Recently, I was interviewed by Devex on the typical roles for ICT4D practitioners in ICT4D careers: The technologist, the strategist and the field-based consultant. Here’s a copy of the post if you’re not a Devex member.
I talked about how most people are either focused on the software & hardware aspects (technologist), on the program design and fundraising (strategist), or leading teams in the field to delivery (field-based staff).
Which Role Is for You?
Thinking about these 3 roles, figure out which one you want and which one you are qualified for. The role you want and are qualified for should be the same, but not always.
I will say that the field-based role is usually the most popular, which also makes it one of the hardest to get. If you’re dead-set on a field-based role, consider volunteering or joining a small organization (which is pretty close to volunteering) to get yourself out to a good location. Then try to work yourself into a (better) paid gig once you are there.
If you have prior IT experience, then the technologist role is usually easiest to qualify for, though you still need some field experience to show you know and appreciate the local context. Also realize that ICT4D pays half (at best) of private sector IT work, so be prepared for a massive pay cut, but an equally massive increase in sense of purpose and life-fulfillment.
ICT generalists usually take the strategist role, but only those who have sales experience or aptitude do well in the role. It is all about strategy – to help the organization win new funding and execute on it, not just idly daydreaming what could be. The strategist can also be a researcher, though this is a less-common version.