Career Path with CEO, Kenya Technology Service Providers (TESPOK)
Fiona Asonga is the CEO of Technology Service Providers of Kenya (TESPOK). She holds a Bachelor of International Business Administration – Finance concentration from the United States International University (USIU) and is currently completing an MBA in Strategic Management.
Ms. Asonga also holds certificates in Policy Development, Policy Advocacy, and GDPR Awareness. She shares her career path with the Sunday Nation.
Tell us briefly about yourself
I am an outgoing person who believes in using my knowledge to make a positive contribution to society by working with public benefit organizations.
What is your field of study?
I went to Nairobi Primary School but transferred to Butula Girls Primary School in Busia while I was at Standard Seven. I was the head of the KCPE district and got a place at Alliance Girls High School.
After high school, I took care of French lessons before joining USIU-Africa for a diploma in international business administration – concentration in finance. I am currently in the process of completing an MBA in Strategic Management.
Share with us your professional background
During my university studies, I worked to increase my tuition fees on and off campus. On campus I was a work-study student assigned to library duties and off campus I worked for Take Two Communications Limited as a team leader positioning FMCGs for various corporate clients. As a finance student, I had the opportunity to pursue an internship in finance at Dry Associates. It was an eye-opening experience for me.
After graduation in June 2000, I took a break from FMCG work to focus on opportunities in finance, but was not able to find a job immediately. I then volunteered at the Chapel of St. Paul’s University, in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services of the Society of Jesus and at the Basilica of the Holy Family in various roles.
It was through this volunteering experience that I met an engineer friend who worked at Comtech who introduced me to career opportunities in the ICT industry. He introduced me to Mike Macharia from Seven Sea Technologies who agreed to offer me an internship in 2005 and later as Account Manager within the company.
Seven Seas Technologies had a strong program that provided interns with accommodation, meals, transportation, and payment for relevant ICT certifications. The arrangement with SST gave me the springboard I needed to understand the ICT sector and the various technologies that were being deployed. In 2006, I moved from Seven Seas to the Kenya Telecommunications Service Providers Association.
What’s the most memorable thing about your professional journey?
Transition to ICT and having to study alone for Cisco certifications. This first certification gave me the confidence to pursue further certifications in the ICT field and I gradually found myself moving from FMCG Marketing and Finance to a whole new field. I had to devote time to various trainings in order to learn more about ICT.
How has your career development been over the years?
At TESPOK, I not only grew as an individual, but took on the challenge of growing the institution with the support of members over the years, moving from administrator and sometimes technical customer support to director. general.
In addition, I have volunteered for leadership positions in the region through various organizations involved in internet issues. This includes being one of three representatives from Africa elected by AFRINIC members to the ICANN Address Support Organization and Digital Resources Organization for eight years.
During this time, I was also a member of the Washington DC-based Public Interest Registry Advisory Council which manages the .org and .ngo domain names for a period of four years. I also invested time in personal development to allow me to better carry out my missions by taking courses in public policy development and advocacy. I have built my career around trading on behalf of the region’s ICT investor.
What has been the main driver of your career growth? Lessons learned, celebrations and failures?
A long time ago, as a student, who received the first prize in 1996 of the AIESEC Global Essay Competition, on the theme: Interdependence – Learning and acting for a shared future was a turning point. I was fortunate to be a speaker the following year alongside the then UN Secretary-General, the late Koffi Anan, in Basel, Switzerland, on the role of youth in an interdependent society. I realized that I had the potential to accomplish more, where success for me meant that I could make an impact on the lives of others.
Between the years 2011 and 2018, I was the elected representative of the Number Resource Organization. My role was to coordinate Internet numbering resource issues in the five regional Internet registries. During the same period, I was also a member of the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – Address Council’s Address Support Organization, where we coordinate the development of the Global Resource Policy. numbering. Policies developed at this level have had an impact on the growth, access and expansion of the Internet globally.
I have worked with the Consensus Building Institute in Boston, the Internet Society, and Harvard University to develop training materials for the Internet Society’s Collaborative Governance Project. Through this experience, I learned the importance of having all voices represented at the discussion table and taking the time to reach common ground on current issues. It is also important that those whose opinions are not taken into account can be given an explanation as to why their opinions may not correspond to the objectives to be achieved by certain decisions.
As a leadership trainer at the ICANN Leadership Academy from 2015 to 2017, we trained future ICANN leaders on leadership skills, negotiation skills and cross-cultural interactions. During this time, I also volunteered to be a member of the Public Internet Registry Africa Advisory Board.
I have also been a member of the ICANN Cross-Community IANA Oversight Transition Responsibility Working Group, representing the supporting organization at WS2 addresses and chairing the Diversity Working Group (2016- 2018). This involved the transition of the global Internet from a US surveillance only to a global community of stakeholders.
In 2017, I was the recipient of the Africa Avante Garde Awards for support to the African domain and the efforts of the African Union Commission. The following year, I took GDPR training and volunteered to be a member of ICANN’s Generic Name Support Organization (GNSO) Fast Track Policy Development Process seeking to align the global domain name community on the European GDPR.
Over the past year, I have coordinated the upgrade of the ICT industry infrastructure to meet customer demand during the Covid-19 pandemic, working closely with service providers and relevant government institutions.
My career growth is driven by the desire to make a difference in the lives of others – Kenyans at all levels and Africans as a whole. Working with governments and private sector investors to facilitate Internet access through the development of appropriate policies is something that fascinates me enormously.
Someone to whom you attribute a contribution to the growth of your career?
The people who have built my career are largely the members of TESPOK, especially the board members who work with me. During the year, joining TESPOK challenged my thinking to develop innovative solutions from the problems they present to the secretariat. It obliges me to ensure that we have a balanced position that is acceptable to all members. Dealing with the varying expectations of members takes intelligence, so I have learned to constantly think on my feet to reach consensus.
What would you say to your young self?
I would keep everything exactly the same.
What is your advice to young people?
There are no shortcuts in building your career. You have to be prepared to go through all the loops so that they can be good and effective at what they do. The environment is constantly changing, so you have to be ready to keep learning new things and have an open mind. There is always someone who knows a little more than you.