used to create investment portfolios that are tailored to individual investors’ risk tolerance and investment goals. This can help investors to achieve their financial goals more easily.

These are just a few examples of how AI is disrupting the finance industry. As AI technology continues to develop, we can expect to see even more disruption in the years to come.

As a CFO, I am excited about the potential of AI to help my company save money, improve efficiency, and improve the customer experience. I am also aware of the challenges that AI poses, such as the need for data privacy and the potential for bias. However, I believe that the benefits of AI outweigh the risks, and I am committed to exploring how AI can be used to improve my company’s operations.

OK – full disclosure: I didn’t write that answer. Google Bard did. Question – answered.

Also published in this series

Our thanks to Michael for taking the time to share his thoughts on the future of work. For more predictions, read on:

Avatar photo
Tim Danton

Tim has worked in IT publishing since the days when all PCs were beige, and is editor-in-chief of the UK's PC Pro magazine. He has been writing about hardware for TechFinitive since 2023.