Fiona Asonga is the CEO, Technology Service Providers of Kenya (TESPOK). She holds a Bachelors degree in International Business Administration – Finance Concentration from United States International University (USIU) and is currently in process of 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.
Briefly tell us about yourself
I am an outgoing person who believes in using my knowledge to make a positive contribution in society by working with organisations that have public interest.
What is your educational background?
I went to Nairobi Primary School but transferred to Butula Girl’s Primary School in Busia while I was in Standard Seven. I was top of the district in KCPE and secured a place at Alliance Girls High School.
After High School, I kept myself busy with French classes before joining USIU-Africa for a degree in International Business Administration – Finance Concentration. I am currently in the process of completing an MBA in strategic management.
Share with us your career journey
During my university days, I worked to raise my tuition fees on and off campus. On-campus I was a work-study student assigned to library duties and off campus worked for Take Two Communications Limited as a Team leader positioning FMCGs for various corporate clients. Being a finance student, I was able to get an opportunity to pursue internship in finance at Dry Associates. This was an eye-opening experience for me.
After graduation in June 2000, I took a break from the FMCG work to focus on opportunities in Finance but wasn’t able to get employment immediately. I then volunteered my time at St. Paul’s University Chapel, The Society of Jesus and Holy Family Basilica Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services in various roles.
It was through the voluntary 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 Seven Sea Technologies’ Mike Macharia who agreed to offer me an internship position in 2005 then later as an Account Manager at the company.
Seven Seas Technologies had a robust program that offered interns housing, meals, transport and payment for relevant ICT certifications. The arrangement with SST gave me the stepping stone I needed to understand the ICT sector and various technologies that were being deployed. In 2006, I moved from Seven Seas to Telecommunications Service Providers Association of Kenya.
What’s the most memorable thing about your career journey?
Transitioning into ICT and having to study on my own for the Cisco Certifications. This first certification gave me the confidence to pursue additional certifications in the field of ICT and I found myself gradually moving from FMCG marketing and Finance into a whole new field. I had to put in time into various training opportunities so that I could learn more about ICT.
How has been your career progression over the years?
At TESPOK I have not only grown as an individual but taken on the challenge of growing the institution with the support of the members over the years moving from an administrator and sometimes technical customer support to the Chief Executive Officer.
In addition, I offered myself for leadership positions in the region through various bodies involved in Internet-related issues. These have included being one of three of Africa’s representatives elected by AFRINIC membership to the ICANN Address Supporting organization and the Number Resource Organization for eight years.
During that period I was also on the Advisory Council of the Public Interest Registry based in Washington DC who manages the .org and .ngo domain names for a four-year period. I also invested some time in personal development to enable me to perform my assignments better by taking on courses in Public Policy Development and Advocacy. I have built my career around negotiating on behalf of the ICT investor in the region.
What has been the key driver of your career growth? Lessons learnt, celebrations and failures?
Way back as a student getting awarded the first prize in 1996 for the AIESEC Global Essay Competition, themed: Interdependence – Learning and Acting for a Shared Future was a key turning point. I got a chance to be a speaker the following year alongside the then UN Secretary-General the Late Koffi Anan in Basel, Switzerland on the Role of the Youth in an Interdependent Society. I realised that I had the potential to achieve more, where achievement for me meant that I can impact the lives of others.
Between the years 2011 and 2018, I was the elected representative of the Number Resource Organization. My role involved coordinating Internet Numbering Resource issues across the five Regional Internet Registries. During the same period, I also doubled up as a member of the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Address Supporting Organization – Address Council where we co-ordinate the development of Global Numbering Resource Policy Development. The policies developed at this level have impacted internet growth, access and expansion globally.
I have worked with the Consensus Building Institute of Boston, the Internet Society and Harvard University to develop training material for the Internet Society’s Collaborative Governance Project. Through this experience, I have learnt the importance of having all voices represented at the discussion table and taking time to achieve a middle ground on matters at hand. It is also important that those whose views are not considered can receive an explanation on why their views may not fit into the goals to be achieved by certain decisions.
As a leadership trainer at the ICANN Leadership Academy from 2015 to 2017, we trained upcoming ICANN Leaders on leadership skills, negotiation skills and cross-cultural interactions. During this period I also volunteered to be a member of the Advisory Council for Africa of the Public Internet Registry.
I was also a member of the ICANN Cross Community Working Group on Accountability of the IANA Stewardship Transition representing the Address Supporting organization WS2 and Chairing the Diversity Working Group (2016-2018). This involved the transition of the global internet from US only oversight to a global stakeholder community.
In 2017 I was the recipient of the Africa Avante Garde Awards for support of the African domain and the African Union Commission’s efforts. The following year I took GDPR training and volunteered to be a member of the ICANN Generic Name Supporting Organization (GNSO) Expedited Policy development Process seeking to align the global domain name community to the European GDPR.
During the last year, I have coordinated ICT industry infrastructure upgrade to support 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 across the board and Africans as a whole. Working with governments and private sector investors to facilitate internet access through appropriate policy development is something I’m so passionate about.
Anyone you would credit for contributing to your career growth?
The people who have built my career are very much the members of TESPOK, specifically the board members who work with me. TESPOK membership has over the year challenged my thinking to develop innovative solutions from the issues they present to the secretariat. This requires me to ensure we have a balanced position that is acceptable to all members. Dealing with varied membership expectations calls for wits and so I have learnt to constantly think on my feet to build consensus.
What would you tell your younger self?
I would keep everything exactly the same way.
What’s your advice to the youth?
There are no shortcuts in building one’s career. One has to be ready to go through all the loops so that they can be good and effective in what they do. The environment is continuously changing so one has to be ready to keep learning new things and have an open mind. There is always someone who may know a bit more than you do.