Do You Invest in Your Career?

I imagine that you are reading this newsletter because you want to improve your digital development career. You either want to stand out enough to get an ICT4D job, or move into a better one.

So do you invest in your ICT4D career? As in put in extra hours and use your own money to do cool things that will teach you new skills or help you meet new people?

If Not, Why Not?

I was recently talking with someone who refused to spend $100 on new technology that they could use in their work, because their company would not pay for it. I couldn’t understand why they would be so cheap.

Yes, it would be nice if a company gave us funds to experiment with new tools, but we shouldn’t let their conservatism retard our own inquisitiveness. The value of working better, and leading with innovation should supersede such pettiness.

Invest Now to Get and Stay Ahead

I routinely invest a few thousand dollars every year in new tech, experiences, and even travel to learn new skills, meet new people, and pursue new opportunities that are beyond my employer’s budget. I am able to bring this innovation back into my company to improve its efforts and my standing therein.

Now not all of my investments have paid off, and that’s okay. The ones that do have helped me leap ahead of others and opened doors I never thought existed, much less thought I could open them. So what are you waiting for – invest in your career to find your own open doors.

Good luck!


How I Got a Swank New Job

You are not the only one seeking to improve your ICT4D career. We all are. I’m happy to announce that I’m switching jobs too. I’m leaving FHI 360 in December to be the ICT4D lead at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) based in Los Baños, Philippines in January 2017.

I’m really excited about this new role, and I’d like to share the 3-step process by which I got it, so we can all learn from the experience.

1. I am known by my peers

This was a new role for IRRI, so they hired a recruiter to find the best candidate. Apparently multiple people told the recruiter to call me. That was a great honor, earned by years of networking.

2. I was gracious and helpful

The first time the recruiter called to ask about my interest in the role, I demurred and sent him on to others I thought might be interested.

It turns out that many of those I suggested actually recommended the recruiter call me back and try again. This is a double honor, born from years of helping others get their dream job.

3. I worked my network like mad

Once I decided I was interested, I used my network to make sure I would want the job, and to build a list of high-quality references. Many of those references, when they heard I was applying for the position, took it upon themselves to send in unsolicited recommendations to people they knew at IRRI.

Those unsolicited references helped my candidacy immensely and were the direct result of both being good at what I do, and always, always helping my friends when they needed something.

The Key Takeaway: Network, Network, Network

My journey is yet another proof point that its not always what you know, but who you know that can lead to a new job. So please stop sending out endless CV’s to random positions you see on the Internet (including those below).

Instead, invest in informational interviews. Invest in building a maintaining a network. And then, when you hear of a position you want, use that network to make sure the hiring organization wants you as much as you want them.

It feels like a longer, harder path, and it can be, but it is the one that leads to a new you.

Good luck!


We’re About to Enter Job Search Nirvana Are You Ready?

October 1 is a magical date in international development. It is the start of the new federal fiscal year, which means USAID-funded programs often get a big boost of funds and teams go on hiring sprees.

Expect the list of jobs below to expand all through October, then taper off till January 1.

Are You Ready?

Have you been preparing for this upcoming job search bonanza by making sure you know and are known by all the thought leaders in your subject area?

The job hiring competition is winner-take-all. Only one person will be hired for each position – second place is first of the losers. So don’t wait. Focus on your networking efforts now so that hiring teams will be thinking of you before they even write the job description, much less publicize it below.

Good luck!


How to Build Your ICT4D Skills & Network At the Same Time

I’m often asked which graduate program I would recommend to help people break into ICT4D. People are shocked when I answer, “none”. From what I can tell, a graduate degree isn’t worth the 2 years and $100K.

You’d be better off spending both volunteering with a local NGO in the field, getting hands-on skills and networking directly with digital development practitioners.

So what to do if you want to build your skills, and network with practitioners, without leaving your current job? Take a TechChange course!

Specificly, I hilghly recommend the 16-week TechChange Online Diploma Program in Tech for Monitoring and Evaluation for 3 reasons:

  1. This course will set you apart with high-value skills. Every job has a M&E component, and every organization needs people skilled in M&E Tech.
  2. This course is very interactive. You will network with peers who will have influence on hiring decisions as organizations you want to work for.
  3. This course is fun. Yes, really – the TechChange team works hard to make it easy for you to enjoy learning online when its convenient for you.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up today!

Good luck!


“Wow! You Look Like a Job-Hopper”

That’s a comment I received recently by someone looking at my LinkedIn profile. They were recruiting for an ICT4D practitioner role at a major research institute, and they were not impressed by my many jobs.

Its true that I’ve changed employers every 2-3 years, usually because the organization or my role changed and it was time to move on. I’ve never really left on bad terms, and I am actually good friends with many of my ex-colleagues – this industry is too small not to be!

What’s the right tenure length?

Different fields have different expectations of tenure. In government and academia (where tenure used to literally mean 10 years), moving more than once a decade is rash, while in the technology field, moving companies less than every few years makes you suspect.

International development is somewhere in between. With project work, moving organizations every 2-3 years is normal, yet it’s also good to have longer stretches of 4-5 years just to show you can also survive project transitions. Hence my goal to stay at FHI 360 for at least 5 years. Plus, its a great place to work!

Best are solid explanations

Overall, while it does matter that you can show the right tenure length for your field, its best to have honest, yet flattering reasons why you moved from one role to the next. If you need q diplomatic answer to a job change, you can say, “the expectations of the role shifted, and I wanted new opportunities for growth.”

Whatever you do, don’t lie – that will come back to haunt you – but you don’t have to be brutally honest either. Also, never, ever talk bad about a past employer to a potential new one. They know one day you’ll be an ex-employee too.

Good luck!