Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Calibrated Blossom- Top 40 under 40 women series- Iddah Asin

She holds a Bachelor of Law Degree from Makerere University, a Post Graduate Diploma in Law from the Kenya School of Law, a Master’s in Public Policy and Management from Strathmore University and Certification in the International Module on Global Leadership from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.  

Her career has largely been carved out in Kenya’s male dominated aviation industry, but this is perfectly attuned to her personality of being a ‘’go-getter’’. When she was 30, she was selected to represent Kenya Airways at a high-level meeting. But when she walked into the meeting, her counterparts dismissed her as inexperienced. “The host asked if I was accompanied by a senior colleague. It was more amusing than offensive,” she says. In her free time she enjoys mentoring a group of young ladies on career growth. She’s also a fitness enthusiast and enjoys yoga and gym workouts.

Introducing Iddah Asin, Director of Government Affairs and Policy at Johnson and Johnson.

C: What has your career path been like as you have navigated through your chosen field leading up to your current role/position?

I: It’s been a really interesting journey. When I was growing up, I remember leafing through the business pictorial pages of the Nation and picturing myself being featured there. My journey started out as the Legal officer in a local regional airline, Jetlink Express Limited. In my tenure I was instrumental in setting up and running the Legal department. My entry into the aviation industry was very unconventional and totally out of my comfort zone. Remarkably, I literally learnt everything about aviation regulations on the job, under the mentorship of the late Mr. Peter Simani, who was an expert and authority in Aviation Law.

I then moved to Kenya Airways, in charge of Government and Industry Affairs where, amongst other achievements, I successfully supported KQ’s expansion to its latest routes by helping them secure the necessary rights and permits. I also engaged with industry stakeholders, legislators and policy makers on favourable tax regimes for the aviation industry.  I was also part of the team that successfully lobbied for the removal of VAT on aircraft spare parts.

I moved to Johnson &Johnson early this year and was instrumental in the successful launch of its offices and Global Public Health East African operations in March 2017, building on an 85-year presence in Africa. My responsibility at Johnson & Johnson entails developing, driving and executing the Government Affairs & Policy strategy for our three business sectors (Consumer, Pharmaceuticals and Medical devices) as well as our Global Public Health, Corporate Citizenship Trust and Global Community Impact groups. 

C: What is the biggest challenge you have faced and how did you overcome it?

I: Being in a position of influence, in a corporate world, at a young age and as a woman comes with the challenge of one’s opinions being dismissed as inexperienced or irrelevant.
I remember an interesting experience in KQ whereby I represented the airline in a very high level meeting and the host asked if I was accompanied by a senior colleague.  It was more amusing than it was offensive. Against the backdrop of my erudite wealth of experience and knowledge, I said pointedly that I was capable and competent enough to handle the meeting on my own.

C: What inspires you?

I: The one word that summarizes me is “Go- getter”. I’m hardworking, self-disciplined and also a stickler for order and time .When something needs to be done, it has to be done, and on time! Reading inspirational books is my favorite pastime, and earlier on in my life I read two books by Norman Vincent Peale that I can attest to having shaped my career and personal growth – “The Power of Positive Thinking” and “You Can If You Think You Can”.
I’m also determined to show the African child that it is possible. No matter your background, skin color or where you come from, if you keep dreaming big and working hard then your dreams can come true. I also desire that women continue to aspire and achieve and for daughters to be cherished as much as men.

C: What do you consider to be the turning point in your career?

I: I believe each decision I’ve made with regards to my career path has been a turning point because each door opened created another opportunity. However, I will single out taking on the combined Regulatory and Government Affairs role at the Pride of Africa, Kenya Airways at 29 as a major highlight. This was a highly critical department in the airline. I became the link between the airline and the Government and this highly demanding role greatly exposed me to the workings of both the private and public sector. I was stepping into the big shoes of my predecessors, including the immediate one, Mrs. Phyllis Wakiaga, CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the pressure to deliver was immense. Consequently, the Government Affairs role and exposure opened doors to my current role at Johnson & Johnson as its Director of Government Affairs and Policy for East Africa.

C: What is your greatest piece of advice to the young upwardly mobile individual?

I: Managing to remain relevant at the helm of an industry mostly dominated by males has taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears from me. I have constantly been fueled by an unassailable determination to overcome challenges that appeared insurmountable. Moving from aviation to health comes with having to now focus on matters of health and the numerous legislation surrounding this sector, which is an equally-complex legislative environment. Young people should not be scared to get out of their comfort zones. This world is ours to conquer - do not be afraid to take risks!

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” — Goethe.

Please join me on Friday where I shift the focus to an entrepreneur. She was inspired to start her makeup line in 2009, while she was working as a critical care nurse in the US. She quit her job and moved back home to Kenya to drive her new cosmetics brand. And so, Pauline Cosmetics, the brand, was born. See you on Friday J


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