Daniel Shapero has been at LinkedIn since 2008, when the Great Recession rocked the labor market. He’s since risen through the ranks to become the company’s chief operating officer, guiding the platform through significant strategic shifts.

Now owned by Microsoft Corp., the professional networking site is taking on its next big transformation: artificial intelligence.

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We’ll start with AI, the topic du jour. What have you been hearing?

The biggest unknown, and probably the biggest change, is that almost every role is going to be rewritten in the context of AI. From engineers to salespeople, marketers, finance professionals to lawyers — everyone’s going to be leveraging AI in some way. And so how does the talent team think about hiring people based on knowledge of leveraging AI? And how do they equip people to learn the new skills that are required?

You could argue it’s the largest skills transformation that we’re likely to go through in our lifetimes. You might even say that one of the most important skills in any job is just going to be understanding how to unlock the power of AI in your day-to-day. And that’s a pretty abrupt evolution of what’s going to be required to be successful.

What do you see as the major skills that will be in demand?

When it comes to deploying AI technology, I think it will amplify trends we’ve been seeing for some time. So you’ve already seen a tremendously competitive environment for data scientists or platform engineers.

Before you might have said, “Oh, those skills are confined to a set of companies at the forefront of those technologies.” I think we’re going to move to an environment where that’s critical for any company that wants to deploy effective AI tech.

Some companies are going all in and experimenting with AI, and other companies are holding back, watching how things play out. What do you think is the best strategy?

We’re very privileged to have seen some of these new technologies before they became broadly visible in the world. We had an early insight into what was coming with ChatGPT, being part of Microsoft. We reformulated our product roadmap as a result of that. And the question was: How does LinkedIn become an AI-first product, just like we became a mobile-first product or a social-first product? The question of how AI changes every part of the LinkedIn experience became a mission for the whole organization.

Do you feel like there’s an element of generative AI that’s overhyped?

From a technology perspective, the number of practical applications that are going to improve how people work that are ready now is like nothing I’ve ever seen. From writing a message, to helping describe yourself in a way that’s attractive to an employer — those are things that are here now.

To have a technology that we’ve only just seen less than a year ago come into practical use across a wide range of areas is unprecedented. So I’m extremely optimistic, both about what is available today. And then you can ask bigger questions about what’s possible in the future. But the value of generative AI in workflows in many professional settings is very real.

Jamie Dimon said recently that he thinks the next generation could have a three-and-a-half-day workweek. I’m curious whether you think we might start to see the gains with productivity pay off.

Whether or not all of these benefits translate into leisure time, or more focus on the parts of our job that we enjoy and inspire us, I think that remains to be seen. But the promise of spending less time on the mundane, repetitive tasks, or the things that don’t tap into our humanity — that’s a wonderful positive and how we translate that into how we live our lives is a good question.

What advice would you give a young person entering a world in which AI is changing so much?

I would say, learn how to use the tools, try them out, and see what they can do. People who are comfortable with these tools — just like people who are comfortable with technology in general — are going to have opportunities.

And as much as there’s going to be demand for technical skills, there’s going to be increased demand for human skills: communication and creativity. Successful schools will be the ones that foster those kinds of learning experiences for people in a way that’s going to be what employers are looking for.

Best piece of career advice?

The best career decisions that I’ve ever made have been about the people I got to work with. We’re all more malleable than we give ourselves credit for. We adapt to our environment.

And so the best decision I’ve ever made was when I chose to work around people who were going to shape me into the person I wanted to be, as opposed to career decisions about the specifics of the job or the task.

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