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  • June

Leaving Harvard, Moving back to Nairobi and Joining ICANN’s Africa Team!

Photo of the amazing wall mural in Seattle Sodo tracks by Franco Fasoli

It’s been a while since I wrote here and unfortunately it shows. In 2021, I actively penned a piece here, every single Sunday, to build momentum and exercise my writing skill. I spent the bulk of last and this year transitioning to the Cambridge area and spent most of my time quantitatively and qualitatively analyzing African tech law and policy. More reading than writing.

Much has changed since the last post in February of this year, so here’s a catch up post.

After an amazing year at Harvard, actively as an Employee Fellow with the Berkman Klein’s Center of Internet and Society’s Institute of Rebooting Social Media, I’ve transitioned from that role full time and am joining the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers aka ICANN.

June Okal, Senior Manager, Stakeholder Engagement, Africa, ICANN

I’ve been part of the ICANN ecosystem for about 10 years now, starting out as a Next Genner which is our program to increase accessibility to ICANN and the Internet governance ecosystem and raise awareness and encourage participation amongst the youth who are not currently engaged.

What better testament of the amazing work the regional Global Stakeholder Engagement team in Africa and the Public Responsibility team for a Next Genner, a Next Gen Ambassador, later a Fellow to join the org to continue pushing and advocating for a stronger multistakeholder model across Africa!

Fun fact! Here's a photo of Africa's Global Stakeholder Engagement team just after the Nairobi office was opened during a session I moderated.

As Senior Manager, Stakeholder Engagement (Africa) I take up responsibility as the primary representative of ICANN in the Eastern, Southern African and Indian Ocean countries; a role charged with developing and executing the organization's strategic and tactical objectives in the region.
It also means I’m fully back to the 254, Nairobi which is home for me after two years between DC, Boston and Cambridge.

As a product of the amazing bottom up, multi stakeholder led, active and thriving silicon savannah ICT Policy ecosystem in Kenya largely through KICTANet, I am thrilled to remain within the ecosystem working on such important, meaningful and impactful work at ICANN.

Study anyone who’s great, and you’ll find that they apprenticed to a master or several masters. Therefore, if you want to achieve greatness, renown, and superlative success, you must apprentice to a master.

Robert Allen

Coauthor of The One Minute Millionaire - (Excerpt from Jack Canfield’s Success Affirmations’)

I have without a doubt had the best mentors, teachers and leaders, on whose shoulders I continue to stand on. They’re so so many and I truly have tried to give them their flowers (literally) so let’s try dish some out virtually too.

Mural in Brooklyn, NY (will credit as soon as I figure out who the artist is)

Stephen Kiptinness, my pupil master who the Law Society of Kenya and the Kenya School of Law credit for making me the lawyer I am and taught me how to staple documents;

Nzilani Mweu who taught me how to justify documents as an intern and is such a badass boss babe through and through,

Mutindi Muema who for some reason our shortest calls are just never less than an hour who taught me that loyalty is to yourself, excellence is the bare minimum we deliver, but also how to package the value you bring to your clients as a legal and policy professional,

Ife Osaga - Ondondo my manager at Google who allowed me to flourish and taught me how to manage a manager,

Paulina Kowalska, project manager, google sheets whisperer, lawyer, Harvard MBA extraordinaire who keeps doing it all, I know not how!

Caroline Simba who has spoken such truth into my life and called out ambition I didn’t even know I had,

John Omo at the ATU who was my teacher’s teacher and such a fountain of wisdom,

Engineer Obam, Kenya's communications secretary who continues to be a pillar of strength, expertise and know how in the global sphere,

Barrack Otieno who taught me about the IG space and really ushered me into the ICANN space,

Grace Githaiga who has shown me what it is to lead with grace and diplomacy, but a firm grip convening the amazing KICTANet,

Grace Bomu who invited me to my very first IGF and responded to that distressed law student email that said I was interested in this field and I’m keen to learn,

Ali Hussein Kassim who as chair of the Trustees at KICTANet continues to be an instrumental thought leader that says it as it is and accepts nothing less of the network than the best.

