This is Joseph
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This is Joseph

Navigating Your Career As A Zambian Youth

2021 Zambian Youth Day

Lusaka at night Picture credits: Lighton Phiri, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At the onset of 2021, I set out to review my Information Technology (IT) career choice and to validate whether I was heading along the right career path. To do this, I held a series of discussions with professionals that had gone before me in IT. Thanks to suggestions of professionals I received from a family friend.

On this International Youth Day, I would like to share what I learned from these interactions, in the hope that it might be of use to you. Whether you are at a point of validating your current career choice or on the verge of making a bold professional leap. Or you are getting started in your career. I do not intend to give you a textbook rule of steps in navigating your career, but I hope to shine brightly upon your blind spots for the purpose of objectively navigating your career.

“Sorry if that’s not what you were expecting to hear”

Those were the concluding words in a discussion I had with Mr. Bedah Salasini. CEO of EFC Zambia. Unlike my expectation of learning what a “dream Job” in IT looked like — given the direction technology was currently heading, none of my discussions ever answered this question.

With Mr. Salasini

We had had quite a chat, with Mr. Salasini, about a specialization I was passionate in. Recounting our discussion, I find the following points to be worth sharing:

i. Clarity in what you want.

Every career begins with clarity on what you want to become your career. This was one point repeated in all my discussions. With clarity, one can easily navigate to the unknown if the are clear on where they are starting from.

ii. Commercialize your skill.

Your skill is worth its commercial value. In the current world that is technologically enhanced, nearly all careers have a fair share of the possibility of standing out if applied the right way. For an IT Skill, one requires to bring out its commercial value to the larger organization. Identifying the commercial value of a skill or trade and constantly applying this value to the rest of the business offer one a chance to make headway with their career. In other words, in other words you decide whether or not to make it in any career.

iii. Look out for limitations.

While it is true that you can make it in any career, the ease with which you make it and how far you make it are dependent on what additional skills you take up along the way. Careers are evolving and you have to evolve with them too. You might even be required to choose between your primary skills and your secondary skill if your primary skill is limiting you in how far you can go, depending on the nature of your career.

iv. Become a master at it.

It is a no brainer that with the increased access to learning content. High unemployment rate. And the young African and Zambian population, one needs to become a master at their skill using opportunities availed if they are to remain relevant.

v. Be flexible

Your career may not be exactly what you imagine it, but you need to have the eye and flexibility to mold your career.

Obtaining Clarity in your career— With Theo and Ernest

On separate occasions during my quest, I had the humble opportunity of discussing with Theo and Ernest Kapaya. Both flourishing professionals in the IT industry in Zambia and the UK. They shared the importance of actively exploring multiple options before settling on a specific specialization. Theo shared how he had to complete a Civil Engineering degree before discovering that IT was his calling and how much quicker it would have taken him had he deliberately exposed himself to more options.

For both Ernest and Theo, obtaining clarity on what one wished to specialize in involved having discussions with professionals in local circles of one’s field of work. We didn’t have the luxury of time to tryout every subdiscipline but we could rely on experiences of others to find out what it would be like working under that specific unit.

For Ernest, if one chose the academic route in furthering their experience, one would do well leveraging digital learning platforms such as Google Garage, Udemy and Coursera for skills they considered useful but did not wish to go big on. And only undertaking specialized training if they could think of a generic problem they would solve with the skills once acquired.

With Theo, the choice of what one wished to become in their career could not be left to be defined externally by others, instead it was a choice that had to be felt from within. One had to think beyond the constraints of what the world called the various professions and reconstruct their desired profession from the blend of skills they envisioned themselves to possess. Only then would one stay ahead of revolution and be comfortable, as the world always caught up to give a new title to this newly found profession.

Theo also shared how it was also okay to become a generalist. Something I never thought of, and always actively fought against until then. We ended our conversation with Theo sharing Kelvin Coleman’s Videos of Proximity Principle. You can find them here and here.

Summing up

Navigating a career in Zambia, much like in any other country, has become a dynamic process that you work at everyday. It is an endeavour that calls for open discussions with colleagues and those capable of taking you a mile further along your career path.

Having said this, I would like to leave you with a recommendation to Watch an upcoming discussion on “What is your ambition for Zambia?” dubbed Zambition. This is to be hosted by Martin Kalungu Banda on 18 March 2021 under Impact Hub. Visit the link below for more details.

And I would like to end my post with the words of John Soneka’s experience with Winnie Chibesakunda — Zambia’s Ambassador to China. I find these words to best echo this year’s Youth Day

“This day Her Excellency made me realize that I don’t need to wait for the Government to make the Tech environment conducive for me to be innovative instant [Instead] I need to be innovative to push the Government to make the environment conducive.

It is high time us Zambian young guys we became more innovative and influence our Government with our disruptive solutions in all the sectors”

John Soneka (in a LinkedIn Post)

Happy Youth day to you!!!

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Joseph Kachiliko Jnr

TEDx Speaker | Data & Analytics Lead #PwC Zambia| I love story writing