The competence of an IT professional is about meeting
needs – satisfying the demand of the markets (local and global). Understanding competence needs will help IT professionals achieve greater success in their
careers and businesses. Acquiring technical skills are the
most obvious means of addressing these needs. Your competence as a
professional however goes beyond paper qualifications.
What are the ICT-specific "technical"
competencies the market desires? Competence covers the knowledge, skills
and experience required to do specific technical ICT jobs/work. This
requires a solid foundation in technical skills in particular areas. The
ICT space is vast and wide. There is certainly room for anyone with
interest. However, specific skills need varies from area to area, with
some overlapping with others.
Specialist ICT skills are essential for the manufacture
of telecommunications equipment, computers, semi-conductors and other
electronic equipment. Technical skills are also required for the
provision of information, software and services - computer services,
telecommunication services, Internet services, software solutions and
Such technical know-how is essential to create, support
and deploy the wide range of applications, fields, tools and
technologies driving and supporting the knowledge society. The scope
includes computers, the Internet, software, database, fixed-line
telecommunications, mobile and wireless communications (Radio, CDMA,
GPRS, 3G, GSM, Bluetooth), Mobile Internet (UMTS, WAP, m-Commerce),
satellite communications, networks, broadband, embedded and specialized
ICT devices (barcode scanners, global positioning systems (GPS), etc).
However, competence isn't about mastery of everything,
which is impossible anyway. It isn’t just about having expertise –
it’s more about using your expertise to add value. Ability
is not having it is using. It is about knowing
how to deploy
your technical skills in area(s) of interest to provide solutions. For
example Web developers have the ability to develop websites and programs
that contribute – i.e. provide content, present data, perform
calculations and provide e-business services. Other areas with high
demand for competent professionals include: Telecom, Technical Support,
Networking, Software development and Database Development and
Due to the continuing rapid development of applications
and the relentless emergence of powerful new technologies, the
competence needs of ICT professionals and users change rapidly.
Knowledge options have no long-term value in the digital age. The speed
of knowledge industry developments continually outpaces responses from
developers of degree, certification and other learning programs. It is
therefore impossible for degree programs or certifications alone to
sustain ICT professionals throughout their working career. I’m amazed
when people think the possession of degrees and certificates eliminates
the need for further training, certification, or self-development.
Competence means having an understanding and motivation
beyond meeting present on-the-job needs. Lifelong learning is the key to
career growth. It isn’t about history or the static. It’s about
change - expecting, anticipating, embracing and driving “the new”.
Status quo is for dinosaurs. You must constantly reinvent yourself to stay relevant. IT professionals must strike the right
balance between interests, abilities and emerging trends on one hand,
and present opportunities and jobs on the other.
Career Development, Opportunities, Expectations, Quick
The competent professional has a career plan with clear
targets and goals. Decisions on training, degree programs and work
experience should be taken within the context of your career plan.
Knowledge and skills without direction and purpose is incompetence in
the clothing of expertise.
ICT is the backbone of the knowledge economy -
opportunities for career advancement, self-development and financial
reward in ICT are excellent. The field is both challenging and fast
growing. The interwoven and diverse nature of ICT fields offers many
professionals the flexibility to work in different areas over time, and
sometimes even on an ongoing basis. It is not unusual to find IT
professionals carrying out Tech support, Computer Networking, Training
and Troubleshooting all in one job.
The environment enables a person to start (short-term) in say
Tech support and eventually end up (long-term) in Web programming, or
Some will want to grow IT careers because of its
diverse opportunities; others love the nature of work and love being on
the cutting edge. However,
the "get-rich-quick" belief is the mark of incompetence.
Individuals who make money the sole aim, find it difficult to last under
the intense workload and incredible rate of change.
Education, certification, skills, knowledge and
experience confer advantage but must be combined with the right
professional attitude for career fulfillment.
Initiative is critical for career opportunity and
development. Can you grow your career without initiative? Even though
many needs in society require the application of ICT, resources for
growth are often limited. You need to go the extra mile to create
opportunity. How keen are you about innovating? Being creative might be awkward or stressful, but “there
is no traffic in the extra mile”. Creativity requires a healthy
contempt for the conventional. A lot needs to be done and the industry
always needs innovative people ready to seize the initiative in the wide
ICT space - developing new software, recreating business processes,
changing the service value chain, etc.
Soft skills, People & Professionalism
Working in ICT and with ICT is all about people –
making a difference. Some job roles in ICT require more customer
interaction and interpersonal skills than others. For example certain
project management roles require more communication, time management, organization and
teambuilding abilities than technical skills, while others don’t.
However, most roles in ICT expect the professional to have good
communication, business and problem-solving skills in addition to
specialist knowledge. The Software developer performs better when she
understands the business issues driving the software solutions she
Furthermore, people skills aren’t just about on the
job opportunity – they are life skills. Do you show leadership? Can you persuade others? You need such skills to get
along with others, showcase your value and market for opportunity. Good
spoken and written communication skills as well as presentation skills
are great assets to have when prospecting for opportunity.
There will be pressures and it can be a jungle out there. You therefore
need to see the big picture. Beyond expertise the right behaviour,
maturity rather than arrogance, high trust levels and a positive image
are the characteristics of the competent IT professional. It means never
sacrificing your reputation and long-term future on the altar of
immediate benefits and expedience.
Competence for Entrepreneurship
As more people and organizations depend on ICT, there
is increasing demand for businesses – big or small - that can provide
specialist ICT solutions. These are companies that have ICT (hardware,
software, networking, web, telecom) and e-business as their end product.
While there is a need for the development of specific entrepreneurial
skills, issues relating to technical and social competence also apply to
entrepreneurs who start and run their own businesses.
Entrepreneurs as expected will need more business skills and have
more responsibility for creating their own opportunities and
experiences, than paid employees.
In my opinion being an IT professional is one of the
most exciting professions today. Competence is constantly learning,
evolving to be the best IT professional you can be. It's not only about degrees or certifications.
It's about how the programmer. Telecom analyst, web developer, DBA, tech
support officer and network engineer carry out their tasks and what they
contribute. There will be bells and whistles “signifying nothing”.
But the focus of competence is substance - creating value. The
bottom-line is to make your mark, competence must make a difference.
Jide Awe is the Founder of Jidaw.com (http://www.jidaw.com)
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