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Why Convergence in Upskilling gives you an Edge

I grew up at a time when the chancellor of the university would appear ceremoniously during graduation and announce, “…I now give you the power to read and to write all that appertains to this degree”. With that we would throw our hats into the air and plunge into celebration mode. Most graduates (including myself) never gave much thought to these words of wisdom because as far as we were concerned we were done with books. And oh yes, we had earned our badges!

But as I step into the corporate world, it slowly dawns on me that new skills are required every other day by the employer for me to remain relevant in my job, let alone move ahead. It seems like what was relevant yesterday quickly becomes obsolete and new things emerge within a space of one year. I can recall making initiatives to gain some computer skills in MS-DOS when suddenly Bill Gates launches Windows and the world is transformed totally.

Fast forward post-COVID era, where even specialization does not keep you ahead of the pack for too long. For example, sales and marketing gurus will shortly need to add AI to their training needs in order to remain competitive. As it is, quite a number of marketers are yet to apply digital marketing skills to their advantage. And on a serious note, risk and compliance colleagues need to work on their communication and presentation skills. It is quite common for everyone to switch off the moment a risk officer stands up to give a talk. Working in silos is no longer an option.

A software engineer must have a mix of project management and people management skills. One group of experts who have excelled in upskilling and constant learning on-the-go are learned friends. Legal counsels tend to seek knowledge in other areas outside their profession, and this can be attributed to the need to understand better the environment in which their client operates. It is high time bankers started off their careers with training in financial literacy, not when approaching retirement. Notice the way medical doctors acquire valuable financial skills as soon as they begin practising (tongue in cheek).

There will be times when convergence will crystallize from transferrable skills. Asked about his secret of success, a top neurosurgeon noted that he used to disassemble and assemble engines as a hobby before he enrolled into the school of medicine. There was once a young man called Larry who flew to the US and studied nuclear science, only to return home and discover there were no jobs for him in particular. He decided he was going to pivot into journalism (remember that power to read and to write). Larry turned out to be the editor-in-chief of a reputable media house in the country and one of the greatest political analysts of all time. It is a story most Baby Boomers and some Generation Xers are familiar with.

So when you are stuck, wondering which direction your profession is taking you… convergence of skills will set you free.  

Victor Kottonya is a strategy consultant with GSC Management Institute and can be reached on victor.kottonya@gsconsultants.co.ke

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