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AI Engineers Speak Out on Burnout and Pressured Rollouts Amidst Industry Competition

Discover the insights from AI engineers on burnout and pressures in the competitive industry of tech and IT
Cover Image Source: Unsplash | Photo by ThisisEngineering
Cover Image Source: Unsplash | Photo by ThisisEngineering

Artificial intelligence has started to take its place in almost everything we can think of. And to make the most out of the opportunity tech companies are pushing their engineers to implement AI into their tools and services to attract more eyeballs. Seeing the pace at which AI is taking over, most of the time engineers need to work with a very tight deadline, which can often eat up their weekends. The AI engineers are getting burnt out and to understand their situation better CNBC connected with some of the engineers at GAFAM – Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft.

What does the AI workforce feel about?

While interviewing with CNBC, one of the AI developers at Amazon mentioned how he had to cancel his weekend getaway plan with friends to meet an AI project delivery that was assigned to him after Friday working hours. The shocking part was that he was tasked to deliver the project by 6:00 AM Monday. The engineer did his job on time but the project was later not prioritized and requests for other AI projects started popping up. This is mainly because most of the AI projects are developed as proof of concept to attract investors and show that the company is trying to stay ahead of the curve.

In an interview, CNBC found out that even engineers at Microsoft and Google are also under immense pressure to make AI-based deliveries as the management feels that they might fall behind if they take longer time. The anonymous employees said that these tech giants mostly pick up the project whenever their rivals make an AI announcement. So, the project starts to beat the rival company at its own game, and most of the time management doesn’t think about whether that feature is useful for its users.

Many of the interviewed engineers admitted that these projects are picked up to appease investors and they were put on AI teams to facilitate quicker rollouts. Despite being new to the technology, they don’t get enough bandwidth to learn the needed skills and rather have to operate in strictly defined timelines. Due to all this, AI workers are experiencing constant burnout and are looking to make a switch to other teams outside AI, where they can work at their own pace and work on projects that make an impact and see the light of day.

Companies are still inclined towards AI

The tech giants are seeing generative AI as a gold mine, which they need to unearth and put to use sooner than others can do. And even market analysts are predicting that the generative AI market can surpass $1 trillion by 2032. The focus on AI is evident from the statements made by top execs at these companies. Microsoft’s CFO Amy Hood in one of the earnings calls said, “repivoting our workforce toward the AI-first work we’re doing without adding a material number of people to the workforce,”. She further added, “Microsoft will continue to prioritize investing in AI as the thing that’s going to shape the next decade.”

When companies are chasing the deliveries, it is quite obvious the quality would fall. Since talent in AI is limited, folks who can test these AI models are limited. Also as unveiled in the interview, most of the AI teams need to deliver within a specified time frame, and most of the work going out is not getting tested properly. The GAFAM is constantly downsizing its workforce, but what is astonishing is that they are hiring more resources in its AI teams. It suggests how these companies are seeing AI as the new big thing and want to capitalize on it sooner than anyone else.