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[MADAME NOIRE] Keep Your Eye On The Prize: How Ory Okolloh’s Vision Took Her From Blogger to Google Influencer

Being an innovator in your field can be as easy as K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Sis. A singular vision focuses your efforts on becoming the best at what you do, and reduces your chances of being sidetracked or scattered. Ory Okolloh’s rise from blogger activist to policy manager for Africa for Google is a perfect example of the difference having a vision can make on your career.

Watch Vision Work

Okolloh realized early on that her true passion was using technology to ensure African voices were heard.

In 2006, Okolloh co-founded (“patriot” in Swahili) to track the Kenyan Parliament. The country’s TV and print media took weeks or months to sort through legal developments in the country. Meanwhile, Okolloh’s blog meticulously tracked the actions of political leaders and kept records of parliamentary bills in real time.

During Kenya’s controversial 2007 presidential election, which was marked by outbreaks of violence, she co-founded another site Ushahidi (“Testimony”). This time she focused on helping citizen journalists report incidents of violence and peace efforts. Before the experts dubbed the process “activist mapping, ” Okolloh’s site leveraged web, mobile, e-mail, SMS, Twitter, and Google Maps to visualize what was happening on the ground.

Ushahidi evolved from a website into a nonprofit tech company developing software platforms for citizen journalist initiatives. The organization was called on to launch humanitarian efforts in the aftermath of earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, a wildfire outbreak in Russia, and snowstorms in Washington DC.

The Perks of Being An Expert

Okolloh’s success in online activism allowed her to move on from blogging to become a spokesperson for citizen journalism, youth activism, and technology in Africa. In a world where non-experts are championed, Okolloh is an anomaly.

The trend of the moment is to know a little something about everything. It’s true; non-experts are able to pull from a variety of sources to come up with creative solutions. However, the old-fashioned approach of focusing on what you’re good at still has its benefits.

Thoroughly understanding the space where you work allows you to recognize needs others wouldn’t.  Working where your passion and strengths intersects, ensures that you enjoy what you do, and won’t mind putting in the extra work required to be the best.

“One of the best pieces of advice I received while I was at the university was to get paid to do what you love to do, so that’s my philosophy, and much of the time you find it’s not mutually exclusive and your natural talents is what you end up loving to do. But passion – you spend so much time working, ideally you want to love it.”

– Ory Okolloh, “Africa’s Most Successful Women: Ory Okolloh,” Forbes

A clear vision for your career begins with looking inside. Start thinking about what you love, and how you can use your strengths to pursue it.

This article originally appeared on

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