How to stay up to date in the fast-moving world of information technology

It does not really matter who you are – an IT professional, a CTO hiring an IT-service manager, or a businessman looking for a contractor to build a key software for his business work processes. The key question is, if the person performing a task has the right competences. Can he or she deliver the service required in the right time and at the proper quality level?

As the Sales Director for a Kumasi based software company, I am normally on the road to market our Ghanaian developer teams in the Netherlands. I am getting a lot of questions about the quality of our personnel. Of course, this is partly due to the fact that many Europeans still have a quite outdated idea about Africa, while, for sure, there are excellent IT people in countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Rwanda.

But our customers have a point. They are asking for evidence that our IT-personnel are meeting today’s professional technology standards. They want objective evidence that this is the case. The mere fact that they do not know of the existence of Ghanaian university like KNUST, it is almost irrelevant in this context, as IT craftsmanship is highly practical and changes very quickly. Rough estimates indicate that in my home country (the Netherlands) 30% of the IT professionals aged over 40 are unemployed while the industry is showing thousands of job vacancies at the same time. Clearly, these people have missed the huge wave of change that has not only characterized the IT industry but the whole world.

We should not forget that Facebook was opened to the public only in 2006, and the first I-phone was introduced in 2007, just 12 years ago. And these are just illustrations of the digital revolution that have been taking place everywhere and is continuing. Technologies have been changing every few years, requiring a permanent education of IT professionals. A university degree is just the – largely theoretical – beginning of a process of lifelong learning for most professionals and IT experts. Without permanent education, IT-professionals can be out of business as young as age 35.

Clearly, more than anything, good IT services are a matter of good human resource management.

What are the good practices to apply in this area? What should a good IT professional do to keep up with all these innovations? The following measures can be found in the ICT industry worldwide. They apply both on a corporate, department and individual level:

1.         Do a regular technology scan to review relevant developments and verify whether the right knowledge is still available in your workplace

2.         Work with a personal development plan for every IT professional, organizing systematic learning of new technologies for the next year

3.         Build a portfolio of practical projects applying these technologies 

4.         Take the necessary training. This can imply an additional master’s degree, or extensive training at a professional training center but not necessarily. On the internet, multiple very good resources are available for e-learning (Udemy, Coursera, Cybrary, Udacity, just to mention a few), many of them are very affordable or even free, and 100% flexible in time and location. In fact, many IT-companies now require their staff to use these online materials to study while they work on related practical assignments, combining learning and doing.

5.         Get international certification: In IT, there are global standards of certification. Various training institutes offer exams to get these certificates in combination with a professional training course. In Ghana, there are institutes such as the Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT

(www.aiti-kace.com.gh), or Certified Ghana (https://certifiedghana.com) offering those programs.

It is also possible to take certification from an independent globally accepted exam institute. This year starting, EXIN international certification exams (www.exin.com) will be available in Ghana via its formally accredited exam agency Maxim Nyansa IT Solutions Foundation. As an NGO under Ghanaian law, this foundation offers these international exams at an affordable fee.  Its revenues are being dedicated to support their Learning Transformation program to help schools in Ghana step into the digital world and help young people in this country to prepare for their future jobs. 

Author: Diana van der Stelt; Member of Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana (IIPGH), Board Member of Maxim Nyansa IT Solutions Foundation and Sales Director at Trinity Software, Kumasi

Email: dianavanderstelt@trinitysoftwarecenter.com Phone: +233 557916646