A Silicon Valley CTO says the skills he'll make sure his children learn to enter the workforce have nothing to do with tech

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cal henderson slack ignition.JPGJin S. LeeSlack CTO Cal Henderson speaks at Business Insider's IGNITION conference in December, 2018.

  • Cal Henderson, CTO of workplace messaging app Slack, spoke about the future of work at Business Insider's IGNITION 2018 conference.
  • No matter how much things change at work in the next 10 or 20 years, he said, we're all still going to have to work with other people - so people skills will be crucial.
  • Read more coverage from IGNITION 2018.

No one can predict the future.

"We overestimate change over the next five years, and massively underestimate it over the next 10," said Slack CTO Cal Henderson at Business Insider's IGNITION conference, when asked about his thoughts on the future of the internet, and what that will mean for the workplace.

"I feel fairly strongly that we're not going to be in a super VR future in the next ten years, that people at their desks in the workplace aren't going to be wearing VR headsets and shouting at Alexa," he continued. "But it's hard to imagine how it is going to evolve."

Henderson pointed to the shift to mobile in the workplace, which he said happened "really, really quickly." At first, he said, it was "a constant drumbeat of next year is going to be the year of mobile internet, and that just seemed so dumb - and then suddenly everybody is working in both modes."

Before working with now-Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield to build photo sharing site Flickr (which was ultimately sold to Yahoo) and pursuing a few different failed gaming companies, Henderson was an early blogger in London almost 20 years ago. He's had a front-row seat to how much the internet, and work, has changed already.

When Business Insider asked him which skills he'd make sure his own two children learn to in order to enter the workforce, he said that technology changes so rapidly he can't predict exactly which tech skills will be the most valuable in the next 10 or 20 years. The one thing he's sure will be needed, though, is the ability to work with other people.

"I don't know what the technological skills are going to be that they need," Henderson said, "but I think that whatever the workplace looks like 20 years from now, we're still going to have to work with other humans. And so the most important skills are communication and collaboration skills: empathy and courtesy."

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