Sumant S. Pendharkar, Founder, K12 Counts

Sumant transitioned from a successful career in technology management to becoming self-employed with financial licenses. He realized that in the US there are hundreds of licenses and certifications anyone can qualify for just by being 18 or older, thus increasing their earning potential or transitioning into a new career. Where and how to start is a daunting task for many, so he wrote Licensed to Earn: 7 Ways to Earn a better living (with due respect to 007). Sumant covers his 7 licenses/certifications, shares his insights, and provides a template for evaluating a desired license or certification. Additionally, Sumant has founded a non-profit K12Counts organization to improve student academic success.  


In my mid-30s I interviewed a candidate for my technical team who was in his early-60s. My boss, in his 40s, told me not to hire the candidate – too old. The candidate had the perfect skills and experience we needed in Unix and Database technologies. I was shocked and could look into the future to predict that someday, I too would be the 50/60-year-old suffering a similar fate. Living here in Silicon Valley (San Francisco Bay Area), I have met 20-year-olds with a team of 10 to 20+ employees reporting to them. The hiring age and preference in social media companies are to hire young people.

According to, 60% of employees at Google are between the ages of 20 and 30; 58% at Apple. In social media, apps, and cloud computing companies, employees over the age of 35 are marked as over the hill. Traditional age discrimination for those over 40/50/60 depending on the industry is real, has been around for a long time, and will be there for the time to come.

I am predicting that the newest introduction of a technology tool has just triggered the possibility of age discrimination from the younger side. Which means that for some professions/workers, the work life span could be considerably reduced. Outcomes like this may have a significant impact on their lifetime earnings and savings.

This new introduction is the latest rage on the Internet and is known as ChatGPT. ChatGPT is an acronym for Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer. ChatGPT is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbot created by and works in a conversational style. I highly recommend you try out ChatGPT and test its capabilities ( – link verified at the time of writing this article).

Entry-level employees staffing jobs in the following work categories are most likely to be affected by Artificial Intelligence per a report from CBS NEWS:

  • Customer Service Representatives
  • Technical Writers
  • Copywriters
  • Data entry clerks

Artificial Intelligence could replace 4.8 million jobs in the US and 18% worldwide. Many articles are popping up in the media about how AI will affect the jobs of coders/programmers. Entry-level programmers may need to show how they can not only use AI tools but how they can add value to it. 

What can schools (K-12) and parents do to counter the inevitable use of ChatGPT and other AI-based tools that may reduce entry-level job openings for K12 and post-secondary education students?

Parents and schools should emphasize learning skills such as:

  • Critical thinking
  • Writing (creative – putting a spin on the content generated by ChatGPT and similar tools)
  • Analyzing

Any output from ChatGPT and similar AI tools would need some or all of the above skills to enhance/polish the end piece, especially ones that will differentiate the human from the chatbot. Understandably, not every student is likely to pursue a career in the above fields and face nonhuman competition. However, the employment landscape has changed significantly since the introduction of the Internet. That has brought about globalization on a mass scale.

Companies like and offer freelance services. Incredible talent – worldwide offering to do freelance or contracted work at low prices. Please do not associate low prices with low quality. Sole proprietors or small-size companies need to watch expenses. A client of mine was quoted an estimate in the US of $3000-$5000 for a book cover design. From one of these freelance companies, the client got a stunning cover designed for less than US $200.

It is not that the talent on freelance services sites is undercutting what services cost in more expensive cities/countries, it is just that what they are paid is a fair wage in the country of their residence. Still, because of the easy access to worldwide talent, service-seekers can cast the net wide for less expensive solutions.

In the USA, the Bureau of Labor Statistics ( publishes an annual Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). There is a button for a Teacher’s Guide on how to use the OOH. I would strongly recommend that parents view this Guide and make use of the site for guiding their child toward a career with high growth prospects. A link specific to K-12 has an interesting periodic table – a periodic table of science, technology, engineering, and math occupations. It’s a must-see you can interact with. I would encourage students in the K-12 years also add skills such as:

  • Public speaking
  • Learning a Language in addition to one or two they already know

Learning an additional language is invaluable and provides a huge competitive edge. Companies are forever looking to expand their market in other countries, and having an employee with an additional language proficiency is hugely beneficial, making the employee much more valuable. Did you know as per the Population Reference Bureau, there are 20 countries worldwide that have zero or negative population growth projected between 2006 and 2050? Countries such as Japan, Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, Italy, and more.

Students graduating high school with additional languages and completing post-secondary education are likely to start with an advantage over other candidates – human or otherwise. These multi-lingual students can explore job prospects in zero-population growth countries too, with less competition from job seekers from other countries, with host-country language proficiency.

I am bringing forth observations and personal experiences that are based on the pre-Internet times, the dot-com ups and downs, and the founding of social media companies, to an era of AI and robots (Amazon and its 500,000 plus robots in its warehouses). I have lived through the layoffs and explosive hiring spurts, work-from-home, and the effects of Covid on the workforce. It is critical that K-12 school systems pay attention to AI/robotics and include coursework to prepare students to do better than robots. This sentence may seem funny however, in reality, we are already seeing intelligent automation.

Parents need to do their part as the schools cannot do it alone. In fact, the parents play the biggest role of all by watching market trends and guiding their children to acquire skills that can help them land a first job, as well as extend their employability during their (child’s) working life span. The parents can refer to the Occupational Outlook Handbook as mentioned earlier for projected job growth in various sectors.

The lesson I learned while attempting to hire a 60-year-old prompted me to make timely career changes. Since 2003 I have acquired 7 financial licenses/certifications. The advantage of having financial licenses is that age and experience are valued. In future articles, I will write about how adding a side hustle (gig) can help transition to a new career and/or generate additional income.

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