University at Albany

Q & A with Alicia Tambe, BA ‘11
Regulatory Associate Attorney, O3b Networks

Alicia Tambe is combining her legal skills, love for traveling, and passion for global service to build an exciting, life-changing career. As the youngest Regulatory Attorney for one of the largest satellite companies in the world, SES, Alicia uses her legal expertise to assist in providing satellite internet connectivity across the globe. Alicia came to SES from the United States Federal Communications Commission where she worked as Counsel and Regional Specialist for Africa in the International Bureau. There, she was responsible for briefing FCC staff on foreign markets and licensing regimes, meeting with foreign delegations, and serving on the United States delegation to meetings within the Development Sector of the International Telecommunications Union - a specialized agency of the United Nations. As the newest member of the SES Regulatory Team, Alicia is involved in a range of satellite projects, with a specific focus on U.S. regulatory and Africa regional issues as well as her continued portfolio in the development sector. Alicia is very passionate about bridging the digital divide and providing internet connectivity across the globe. She also currently serves on the Rockefeller College Dean’s Advisory Board.

I understand that you work as a Regulatory Attorney for SES, which recently acquired O3b. The O3b brand has built a next-generation satellite network, providing billions of people in 180 countries with low cost, high speed Internet and mobile connectivity. Can you tell us what you do day to day as an attorney for them?

Alicia: Honestly, my schedule changes every single day! I might be doing legal research and writing for proceedings before the FCC, but then I can instantly switch to having multiple calls and emails regarding international regulatory authorizations, including market access for our satellites and services. This job requires a lot of research on different issues such as broadband policy and plans, satellite competition, and universal service. It can get very technical, so I often must reach out to our engineers to explain things. We do so many exciting projects that require regulatory and legal approval all over the world. For instance, we have provided connectivity for telehealth and telemedicine services. Isn’t it amazing that doctors onshore can connect with others on military vessels or in rural hospitals for training and assistance? Or the fact that satellite connectivity can be provided to rural villages to create opportunities for e-education learning? We take for granted internet connectivity, yet millions of people live without it every day.

You recently moved to SES from working for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) International Bureau as Counsel and Regional Specialist for Africa. How does the job at SES differ from working at the FCC?

Alicia: It’s ironic because I was so scared to join the private sector because I felt as if I was giving up my passion for serving others but my company does such amazing work all over the world in underserved and unserved communities. I am doing a lot more legal writing and of course we have customers such as maritime cruise ships, but we also have customers such as the United Nations who use our satellite connectivity for peacebuilding missions. It is a very fast-paced environment but I am being challenged and learning more and more every day.

What do you enjoy most about what you are doing now?

Alicia: I love that I get to travel to amazing locations for work and represent my company at high-level meetings. I have had the opportunity to meet with ministers, regulators, and other government officials as well as CEOs, industry leaders, and NGO directors. Telecommunications  satellite in particular  is a very specialized field, so it is amazing to learn from so many intelligent and skilled individuals.

How often do you travel in this position, and is there anywhere in particular you’re looking forward to visiting?

Alicia: I only recently started in this role, so I would probably say around three times a year. My first trip last month was to South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana. It depends on what we are working on. I really look forward to traveling throughout Africa because that continent is beautiful in every single way. I also look forward to my trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina this upcoming October to attend the ITU’s World Telecommunications Development Conference. I have been participating in the development sector to help find solutions on bridging the digital divide and providing internet connectivity globally, especially in Africa.

Can you tell us about your recent trip to Zambia?

Alicia: My recent trip to Africa and the UAE was amazing. I attended a meeting hosted by the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) in Zimbabwe and then I walked across the border and gave a joint presentation on satellite capacity building in Africa to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), as well as co-hosted a reception. I worked out of our offices in Dubai and South Africa and met with other departments within our company. Fortunately, I was able to do a lot of sightseeing. Whether it was getting soaked walking through Victoria Falls, taking a helicopter over the Falls and Zambezi River in Zimbabwe, visiting the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Gold Souk in the UAE, walking through Mandela Square in South Africa, or watching elephants bathe in Botswana, I really had the most memorable trip. It was life changing for me because I have been looking to explore more of Africa, as my family is from Cameroon. Sometimes you tell people you went to Africa and they think you are sleeping in a hut and there are only starving children, but it’s so important for me to show how beautiful Africa is and how it is filled with plenty of culture, activities, and good people.

Let’s go back to a time when you worked in the White House as a law clerk – can you tell us about the experience?

Alicia: My legal externship in the Office of the White House Counsel was an amazing experience! I served as co-chair of the White House Foreign Affairs and International Policy Professional Interest Group, so I was able to network with staff from the National Security Council. I was not expecting that we would be trusted with real work but we were. I also assisted in the vetting of potential candidates for executive nominations and the federal judiciary. The most important project for me was working on federal commutations and pardons for nonviolent drug offenders. President Obama worked effortlessly, issuing more commutations and pardons than any other president. President Obama literally gave these individuals a second chance at life and I will be forever grateful to have played a small part in this area.

How did that externship help you get to where you are today?

Alicia: Working under the Obama Administration was truly life changing, but it taught me two really important lessons: 1. Do not doubt yourself. I did not apply for the opportunity because I assumed I would not get it because it was the White House. But the truth is, no opportunity is too good for you and you should not settle in life by thinking anything is above you. I did not go to an Ivy League school but my University at Albany foundation was all that I needed to go to law school and grad school and start an exciting career. 2. Do not settle when it comes to finding opportunities that leave an impact. After working on something as important as pardons and commutations, I promised myself I would always have a job where I know my work is ultimately helping to improve the lives of others in some way, domestically or internationally.

Do you have any career advice for current students?

Alicia: Find mentors in your field. UAlbany alum Jennifer Manner has been such an amazing mentor and one of the most influential people in my career. She helped me apply to law school, connected me for internship opportunities, read every single resume and cover letter I have ever written, and consistently encourages me to excel in life. Find mentors who you can talk to about salary negotiations, race and gender in the workplace, and all the hardships in between. That is what Jennifer and so many others have done for me. I was prepared for so many situations because I had people to coach and prepare me. I look forward to paying it forward.
You do not have to be a pre-law student to go to law school. Do whatever you are interested in and make sure you do your research on schools, scholarships, and internships very early on in the process. Set goals for yourself, but do not become so fixated on following your “life-plan” that you forget to actually live and create memorable life experiences.