“Bread and Butter”


If you are a microbiology scientist your bread and butter might be reading plates and  identifying Staph aureus etc from wound swabs. In the future, this will be done for you by interpretative software analysing digital images.

If you are a senior scientist, your bread and butter might be validating/authorising microbiology reports. In the future this will be done for you by sophisticated rules engines.

If you are a microbiology technician, your bread and butter might be putting up swabs onto agar plates, setting up Maldi-TOF plates or inoculating susceptibility broths. In the future this will be done for you by automation. (if not already)

If you are a clinical microbiologist your bread and butter might be giving antibiotic or best testing advice to clinicians. In the future this will be done for you by robust apps on the clinicians’ smartphones.


The nature of our jobs are going to change in the future. This might be 2 , 5, 10 or 20 yrs down the line depending on the nature and pace of change. If we expect to continue doing our current job in its current format, then sooner or later your job will be made redundant by advancing technology. Difficult news to swallow, but absolutely the truth.

You might think that the above will lead to a loss of jobs, and it may well lead to a net loss. (This has been debated ad nauseum elsewhere) However on the plus side new jobs (and job descriptions) will almost certainly be created.

For example in the future, new jobs may be available for those who:

  • are expert at maintaining, troubleshooting, configuring and calibrating automated equipment.
  • can develop apps and write rules engines.
  • are comfortable developing testing algorhythms, and composing and formatting online manuals.

We will still need microbiological knowledge, but not in the encyclopaedic way we did a generation ago….

When it comes to this it doesn’t really matter how fast you work or how good you are at your routine work. Advancing technology never pays much attention to these parameters. It just targets bread and butter work and eventually eats it up.

We need to be aware of what our daily bread and butter is in the workplace, what is likely to happen to it in the future, and how we (personally) are going to adapt in order to stay relevant.


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