Many of us “accidental techies” started in such fields as communications, membership development, or programming, and ended up being asked to contribute to one technology project (usually the website), and then became responsible for developing technology projects for the entire organization!
That was my path too. I stumbled onto website design, then ended up leading a website revamp, sourcing software, and setting up a mobile app. As a solo communications professional, I’ve always had to learn technology by myself. This has often left me with that vague sense of “I need formal training.” It’s funny how that feeling never leaves you, even when you have been working successfully as an accidental techie for years.
For a long time, there was nowhere to learn such skills—you could only find courses that applied to the corporate sector. So, I’d pick up a few courses here and there, but would always have to re-purpose what I learned to a not-for-profit context.
You can imagine how pleased and excited I was to discover there was such an organization as NTEN, and the Nonprofit Technology Professional Certificate. Finally, I could legitimize my skills, learn new techniques, get formal support, share techniques and concepts with like-minded colleagues, and ultimately, learn and grow more in my career.
I like that the certificate program first starts off with a sound foundation in digital concepts, and then gives students the flexibility to choose what direction they want their studies to go in. A big bonus was being able to discuss concepts with fellow professionals in my cohort—a boon to anyone working in a solo role. I ended up picking the required five courses, but could have definitely have picked up five more!
The program helped to reinforce what I already knew, and I picked up new skills in project management, fundraising messages, and social media strategy. Other topics were technology planning, digital strategy, metrics, and campaign development, which are all very current and in-demand skills.
Spurred on by what I learned in the program, I intend to further my learning on community building via social media. The certificate has already expanded my views on technology in the nonprofit sector, and I intend to bring digital planning into discussions with future clients.
Digital technology changes fast, and not-for-profit organizations need to keep pace with its rapid development. We need skills and training now, or we risk getting left behind, in our personal careers and as a sector. I look forward to seeing the term “accidental techie” expand to the point where nonprofits become intentional about technology and develop “legitimate techie” roles that are planned for and given priority.