ict4d job digital development career

Companies Are Still Hiring Digital Development Experts

Most economists are predicting that we are about to enter into one of the largest recessions ever. This is a scary time for anyone – regardless of how secure you feel you job.

One touch of good news is that companies are still hiring. You can see our newsletter where there are new openings for you to review. There will be more competition for each job, so you’ll need to have a strong application game.

Having a strong network is the core to any good application game. Be sure you are doing informational interviews now. Follow up to those you’ve already talked with. And keep at your networking, every day.

Then establish and grown your professional presence. Everything from LinkedIn comments to (virtual) conference presentations, make sure you’re known as an expert is your niche. This will help grow your network, which will also improve your presence.

Finally, this is the time to focus on what you are good at and known for, not for jumping into a new role or niche. Build on your strengths and work at it. New jobs are there, you could get one.

ict4d skills ict support

What Training Do I Need for Digital Development Careers?

Question 11: What training do I need?

I’ve worked in ICT Support for 4 years and I am looking to gain more skills, education and experience in ICT4D. What training can I take or what formal education programs can position me for promotion? I don’t know where to start.

Ask a different question

Instead of asking what training you need, you may want to start with asking where you want to be in 3-5 years. Once you’ve identified what you want to be doing, where you want to be working, and at what level, you can then start seeking out people who have the job you desire.

Then comes the hard part – asking for informational interviews with them to understand what their day is like, where they see the profession going, and crucially, how they got their position.

In an informational interview, you want to be learning from your interviewee, not selling them on hiring you. You want to learn what they believe are the prerequisites for your dream role.

Once you know prerequisites..

If you ask 20 people and all of them say you need a Masters Degree in artificial intelligence or a doctorate in public health, then you know what your next step is. However, they will most likely say that its a mix of education and experience that is best for promotion – not education or training alone.

Training courses

I am a big fan of TechChange courses for practical, hands-on learning of key concepts for digital development project management. However, if you need hard-core software development skills, you made want to join one of the many software development boot camps. Overall, I would look for well-known organizations that utilize facilitators that you can Google-trace to their classroom and alumni.


Since you already have a job, you can volunteer for new roles within your organization to get additional experience. Be the person who always says, “yes” to new projects that interest you, and work more and harder to succeed with those projects. This is the easiest way to get more experience.

Another way is to seek out organizations working in your desired areas and find out what their needs are. Then suggest a volunteer consultancy – that is a consulting engagement that is just as rigorous as a paid engagement, but trade exposure and connections for your time, instead of money.

Switching careers is hard

There is no way around the central problem in your question: you wan to switch careers from IT support to ICT4D. It is not impossible, but like any career switch, there will be work and pain involved, and it may take you a year or more to make the transition. However, if you really think it will make you happier with your work life, then its a worthy sacrifice.

It took me two years to make the transition from dotcoms to ICT4D and every minute of the pain (and several rounds of crying over rejections) was worth it for me. I love my work, every minute of it.

Good luck!

write thank you note

A Handy Trick to Stand Out in the Crowded ICT4D Job Market

As a subscriber to the ICT4DJobs email list, you are a technologist in some way. You believe in the role of ICT to improve development and more importantly, the lives of people in developing countries.

Now I want to tell you about a very non-techie way to stand out in the job search. It’s probably one of the oldest tricks, and still stunningly powerful, yet its also one of the most forgotten.

Send a Thank You Letter

And I don’t mean an email. I mean an old-school, handwritten note on nice card stock, that’s put in an envelope, with a stamp, and sent to who you interviewed with. Either an informational interview or an actual job interview.

Why is this a trick? Because handwritten notes are so rare, you will certainly stand out from the crowd. I learned this lesson back in my first ICT4D job when years after I was hired, I was talking with my boss about hiring staff.

He told me that my thank you note is what got me my job there.

Then he reached into his desk and pulled out the very note I’d written years before. He said it was the only one he’d ever received, and so he kept it to remind himself who to look for when hiring staff.

From that day forth, I’ve sent handwritten thank you notes, and twice, I received them. I distinctly remember the two people who sent them – they’re top of mind when I think about who my friends should hire.

So simple, so effective, and yet so rare. Maybe you can start a trend?

start ict4d career

How To Get Started in ICT4D as a Recent College Graduate?

I love subscriber questions – please ask me yours! I answer each question to help you, and then anonymize them here to help us all improve our chances for a dream digital development job.