Mwendwa Kivuva who eons ago taught me the importance of learning how to crawl before walking, a truism I still carry in life and move along with.

Victor Kapiyo who has taught me how to frame legal and policy issues giving tangible proposed outcomes that are valuable and meaningful to the stakeholders we engage with.

Martin Gicheru who gave me space and a platform over on Techweez when all I had was time, energy and ideas,

Angela Wanjohi, and Chemu seriously known as Rosemary Koech - Kimwatu, with whom we ran and convened Nairobi Legal Hackers for 10 years now bringing lawyers and techies together, with Jameson's oversight who remains a true friend to date!

Lorna Nyandat who really instilled in me the place of an inhouse counselor in the business and taught me how to focus on promotable tasks and really called out my interest and talent in policy work,

Mark Lavi who has such subtle grace and firm technical expertise to push back to stakeholders at the same time, who taught me how to review MLAs, MTSAs, how to negotiate commercially and what work life balance in high pressure environments looks like,

Shikoh Gitau who literally slapped sense into me and has been a beacon of truth offering wisdom and knowledge nuggets throughout this process,

Ephraim Kenyanito who as my mentor at ARTICLE 19 taught me the ins and outs of ICANN as a community member through the Internet of Rights Fellowship where we proactively worked on advocating for freedom of expression at the DNS level and did incredible work on DNS Abuse with the Cross Community Working Party on Human Rights, Non Commercial Stakeholder Group (NCSG) and Non Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC),

Linda Bonyo who always listens intently to my shenanigans and responds with the most pragmatic and thoughtful responses,

Lambert Oigara who has equipped me with tools and skills to curb my high achiever perfectionist self over these several years,

Linda Anene, Karimi Ruria, Hanifa Shakombo, Kate Waiganjo, Emily Matano, Mercy Sumbi, Otillia Phiri, Wangechi Gichuki, Stellar Wawira, Lucy Njoki, Caroline Julio, Peninah Simiren and the rest of the amazing, brilliant lean in Ladies/Lawyers in Tech circle,

The amazing powerhouse women who set this space up as key opinion formers and baobabs of the ecosystem as we call them, Alice Munyua, Anne Rachel - Inne, Catherine Adeya, Catherine Getao, Fiona Asonga, Grace Githaiga and made this space accessible for us.

The amazing team at RSM and largely BKC that needs a whole entire post of the nicest, most thoughtful and supportive people I’ve worked with yet. My incredible manager Rebecca Rinkevich who brought such structure and stability to the Institute taught me how to build team synergy, listen intently and develop strategy with such firm flair.

Toni, my across the desk mate who has taught me how to make people feel seen, how to build and develop interpersonal skills, giving time to every single person and really made RSM and BKC feel so welcoming always with a smile! Even when she’s incredibly tired and has been spread out thin.

Mickens, my Principal Investigator (PI) who I keep saying to everyone that cares to listen, always makes me look so good. In each of our 1:1s he challenged my project’s approach, incubated my new ideas and proposals, added so much value and always had a piece of wisdom, clothed in humor.

Murley, who made joining BKC and RSM such an easy sell and always had a solution to each peculiar ask I had.

Patrick, my ball of joy, always miraculously made a smile show up on my face. :) see!

Rowdy, my amazing recruiter who extended the most grace, patience and support throughout this entire process between timezones, countries and cultures.

My new team, Pierre Dandjinou, Yaovi, Mariana, Magali, Yazid and Sarah Kiden that has made me feel incredibly welcomed, included and supported through and through. The team you work with is always a make or break for me and I assure you, Africa’s ICANN community is in incredibly capable, caring and committed hands.

Special mention for Paul Muchene, who was such an incredible resource for us all as a technical wiz. Paul was always kind, thoughtful so supportive and considerate and throughout this onboarding process I have kept wishing I could ping him and ask a quick question. A massive loss for our community, Paul, we miss you. Keep resting.

Lastly, Bob Ochieng’ who has been a constant and consistent guide within the ecosystem and whose graciously passed his mantle on to me. Bob really built ICANN’s visibility, impact and reach across the region and continues to be a mentor I’m thrilled to (selfishly) still have in Nairobi at our Engagement Office.


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