How To Accelerate Your Career in Tech: A Q&A with Kavi Ramburn, Director of Talent Readiness at ALX

Mauritian-born Kavi Ramburn is the Director of Talent Readiness at ALX. He is responsible for managing the world-class technical training programmes that provide young professionals throughout the African continent with in-demand skills for the careers that power the world. We spoke with Kavi to find out about the work that he’s driving at ALX, his thoughts on the importance of digital skills on the continent, and the crucial competencies that will be required in the future of work.

Can you share a bit about your background and career prior to joining ALX?

I was born in Mauritius, growing up in a family that was completely nonchalant about materialistic possessions. This gave me a minimalist approach to life and a strong love for nature.

My professional life prior to ALX was mostly in the non-profit sector — firstly with educational NGOs in Latin America, where I focused on the design of learning programmes — and later on with a global anti-human trafficking organisation working in Haiti, Ghana and India, where I focused on the assessment of community-based projects.

Kavi Ramburn, Director of Talent Readiness at ALX

What drew you to work at ALX?

A little bit of a cliché: the mission and the people. In terms of the mission, I was strongly drawn by the possibility of working on the design and delivery of learning programmes that could positively impact the lives of millions of youth across the African continent. Being part of an organisation that operates at such a large scale and that has the ability to offer transformational experiences to an entire generation of young leaders is truly a privilege.

In terms of the people, I had heard from individuals in my network that ALG (African Leadership Group), and not only ALX, brought together incredibly passionate human beings and embedded them in an exciting work culture. I can now say that after having joined ALX over 3 years ago, I have been amazed by everyone’s drive to achieve excellence in every aspect of their work. Everyone at ALX seems to have the remarkable ability to get the most complicated things done in record time, but most importantly, everyone is able to do so with an incredible level of humility and collaboration.

“Our team strives to deliver magical and transformative learning and community experiences that help drive engagement and long-term retention of learners.”

As the Director for Talent Readiness, can you share what your role entails and what your team does?

The Talent Readiness department is in charge of designing and delivering ALX’s different learning tracks, such as our Data Analytics and Data Science programmes, our Cloud Computing programme, our Salesforce Administrator programme, and our Software Engineering programme. Our team’s interaction with our learners starts from the moment they have been accepted into one of our learning programmes. From that point, we start engaging with them by launching their learner journey and getting them onboarded and activated into the ALX community. Once onboarded, they have access to our whole community support ecosystem, which comprises our learner platform where they get to interact with their peers and get their questions answered from industry experts, as well as participate in carefully crafted community events.

Our learning model follows the 70–20–10 model: 10% formal coursework and training, 20% learning from their peers, mentors, and industry professionals, and finally 70% from learning by doing (i.e. undertaking practical projects by applying what they have learned).

Fred Swaniker in conversation with Priscilla Muhiu at an ALX fireside chat

At every point of the learning journey, our team strives to deliver magical and transformative learning, and community experiences that help drive engagement and long-term retention of our learners.

My role specifically is to lead the development of these programmes and ensure that our team is effectively delivering high-quality learning experiences for the thousands of customers that we serve. This entails managing operational and programme teams in the roll-out and implementation of digital cohort-based learning programmes. Additionally, I closely collaborate with other department leads on devising a common organisational strategy and operational plan to prepare our young professionals for dignified employment opportunities. Finally, I also manage partnerships with key institutional stakeholders with whom ALX partners to deliver these programmes at scale.

“Young professionals will need to reinvent themselves multiple times throughout their careers to remain up to speed with the latest technological developments.”

What are the crucial skills and competencies that you think young professionals in Africa will need to thrive in the future of work?

The most critical skill would likely be the ability and agility to learn. There is plenty of research showing that the key skills that were required 5–10 years ago across major industries are no longer relevant today, and that most jobs that will exist by 2030 have not even been invented yet. Such rapid changes mean that our young professionals will need to reinvent themselves multiple times throughout their careers to remain up to speed with the latest technological developments.

In addition, there are also numerous essential soft skills, such as the ability to problem-solve, effective communication, and collaboration, that are applicable across the majority of industries, and that recruiters often look for. These skills are the cornerstone of every tech programme at ALX, providing ALX graduates with the key proficiencies that will ensure long-term career success. Lastly, a strong foundation of core digital and tech competencies would undeniably be an essential piece that young professionals should continuously build upon to thrive in the future of work.

An employer and member of The ROOM interviewing ALX learners

Why do you believe it’s important for young Africans to gain digital and technical skills?

A recent report by McKinsey mentioned that while the proportion of occupations that can be fully automated using current technology is less than 5%, within approximately 60% of all occupations, roughly a third of their activities can be automated using existing technology. As a result, most people entering the workforce will require a significant degree of digital and technical skills to simply navigate and perform in existing occupations.

While jobs requiring digital and technical skills are growing rapidly, the latest reports also indicate a significant unmet demand for such tech skills. For example, prior to the pandemic, the US alone had close to 1 million unfilled tech jobs. Moreover, the pandemic has dramatically accelerated digitally-enabled independent work, which is bound to keep growing over the next decades. By upskilling themselves, young Africans have the opportunity to fill that gap in the supply of tech roles.

What excites you about the work that you’re doing with your team?

Being at the forefront of the rapid transformations happening in the educational space. Our team operates the furthest away from rigid traditional learning models within archaic educational systems that are only accessible to the most privileged individuals. We work on delivering fast-paced, market-relevant, flexible, tech-enabled, community-driven hybrid learning that is highly accessible to millions of youth.

ALX learners in a mock interview with founder of The ROOM Fred Swaniker

From your experience, what does it take for young people to fulfil their potential and embark successfully on their careers?

On an individual level, certain key mindsets, such as a “growth mindset”, can be extremely powerful in helping individuals transcend themselves. A growth mindset is not something innate, but can actually be learnt at any point in life. It helps establish an openness and love for learning, as well as the appropriate resilience to continuously improve oneself.

Beyond the individual level, especially in the markets that ALX serves, it is also critical to recognise that there are some heavy infrastructural barriers limiting young people’s ability to fulfil their potential. For example, a large number of young people we serve struggle to access reliable internet and tech tools that are essential in their learning journey and to launch their careers. These structural barriers have nothing to do with individual resilience and perseverance, and act as major limiting factors for youth on the continent. ALX constantly strives to find innovative solutions to such barriers, with the hope of increasing young people’s ability to fulfil their potential as much as possible.

“Young people who participate in our learning programmes are equipped with essential mindsets as well as generalist and technical skills and tools that are pivotal in helping them find meaningful job opportunities and succeed in their new roles.”

What value does ALX hold for young professionals? What difference will it make to their lives?

Our young professionals who we interview or survey after they have gone through our learning programmes consistently share with us that ALX was a transformational experience for them, helping kickstart their career. Young people who participate in our learning programmes are equipped with essential mindsets as well as generalist and technical skills and tools that are pivotal in helping them find meaningful job opportunities and succeed in their new roles. Additionally, our young professionals also forge deep connections with their peers through our learning community, which provides them with a strong support ecosystem as they navigate the early stages of their careers. Moreover, once they have completed their respective learning programme at ALX, our young professionals have lifelong access to invaluable career opportunities through their Fellowship at The ROOM.

Find out more about how ALX is helping young Africans kickstart their careers in the most in-demand technical professions - and check out the stories from some of our talented young leaders.

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