Using Technology to Facilitate Career Discovery in Developing Nations
By Peter G. Raeth
STEPS I TOOK
Learning is the first step in problem solving. I lived in Zimbabwe for two weeks as a practicing engineer and a Career Development Facilitator (CDF). I spent many hours in discussion with several groups.
The groups were composed of government officials, medical personnel, pastors, business leaders, and technical professionals.
Different cultures of both genders were represented: westerners, colonist descendants, and descendants of various African tribes.
The outcome of this learning: career success is no different in Zimbabwe than it is in America. Yes, there are cultural variations that impact behavior on the job, but, the rudiments of success do not change because of gender, race, religion, nationality, or culture. To explore in detail the various issues impacting a person’s efforts to build a career in that country, go to my website and read about what learned: http://informationanthology.net/CareerMentor/Zimbabwe/IntoAfrica.html.
Two contradictory issues impact career development in Zimbabwe:
A 75-90% unemployment rate often drives the best talent into neighboring countries, western nations, and even as far away as New Zealand.
Zimbabwe is rich in opportunity. There are a fair number of sectors encompassed by Zimbabwe’s economy. These yield tremendous opportunity for a well-educated, widely talented, and motivated population. (For details, read pages 5-6 in the OCDA newsletter.)
Career Counselor, Mrs. Emily Gurupira, convinced me that the very common American belief in the fast, cheap and reliable internet is not always the answer. In Zimbabwe, anything one develops or uses to support career discovery has to be printable, or at least recorded on media that can be read and displayed by inexpensive laptops, using only tools distributed with the operating system.
TOOLS I USED
1. The internet does provide a solution.
Beyond formal copyrighted material, there is material distributed under Public Domain, Open Source, Creative Commons, and General Public licenses. Such material is licensed for collection and redistribution as long as attribution is maintained and the material is not sold or modified. (Consult legal counsel to understand the particular license involved.) An internet search will bring up much helpful material, although this requires a patient effort.
2. Try to begin the search with Google queries (http://www.google.com/advanced_search):
For example, you could use these search terms: “creative commons” “career assessment” filetype:pdf site:.edu. Google’s interface makes it easy to create detailed queries. Just fill in the blanks. If you discover a site with a large collection of valuable material, you may want to download the entire site. This can take a lot of time if done manually. Instead, take advantage of an open-source tool for this purpose, WGET (https://www.gnu.org/software/wget). As you collect material, keep a table of sources. This is a good way for you and your clients to access updated material, and to credit the originator. To keep the Open Source and related movements going, win-win situations are essential. It is incumbent upon us to credit the source of any material we use. Further details on this approach to collecting material can be found in a talk on building a college course from redistributable material (see http://InformationAnthology.net/Creating_Course_From_Internet_Material.pdf).
3. Organize the material into a useful collection.
You are welcome to use one of my web pages as a template (http://informationanthology.net/CareerMentor/Discovery/index.html). This site is my collection of career discovery material. The material on this site, including the videos, fits on three DVDs. The DVDs can be copied to any Linux or Windows computer. Contents include an entire professionally-written assessment series, along with videos on various types of jobs, and complete books on different aspects of career development. There has been no indication that any of the material is culturally inappropriate.
4. Distributing the material:
A web interface can be stored on a web server. There are several free web hosting services you can use. For more specific information contact me directly. An example is a Zimbabwean non-profit that made copies of a 3-DVD set for installation on community-access terminals at 50 nation-wide sites. No outside internet access is required to make use of any material on the DVDs.
WHAT I LEARNED
Coming to positive results in an environment like Zimbabwe has to also take into account the people’s culture. One must be aware of the deep distrust that many Zimbabweans have of colonists. Zimbabweans experienced the trauma of colonial rule and the violence that ensued as they extricated themselves from that rule. Their distrust has been passed on to their descendants. There is also the matter of Americans’ reputation for arrogance and dominance. Both can be alleviated by taking the approach of starting nothing. Rather,
seek out some person or organization that is making all best efforts to accomplish a meaningful goal.
offer to help.
work through the local people. Make sure the accomplishment is theirs.
see to it that they learn how to do, and
let them feel encouraged and enabled to do what needs to be done.
become a valued member of a trusted network. In this way you meet reliable, trustworthy people. Zimbabweans have survived conditions that are unthinkable for Americans. Their extended family ties have made this possible. It is the foundation of accomplishment there. You want to become a member of a “family”.
This article has discussed steps taken, tools used and lessons learned for bringing career discovery to a developing nation. It is possible to discover, store, and even print professional material that is available free of charge. In this way, one adapts to the situation at hand to benefit people who need it the most as they take the next step beyond sustainment and survival.
Dr. Peter G. Raeth holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science, degrees in engineering, and has 35 years experience applying computer engineering to industrial requirements. He has completed CDF training and volunteers his time to help raise the next generation of competent and committed professionals. He operates a website on career development (http://informationanthology.net/CareerMentor) and can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org