Cynthia Olotch — 10 candid career questions with infrastructure & PPP professionals

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Editor's Note: 
Welcome to the “10 Candid Career Questions” series, introducing you to the infrastructure and PPP professionals who do the deals, analyze the data, and strategize on the next big thing. Each of them followed a different path into infra and/or PPP practice, and this series offers an inside look at their backgrounds, motivations, and choices. Each blogger receives the same 15 questions and answers 10 or more that tell their career story candidly and without jargon. We believe you’ll be as surprised and inspired as we were.  

1. What was your first job?

I sold cookies in high school to make some pocket money. My first formal job, however, was at the Nairobi Securities Exchange as a Legal Officer.

2. What was your best job?

I initially wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy and to this end, I did a masters degree in international relations as a part time student while at the same time practicing as a lawyer.
Needless to say, my diplomacy dream died a natural death as I quickly began to enjoy providing legal advisory services particularly in the PPP and infrastructure space, which was quickly growing in Kenya.

3. What do your family members think you do all day at work?  

I am a proud mother of a wonderful two-month-old baby boy and he probably thinks my only job is to feed and change him.

4. What do you really do all day at work?

I advise clients—including public sector entities, commercial lenders and project sponsors— across the entire value chain of PPP projects, generally in public procurement
and for energy and infrastructure projects. This includes conducting legal due diligence, issuing legal opinions, reviewing and analyzing project documents from a legal perspective, assisting in negotiations and drafting of contracts for various deals. 

5. What do you wish you did all day at work?

I love what I do and would not change a thing.

6. What is your go-to industry website?

These include the PPP Knowledge Lab and the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility.

7. What did the book that made the biggest impact on you professionally teach you?

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Hard Choices made the biggest impact on me professionally. It taught me that we need to demand good governance and accountability not only from our leaders but also from foreign investors and partners.

8. What are you shocked to hear yourself say when you give advice to young professionals?

That when I started out as a State Counsel in the Attorney General’s Office in Kenya more than 10 years ago, government systems were in quite a sorry state. While there is still room for improvement, Kenya has come a long way in terms of improved infrastructure, e-services and improved efficiency in public service delivery.

9. What is the most rewarding thing you have experienced in the course of your Infrastructure and PPP practice? 

The most rewarding thing I have experienced is advising on major infrastructure projects in Kenya including in healthcare, renewable energy, roads, and economic zones amongst others.

10. In what ways do you think the Infrastructure and PPP area you work in will look different in 10 years?

Kenya has a long-term development blue print known as the Vision 2030, which aims at propelling Kenya into a newly industrializing country by strengthening the economic, social and political fabric of society. Vision 2030 prioritizes investment in infrastructure for economic development and identifies flagship infrastructure projects to be undertaken by the year 2030. I therefore expect that in the next 10 years the infrastructure and PPP space will be more developed and robust as Kenya draws nearer to meeting its developmental goals. I also expect that there will be more PPPs at the sub-national level.


Related posts:

Kenya’s new railway and the emergence of the “government-to-government procurement” method

Public-Private Partnerships: How does Kenya fare?

10 Candid Career Questions Series 


Cynthia Olotch

Legal Director, Projects and Infrastructure at IKM

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