This post is part of x.ai’s ‘Future of Jobs’ interviews series. We’re talking to leaders and mavericks to find out how emerging technologies like AI and automation are changing how they do their jobs. You can find all the posts in the series here.
Wade Foster knows a thing or two about automation. He’s the founder and CEO of Zapier, which has become the web’s default platform for automating repetitive tasks, so he knows first hand how automation is reshaping how we do our jobs. Zapier is also a fully distributed team, with employees in over a dozen countries. Along with AI and automation, remote work is one of the top trends defining the future of work.
We chatted with Wade by email about how automation is changing his role as CEO of a growing startup.
What aspects of your job would you like to see automated? What aspects of your job are already being automated or will be, in your view, over the next few years?
Anything that isn’t creative is what I want to see automated. Routine emails, scheduling, alerts for key metrics, information gathering, reporting, etc. A lot of these are being automated but it’s tough to get the automation packaged the way you personally want it to be.
What parts of your job are you uniquely qualified to do (vs. software)?
Any people related tasks. Management and creative projects are where humans can excel.
If the tasks from the first question could be automated out of your day or “outsourced” to intelligent software, what would your day look like? What would you spend that extra time doing?
I’d spend a lot less time working. 🙂
Or more likely I’d focus more time on coaching people on the creative parts of a role or task.
What’s the main thing you wish you had more time for?
I personally wish I could spend more time writing. Writing is a great outlet for me. But as the demands of the business have grown I’ve stopped writing for public consumption as much as I did early on in Zapier.
If you accept the premise that these technologies will fundamentally change your job in some way over the next decade, what will your job look like then? What qualities will drive your success?
I think we’ll spend more time on the creative aspects of the job.
Zapier is both an automation company and one that’s fully remote. How has automation helped you build and run a distributed team?
One of our core values is “Don’t be a Robot, Build the Robot.”
So everyone in our organization is looking for ways to use Zapier and other tools to make us more efficient. The remote aspect isn’t one that’s super important in that equation. It’s more important for us to think about ways we can eliminate waste in the tasks we’re doing to focus on more important tasks.