#GTK Emerging Leader: Fiona Onyango

Jun 8, 2024 | Emerging Leaders Profiles

3 Fun Facts

  • I was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • My favorite podcast is ‘This is Uncomfortable’- The show is about life, culture, and society.
  • If I were to be reborn as an animal, I’d choose to be a cat due to their fascinating level of nonchalance.

What’s a recent economic development/career win you experienced?

My most outstanding career win so far has been doing research and authoring “The State of Black Business Report 2022” in collaboration with The State of Black Arizona, which identified gaps, challenges, and opportunities for improvement in Black-owned firms in the Greater Phoenix area. On April 24, 2023, the Millionaire Mastermind Academy launched its three-year supplier diversity program, “Impact AZ 2025,” in direct response to our research findings and recommendations in the Report. Impact AZ 2025 is already achieving success as among the 37 first-year Impact AZ graduates, 22 public and private partnerships have been created, 40% of the graduates have been able to expand their business operations, and collectively, the group has secured $2 million in contracts. For more information on this, see – https://www.gpec.org/news/press-releases/impact-az-2025/ and https://www.abc15.com/news/local-news/program-for-minority-entrepreneurs-provides-a-roadmap-for-success.

This solidifies the necessity of data-driven storytelling here in Greater Phoenix.

What’s something you wish you knew prior to starting your current role?

Success in economic development encompasses far more than obtaining a college degree and demonstrating unwavering dedication and focus in the workplace. Working within the research and analytics team, which often operates behind the scenes, is just one facet of this multifaceted field. Economic Development hinges significantly on fostering community relationships and building robust networks, elements that are sometimes overlooked but hold immense importance in the overall process.

What would you tell your younger self about economic development?

I am relatively new in the Economic Development field. My educational background is in economics; development economics to be specific. I have worked in the banking sector, both retail and investment, as well as on some consulting roles prior to joining Greater Phoenix Economic Council. Let’s connect on LinkedIn! But a general piece of advice I’d give my younger self is the importance of continually honing your skills, as you never know when they might come in handy.

What advice do you have for up-and-coming economic developers?

With a slight inclination toward young professionals with experience in analytics and research, I’d suggest that this field is particularly adaptable to your existing skillset. Given the rise of technology and AI, there’s a growing need for individuals with a knack of data analysis in economic development. Also, it’s crucial for young practitioners to define their long-term objectives early in their careers, allowing them to connect with mentors who share similar aspirations. These mentors can serve as guiding lights as they navigate through learning curves and conquer obstacles.