Development professionals of the future

Global development is a rapidly evolving industry and, as a result, new profiles and skill sets are needed.The recent Devex Next Generation Professional report confirmed that the sector is undergoing a dramatic transformation. The vast majority of professionals surveyed by Devex — some 86 percent — expect major changes in the skills and career paths for working in global development in the future, requiring knowledge of new technologies, skills, and approaches in order to succeed.

This shift is impacting the sector’s human capital and talent landscape said Kate Warren, executive vice president at Devex, during an exclusive webinar looking at the future of development professionals.

Experts from the United States Agency for International Development and DAI joined Warren for this webinar to discuss how these changes are playing out in their own organizations and what skills and traits they value most in a candidate. Here are three key takeaways from the event.

1. Soft skills are key

While technology may be spearheading transformation in the sector and there is a lot of focus on these skills, soft skills will remain crucial.

“Whenever we survey hiring managers and recruiters on what’s more important — technical skills or soft skills — people and soft skills are typically the ‘make or break’ factor for somebody’s success within an organization and within the development sector,” said Warren.

2. There’s a demand for integrators

The sector’s shift toward collaborative partnerships, particularly with nontraditional development players, is driving the demand for so-called integrators — professionals that possess multiple specialties and excel in fostering collaborations between various stakeholders. There is an increased need for those “who can work across silos, bridge those gaps, and combine tech skills and soft skills,” said Warren, adding that this is “probably why 74 percent [of survey respondents] predicted integrators would be the most in-demand professionals over generalists and specialists.”

3. There is a growing appetite for an understanding of technology

Bonnell believes that the sector’s professionals are increasingly responsive to the fact that the use and understanding of new technology is an important part of the development professional’s skill set.“Our industry really has an appetite to understand what these things are and to understand their relevance,” she said.

In many cases, technology is already being used to tackle development challenges — artificial intelligence, for example, is being tested in the digital health sphere, as well as helping to predict crop yields, spot illegal fishing catches, and develop teaching tools for children with autism. Bonnell thinks that the industry has also developed a healthier appetite for big data and data-driven evidence. As a result, she expects to see a demand for data analysts who can turn that information into business intelligence.


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