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Q5: How Do I Get Needed ICT4D Skills?
Another subscriber question:
I want to enter the ME field and jobs require experience with statistical software, however, the last time I used SPSS was in grad school four years ago. How do I tell a potential employer that I’m willing to learn the skill if they can provide some training?
We Should Always Be Learning
Technology doesn’t stand still. Be it statistical solutions for ME or software development languages. So we all need to be learning all the time across our domains of interest to keep current in our work.
For example, right now I’m learning about machine learning, which is reminding me of my lone D in college – in statistics. However, that’s not holding me back in learning the general concepts of natural language processing, though I know I’ll never be a master at it.
Usually, though, we don’t need to be a master of all things. We do need to have enough knowledge and expertise to know our own limitations and to hire and direct experts who can do the work.
Show Your Own Initiative
This brings us to today’s question – how to get expertise needed for a new role?
One way is to take training courses on ICT4D topics. One could balk at paying for such a course, but when you compare $300-100USD in tuition to a year’s salary in a new role, the investment is trivial.
Likewise, the investment in time and effort for a volunteer consultancy, where you have a real project to work (and learn) on, and get exposure to potential peers, can be well worth it.
Finally, you can always explore a self-directed course of study in the new skill. Back in the day, a friend of mine told me about this newfangled Internet thing. I spent countless hours researching HTML and taught myself how to hand-code what was then called an online journal. 25 years later, much of my career is based on my blogging skills.
Regardless of which option you choose, the overall goal is to show a potential employer that you are not waiting passively till you are hired to learn new skills. You want to show them that you are actively improving yourself all the time, and you’ll bring both new skills and the motivation to learn even more to your new employer.