Data Privacy Day: A Career Reflection

On 28th January 2022, I had the pleasure together with other stakeholders to attend the Data Privacy Day celebrations organized by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner in Kenya. The ODPC, launched the three-year strategic plan and the data protection curriculum a first in Africa. It was amazing to see how much an office that is just slightly over one year old has been able to achieve. This is despite facing a number of challenges. I commend the Data Protection Commissioner Ms. Immaculate and her team for doing such a great job.

This day is also dear to me because honestly if it was not for Data Protections laws and particularly the Data Protection Act of Kenya 2019, I would most probably not have a career. Towards the end of 2020, right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to follow my intuition and leave the tried, tested and what is considered the appropriate legal career path in Kenya. I took a leap of faith into the world of tech law specifically data protection and cyber security. Did I have a clue of what I was doing? YES. Did people call me crazy? YES. Did everything work out exactly as planned? YES and NO (Story for another day). However, all I knew was that tech law specifically data protection was an area of law that I enjoyed. I also saw the potential it had. Consequently, I guess by a combination of sheer willpower and God’s grace, I meet kind people at KICTANET, later on at the GIZ-Kenya Digital Transformation Center and other tech lawyers. These people decided to take a chance on me and my data protection (tech law) ambitions. They held my hand taught me and continue to teach me how to navigate my legal career into this world. The best part is my voice gets to be heard.

Therefore, this day to me was more of a happy reflection regarding how far the Kenyan ODPC office has come. It was also a happy reflection of how far I have come in my short legal career from deciding to follow my intuition. (This is where I part myself in the back).

Data protection, tech law and other emerging areas of law for example environment, sports law, entertainment, aviation and space law etc present a valuable chance to young and upcoming lawyers in Kenya and Africa to grow their careers. It also offers them a chance to shape the legal narrative in these new emerging and exciting areas. They have the chance to become experts in these fields. This is without them necessarily being bogged down with limitations that come with traditional areas of legal practice. Most notably, the classic Kenyan legal statement known as “wait your turn.” I always say in these new areas such as data protection everyone is still trying to figure them out. Therefore, the old guards cannot argue they have experience. That you cannot handle the matter as a young lawyer because it is above you.

In conclusion, I would like to encourage young Kenyan lawyers to explore how they can align themselves and snap up the opportunities that data protection and emerging areas of law present. Trust me even though it may be hard at first, there is always light at the end of this tunnel. I am a true testament to that, and I could not be happier.

P.S. In this world it is important to note that, it is not a must you wear suits all the time you can go to work in jeans.

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