It is 2021 and Alecia Bennett-Bryan is transitioning from her full time job to a consultancy in Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E). Simultaneously, she is facilitating the three month Impact Assessment course while nursing an infant. In the midst of all of this, she bears the loss of her mother and faces the planning of her funeral amidst all the COVID-19 restrictions and rules. Despite her circumstances, she is undeterred. Every season for her is packed with lessons and inspiration. Alecia is like an oyster: she can be given sand grains and produce pearls. With these pearls, she applies wisdom and insight to every experience she goes through. When she reflects on her life to this point, she sums it up in her motto from Philippians 4:13 - "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
As we close our series on how you can boost your professional development in this post COVID-19 era, we stop by Alecia's classroom to learn about the value of continuous professional development. We can never truly stop learning because life never stops teaching.
Alecia presents on Mainstreaming Migration in Sustainable Development at a planning conference in Peru, prior to COVID-19.
The Necessity of Learning
"In the world that we are in, there is no normal anymore." If you are like Alecia, maybe you are used to travelling the world to do face to face engagements. With the dawn of the pandemic, you are now forced to be more creative and innovative. Tools such as Zoom and Webex become your main methods of interaction. You have to be flexible, adapt and learn from what others are doing. In our teacher's words: "You cannot get comfortable because the world is changing, so you have to continue learning."
The urgency in Alecia's tone is hard to miss. In unprecedented ways, the pandemic showed us that no jobs are guaranteed. Therefore, if your organization is going to restructure, Alecia advises you to ensure that you are the person they do not want to lose. This is because you are the one who will provide excellence, revenue and quality. Essentially, you are the value added. You become more valuable as you invest in continuous professional development.
With so many competing priorities, it might be to difficult to see yourself making this kind of investment of your time and resources, but she wants you to recognize that your capacity can be stretched. "Sometimes you don’t know your own potential, and you might be the one holding yourself back," our teacher shared. She advises you to take a risk, sacrifice your Saturdays or Sundays, depending on your day of worship, temporarily reduce the time spent with friends and seek opportunities for professional development. There are platforms such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), which are free online courses available for anyone to enroll, Philanthropic University and UNITAR. She also admonishes you to balance your portfolio by putting God first. If you do God’s business first, you will be surprised how you find time to do other things and excel at it. Do whatever you do with excellence and unto the Lord. Alecia knows that if we are serious about something, we will get it done.
Alecia shares space with international colleagues in a pre-mission virtual meeting on results based management.
The Sacrifice Required in Learning
It takes sacrifice and commitment to stand out and be a lifelong learner, as Alecia calls herself. To be a voice of authority in your respective industry, professional certification is key. With that belief, it is on her to-do list to become a certified M&E Specialist. So when others were binge watching series during the April 2020 lockdown in Jamaica, Alecia was preparing herself to pivot. In 2020, she wanted an additional source of income and she was also pregnant, so she opted for something that allowed her to stay home. After the birth of her child, she wanted to come out of maternity leave with something more. Now, she is focused on learning by doing.
Alecia is constantly learning of the tools within her field of work and joining professional development communities of practice to keep up with cutting edge tools and technologies to keep on par with industry standards. She encourages joining groups like LinkedIn that provide opportunities for networking and free knowledge. Reading outside of your field will also add value to what you do. Since M&E spans across fields, she is learning about ecosystems management, biodiversity and climate change. She does not know much about Finance and Procurement, which are two key areas in implementing and evaluating projects and programs; therefore, she intends to pursue courses in these areas. This is not easy, but she is preparing while she waits for the opportunity so that she can be successful.
The Greater Purpose of Learning
Alecia does not believe there is an end to professional development. Persons who pursue professional development walk in their calling, own their space and always try to outdo themselves. Once they reach a certain level, they give back and show others how to do it. This is what she observes from her mentors and people she has worked with. Her own capacity is being enlarged by her current mentor-supervisor who provides guidance and tools to support her growth. She also credits her current expertise in M&E to a previous supervisor who took a chance on her years ago and introduced her to the field. With much determination, the greater purpose of continuous learning and development is experienced in your ability to use your knowledge to build others up and provide excellent and quality outputs.
Alecia Bennett-Bryan, MSc. (Hon.), PMP is a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist and a certified Project Management Specialist. She has over ten (10) years of experience and expertise in the areas of Program Management, Social Policy Research and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E). She has provided program monitoring, evaluation and learning support to development partners including the World Bank, UNDP, IOM and CDB for donor funded programs and projects in the areas of justice sector reform, public safety, migration and development, integrated community development; climate change and disaster risk reduction. She has co-authored a number of instrumental publications in the areas of sustainable development, justice sector reform and international migration and development.
Connect with Alecia Bennett-Bryan