For example, here is a recent subscriber question:

Where are the entry-level ICT4D positions?

I am currently pursuing a Masters degree in Computer Science and will graduate in 2018, but I am worried. I am interested in pursuing a career in ICT4D, yet all opportunities I find require heaps of work experience. How do I get a start in ICT4D?

My usual response to this question is two-fold.

  1. Don’t sweat prerequisites. Job descriptions are the ideal candidate, and just like an online dating profile, should be approached with a healthy skepticism. Use the job ads as general guidance on the skills you need.
  2. Network, network, network. The final year of graduate study is when you should be networking, doing internships, and getting exposure to real-world activities and future peers and employers, even if you need to volunteer, so that on graduation day, you have job offers in hand.

But what about the day after graduation? I asked my colleagues in ICT4D for their views.

What ICT4D Experts Say About Starting in Digital Development

I tossed the subscriber’s question out to my Facebook network, and 34 responses later, here is their generalized response:

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Get Industry Experience

They will be a Computer Science graduate, so they should focus on getting a job directly in the tech industry in an area where they will  have transferable skills. This will build your skills and your income faster than if you start in ICT4D.

Keep Involved in International Development

While they are working on this space, keep abreast of development trends, build solutions that address real world problems, and share their results. These basic entrepreneurial efforts that will give them experience, feedback and get them noticed by the sector.

Make the Transition to a Small Tech Firm

When they’re ready, get a job w/a tech-oriented firm liked Dimagi, InSTEDD, etc. as a coder or project manager-type position. With the previous private sector income, they should have financial cushion to go into a lower paying position to pay their “development sector dues”.

See Where Your Career Takes You

A person with a Masters degree in computer science shouldn’t have any problem if they have industry experience. Employers who who run tech companies in international development are looking for tech experience and a willingness to learn.

If they’ve started int he tech space, then moved into international development, they obviously have both and they’ll have a long a rewarding career.

What the Subscriber Said About this Advice

I shared the Facebook post with them in real time, so they could follow along and ask questions if they wanted further clarification. And their response?

Wow! This is amazing.  I have gotten a lot of valuable insight. I will keep following the thread and ask where I can. Thank you very much!!

So what are you waiting for? Ask me your career questions too!

Thanks for reading this far,


internal ict4d job candidate

Always Be the Internal Digital Development Candidate!

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

Q4: What’s the Best Way to Get Hired?

Another subscriber question: I researched many different organizations and I found one that I really, really want to work for. What is the best way for me to get a job there?

The Internal Candidate Advantage

There are so many ways to get hired that choosing a “best” way is difficult. I’ll interpret this question as how to have the highest probability that you’ll get the full time job you want. In that case, the answer is simple: be the internal candidate.

Hiring staff is the riskiest thing a team can do. So anything you can do to de-risk the formal hiring process will put you on the shortlist to be hired. The three best situations, in descending order, are:

  1. Be personally known to the team as a co-worker
  2. Be known to the team through their trusted peers
  3. Be known in general as an expert on their need.

When you are known to the team as a co-worker, there are no surprises. They know exactly who you are and what you’re capable of. They have little risk in hiring you. Assuming you’re good at the role, it will be yours to lose.

Next, if at least their peers know you and can vouch for you, then you have an advantage over everyone else. Finally, if they don’t know you directly, at least make it easy for them to know of you, or get a good idea of who you are from your online presence.

How to Be the Internal Candidate

Now how to be personally known to the team as a co-worker if you’ve never worked there? Well, one way is to get a adjacent job with a different team, or as an intern with that team. However, if your heart is set on a specific role or you’re too experienced to intern, I’d suggest a volunteer consultancy.

Approach the team with an offer to support them as a consultant, with objectives, timelines, and outcomes – just like you would with any professional engagement. Except don’t ask to be paid in money, but in contacts and exposure. Be clear that you expect to work like any other consultant, just payment will be in access not cash.

This gives a clear signal that you are a skilled professional committed to the mission and organization, and will certainly make a positive impression. Now this should be done before they have a job opening. You are pre-positioning yourself for a role there, not working for free.

During your volunteer consultancy, network like mad and make a good impression by outperforming expectations. That way, when a job opening comes along, you will be the internal candidate. Or if they aren’t hiring, you’ll now have a team of people that can personally vouch for you at a sister organization.