Thrilled to learn at ESPN

U.S. Department of State

Barbara Kokonya hopes to increase girls' participation in sports in her home country of Kenya.

I first got involved in sports in 2000 during the ICC KnockOut cricket tournament in Kenya. I handled the Kenya Cricket Association account, which was just one of the many accounts at the PR firm I worked for. It was also the lowest-paying at that time. After all, only a small percentage of the population knew what cricket was.

At that time, I never dreamed I would get into a full-fledged career in sports, least of all go on to manage two of my country's heavily male-dominated sports (cricket and rugby). My involvement in sports has been a journey of discovery and growth, and my role has evolved from that of event management to overall administration of the sport and now on to consultancy.

I was very excited to be accepted into the 2013 Global Sports Mentoring Program, and more so when I was informed that I would be working at ESPN with Lori LeBas as my mentor. My immediate thought was that I had been given an INCREDIBLE opportunity -- to be mentored at ESPN and by the senior vice president of strategy and business operations.

Throughout my career, I have witnessed TV and broadcasting being vital components in the staging of sports events, from taking the game to the fans to creating awareness of the game -- growing it and generating revenue for sports federations across the world. Having worked with two big sports from the inside, I have increasingly been aware that a partnership with a broadcaster is KEY in getting our sports brands out there and for the development of the game.

ESPN being the leading sports network globally, I believe there is no organization that better understands the business of sports. I am very keen to experience the different business and management styles at ESPN and to take this back with me in order to build strong sports federations that are not only successful and profitable, but also sustainable both in Kenya and in the other countries I work with. I want to learn what a broadcaster wants from a sports federation in terms of content; to see sports from the view of a network so I can negotiate sponsorships and television contracts that are beneficial to both parties.

Apart from my professional objectives from being in the program, I am also working on a personal project, which is to increase girls' participation in sports. I believe that their participation starts a journey of unlocking a world of opportunities and direct access to network systems that would otherwise not exist for them. Through the help of my mentor, I hope to develop a strong network of individuals/organizations/contacts who will lend their words of wisdom and support to help me ensure that that implementation of the project is a success. It is my wish that most girls in Kenya will one day be empowered enough to be able to choose a career in this multi-billion-dollar business or any other of their choice.