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Faces of ISACA: Dr. Nancy Asiko Onyango, CISA, CGEIT, CRISC

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Nancy Asiko OnyangoEditor’s note: The ISACA Now series titled “Faces of ISACA” highlights the contributions of ISACA members to our global professional community, as well as providing a sense of their lives outside of work. Today, we spotlight Kenya resident Dr. Nancy Asiko Onyango, who recently was appointed as director of the International Monetary Fund’s Office of Internal Audit and Inspection. Interested in joining ISACA and networking with colleagues like Dr. Onyango? Learn more here.

Nancy Asiko Onyango recalls being encouraged to wear blue jeans during her early days in the audit profession to be more comfortable when sifting through paper files, which would then be marked up with different colored pencils to highlight various findings.

Just as audit has made huge strides during her three decades in the profession, so has Dr. Onyango’s career. Dr. Onyango recently was appointed as director of the International Monetary Fund’s Office of Internal Audit and Inspection.

“What excites me most about this incredible opportunity is working for an institution that is respected, admired and inspires awe in equal measure across the globe, and strives to set a good institutional example for others,” said Dr. Onyango, a longtime ISACA member. “I think there is room for me to learn and grow, and at the same time there is the opportunity to make a contribution and leave a legacy.”

Dr. Onyango, of Nairobi, Kenya, emerged from a rigorous recruitment for the position with the IMF, an organization spanning 189 countries that works to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability and reduce poverty around the world. Dr. Onyango’s background bringing structure to organizations’ governance programs and internal controls, combined with her international experience across both governmental and private sector organizations, made her a logical fit for the position.

“While I love the structure and consistency in governmental organizations, the rigidity can be challenging if one is accustomed to working in a fast-changing environment commonly associated with listed companies and the private sector,” Dr. Onyango said. “I have over the years learned to appreciate the differences, and the need to adapt our audit approaches and working style to accommodate both private and public sectors.”

Dr. Onyango’s past roles include CEO at Reliance Risk Advisory Solutions and partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Kenya. She also spent part of her 10 years working in London as senior manager for PwC UK.

While Dr. Onyango retains an affinity for London, in her view, there is no place like Nairobi.

“It’s my favorite city in the world, since it’s the city I know best and can find all sorts of places and things to do,” Dr. Onyango said. “It’s also the only city in the world situated right next to a national park where you can find lions, giraffes and zebras, amongst many other animals in the wild.”

Dr. Onyango and her family, though, will be relocating to Washington, D.C., USA – global headquarters of the IMF – in January, in preparation for her new role. No matter where her career has taken her, ISACA has remained a constant for Dr. Onyango for more than 20 years. Dr. Onyango has been an ISACA member since 1994, has served on the board of the Kenya chapter and holds ISACA’s CISA, CGEIT and CRISC certifications. She considers her relationship with ISACA instrumental in her career success.

“The organization I worked for offered us an ISACA qualification or a UK-based one. I chose ISACA’s because of its international outlook, and the rest is history,” Dr. Onyango said. “I find the resources, methodologies, guidance and publications very useful as they keep me informed on current issues in the technology world. I also love meeting people from all over the word at the conferences and global leadership meetings.”

As she moves forward in her career, connecting with the next wave of technology professionals is important to Dr. Onyango. While she considers herself “a bit of a tomboy” – Dr. Onyango grew up with three brothers and now has three sons – she is especially passionate about providing coaching and mentoring to women in the auditing field.

The lessons she is imparting these days are markedly different than the ones she could have provided in her days of relying upon color pencils, as both the audit profession and her career have blossomed in remarkable fashion.

“The most fundamental change for me was the transformation into an advisory type role for internal auditors,” Dr. Onyango said. “I loved the fact that we could finally be more proactive and futuristic in our thinking and make a difference during the conceptual or formative stages within a project, function, or even organization.”

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