ict4d job skills

Should I Specialize or Generalize in ICT4D Skills?

What questions do you have about digital development careers? Click here to ask yours! We’ll answer it in the next newsletter.

Q3: Should I Specialize or Generalize in ICT4D?

Another subscriber question: Will my career advance faster if I stay an ICT4D generalist, with different jobs that focus in each of education, health, and agriculture, or should I specialize in one sector for the majority of my career?

The Case for Generalists Skills

Spreading yourself over several sectors has two key advantages. First, you will not be bored, as each sector, while similar to the others, has its own opportunities, issues, and players.

The downside to this strategy is that it might take you longer to advance into a management role when you move from one sector to another, and have to learn its new norms and networks.

Personally, this is the role I’ve taken, as I thrive on the steep learning curve that comes with a new field. However, I’ve seen peers who stayed with one sector (though not always with the same company) move up faster than me.

The Case for Specialists Skills

If you decide to focus on one sector, say civil society, you can certainly become a key expert and make good progress in your career. If its something you love, by all means, go deep and enjoy.

However, you can become typecast – forever expected to only be in that sector. Then, the longer you stay in that sector, the harder it will be for you to work in any other. This can be very dangerous if that role phases out of need.

For example, at one point I was an expert in deploying desktop computers into computer labs. Yet that isn’t a role for international experts anymore, so I had to quickly adapt or I would’ve been unemployed and unemployable.

T-Shaped Skills for Sustainability

Many career counselors talk about T-shaped skills as the best of both worlds. Go vertically deep in a particular area and then be quick to horizontally collaborate with experts in other disciplines.

The benefit of this approach is a domain knowledge that can advance your career and a network of peers in other domains that will vouch for you if you need to move out of your subject area in the future.

This is what I recommend now too. For example: being a subject matter expert in democracy and governance, yet quick to share your social and behavior change communication skills with peers in health and nutrition. I think its the only way to ensure a life-long career in digital development.


get new ict4d job

How Do I Get Back Into Digital Development?

A subscriber has an interesting question: they were in ICT4D before, then left to start a business that while in international development, was not a technology company. Now they are wondering how to return to ICT4D and the roles they should apply for.

First: What Do You Want to Do?

I think the hardest part of a job search is figuring out what you want to do. The role, responsibilities, work culture, and experiences that will make you happy. I’ve found that writing it all down and ranking what matters can really help you narrow down your focus.

This is the first task, because you don’t want to do a job search just to get a job you wind up hating. I’ve done that twice now – its not fun.

Next: What Are Your Transferable Skills

The person writing in realized they wanted to lead an ICT4D team, so next up was to think through all the skills and experience needed to lead a team and then to find examples of that leadership in their present work.

For this person, that was easy – they were managing a team and often had to overcome technology problems to get their product to the right market in the way their customers wanted. So they can list out those experiences in their CV with the right emphasis for each employer’s desires.

Finally: Who Do You Know?

For better or worse, ICT4D is a very small field and getting in by a recommendation, referral, or direct friendship is always faster than blindly applying to job ads (including those in our jobs newsletter).

In fact, you should use job ads as a rough gauge of which organizations are hiring and what they looking for, and then start informational interviewing your way into their social/professional networks. You want to be known before you apply.

For this person, they can start with the people they knew in ICT4D from before they left, and build their network from there. They are not in the USA currently, which does pose a slight barrier, but thankfully we have Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp and whole slew of connectivity options for them.

Their job search will not be easy.  No job search is ever easy. Its a long, hard, slog with many questions. Ask your questions now!

What Are Your Digital Development Job Search Questions?

What do you wonder about in the international development hiring process? What do you want to know the answer to in growing your ICT4D career? What has always been a mystery to you in digital development?

Click here and tell me!

I’d love to hear what you worry about, or are just plain curious about, in the job search and career growth process. I can’t promise you that I know the answer, but I will do my best to find out.

Ask Me So We Can All Learn

I’ll take your queries, research the answers, and then after anonymizing the question, post both the question and answer on ourICT4DJobs mailing list so we can all learn.

Ask now – there are no foolish questions

Some of the best advice I’ve learned has emerged from question you have, as it’s made me think about a new aspect of the job process and then get the answer from leaders in our field.


ict4d job interview

Do Digital Development Job Interviews Make You Nervous?

Job Interviews Are Stressful for Everyone

Job interviews are always stressful. You are trying to show that you’re able to perform years’ worth of skills in maybe an hour or two – how could that not make anyone nervous?

And while it may not console you much, the interviewer is just as nervous as you. They have to make a major decision that will reverberate for years, in that short time window too.

Practice Interviewing to Calm Your Nerves

The best way to calm yourself down and improve your chances of getting a job is to practice the ICT4D job interview so you know what to expect, and what you’ll say to interviewer questions.

Get a friend to ask you questions as if you’re in a real job interview. Then get someone who you know, but not that well, to ask you different questions, so you’ll have experience in a more realistic setting.

Finally, one of the best ways to practice is to go on as many real interviews as you can get – even if the job may not be one you really want. There is no substitute for a real interview by someone who doesn’t know you.

If You Still Freeze, Own It

Even after all that practice, you may still freeze up on interview day. Or say the wrong thing when you meant something else. It’s okay, everyone messes up. The best response is for you to own the mistake as soon as you realize it.

Employers know they are hiring humans who make mistakes. Best are employees who are quick to see and correct mistakes, so show them that strength from the start.

Yes, even be so bold as to ask for another interview if you think its warranted. It’s better to be known for someone who wants to fix a mistake, than someone who lets mistakes define them.

Now Practice Every Way You Can

Okay, enough advice. Now go practice your job interview skills. Learn how to turn a question you don’t like into an answer you do. Or how to show, not tell, your accomplishments. And finally, find a way to make the interview show off your best skills and abilities.

Good luck!

A Dream Job for Data Scientists – Apply Now!

The Digital Health team at IntraHealth International is growing! We’re now hiring our third new team member in six months.

We’re Hiring a Senior Data Scientist

Do you love Python or R? Does a NoSQL database excite you? Can you make Apache Superset or Tableau dance with data?

Want to apply your skills on problems that matter? With funding and freedom to follow the data? Ready to lead in data science?

Then I have a dream job for you!

We’re looking for a Senior Data Scientist who will work with IntraHealth staff and partners to leverage the power of data to find solutions to global health problems. This includes:

  • Data life cycle management: problem scoping, goal definition, data evaluation, and visualized insights.
  • Data experimentation: uncover new sources of data and find compelling data relationships not seen before
  • Thought leadership: communicate the power of our data science projects through peer education and public outreach

You will also have the opportunity to build out a new service line for IntraHealth, that will start with its own dedicated funding and have the potential for rapid growth serving our internal and external clients.

Best of all, you will get to work with our fun, creative, and passionate digital health team at the forefront of using information and communication technology to improve health outcomes around the world.

We have headquarters in Chapel Hill, NC, and Washington, DC, and welcome qualified applicants that can work in the USA or any country around the world where we are registered.

What are you waiting for? Apply today!