How to progress your career from support role to expert

Kate Warren, executive vice president at Devex, on how to move from a support role and develop a career as an expert.

Starting out in support roles and learning skills on the job can be a great way to get your foot in the door and work toward your dream role.

How, though, does someone working in a support role, such as human resources, finance, or project management, then build expertise on the content matter of an organization to advance their career?

According to Kate Warren, executive vice president at Devex, the professionals most successful in support roles are those who care and learn about the programmatic work and technical aspects of their organization. Demonstrating motivation to learn about these areas of work will also impress employers, she added.

Learn from those around you

Connecting with experts within your organization and looking to them for mentorship is one way to go about building your expertise, Warren said. They will likely be more than happy to provide you with guidance and expertise on any given subject matter, she added.

Look for internal opportunities

Look for opportunities to volunteer for any stretch projects or assignments, Warren advised. When it comes to big proposals, it’s usually a case of all hands on deck, she explained, and these situations can expose you to content matter and allow you to work closely with senior technical experts. You can learn how they think about project design and the different technical aspects and start to build your own expertise, she added.

Stay informed

Make sure you are on top of what is happening in the sector, Warren advised, and are reading up on news and trends on a wide range of sectors and technical subject matters. Look for relevant events to attend, she added, where there might be opportunities to grow your network.

Consider further learning opportunities

You might want to consider getting an additional degree, Warren explained. However, if you already have a postgraduate degree then this isn’t necessarily the right move and you could look instead at additional training, which can be low-cost or even free, and help you gain and build expertise, she explained.

Devex, with financial support from our partner 2U, is exploring the skills and education development sector professionals will need for the future. Visit the Focus on: DevPros 2030 page for more.

About the author

  • Emma Smith

    Emma Smith is a Reporter at Devex. She covers all things related to careers and hiring in the global development community as well as mental health within the sector — from tips on supporting humanitarian staff to designing mental health programs for refugees. Emma has reported from key development hubs in Europe and co-produced Devex’s DevProWomen2030 podcast series. She holds a degree in journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University and a master's in media and international conflict. In addition to writing for regional news publications, she has worked with organizations focused on child and women’s rights.