Influential Women in Privacy: Claudine Brown

Welcome to our video interview series: Privacy Leaders! We interview the best and the brightest minds in the privacy space to get their insights on all things privacy and regulation including the infamous EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the future of privacy, how to automate your privacy program and more.

Today, in honour of International Women’s Day, we have Claudine Brown, Data Protection Officer.

Read on to see Claudine’s insights and advice, or if you prefer video you can watch the highlights video below.

How has the GDPR influenced the Privacy landscape?

GDPR has influenced the conversation on privacy legislations globally, within businesses and governments and is being used as a blueprint for other countries and states as they develop their own privacy laws. You will see this across continents with countries like Brazil, Argentina and Chile in south America to Asia with Japan and China and also in Africa with South Africa and Kenya. The US still doesn’t have a federal law but states like California and Virginia are leading and creating their own Legislations.

GDPR has awakened consumers to the value and use of their personal data and has forced organisations to become more aware of how they use personal data and more accountable to consumers. This has forced business to take a more proactive approach with their management of personal data.

The fact that companies having been forced to be more accountable, not only benefits European data subjects but others outside of the jurisdiction. Global companies begin to adopt GDPR as their benchmark as it becomes laborious to implement and maintain policies and procedures per jurisdiction.

Why is privacy the place to be for women in tech?

It is well known in the profession that there is pretty much an equal split between men and women both in junior and senior positions. This could be down to the fact that it is a relatively new profession and thus have not been historically dominated by men in comparison to other technical professions such as IT security. Women can be found in positions such as Chief Privacy officers, DPO’s and areas of regulatory bodies and even in academia.

While the profession appears to be level from the perspective of balance number of females in both senior and junior positions, this by no means equates to equal pay. Pay inequality is still a concern across all sectors and professions.

What does a typical day in the life of a privacy Professional look like?

A typical day in the life of a privacy professional can be hectic and somewhat unpredictable. You can start the day thinking it’s planned and a data breach completely changes your plan or you can be about to shut down for the day and incident is reported that requires your immediate attention. Your interaction is multi-fold, as you liaise with various personnel from multiple departments in the organisation, across the C-suite and other senior management figures to legal counsels and privacy champions establish across the organisation. You are dealing with professionals and colleagues who are astute so you have to bring your A game.

One of the challenges of being a DPO is that the business often times will look to you for a decision. However, the role is an advisory one, regarding the privacy risk(s) associated with a particular processing or business activity. if you are looking for a role where you are the key decision maker, becoming a privacy officer is not for you. The role however is very important in influencing key decisions based on the facts presented, understanding privacy risks and the risk appetite of the business. Thus, a lot of your interactions will require you not only to make a strong case, but you also have to be able and willing to make compromises where applicable whilst ensuring your and the company’s objectives are met.

You have challenging but rewarding days, always evolving and constant learning opportunities. This is a job for you if you have an interest in data security, business processes, and legal views and interpretations.

What advice would you give to women interested in a career in Privacy?

While you are thinking about it and certainly when you first enter a professional career, my advice would be to get involved in affiliate programs organisations and training, to deepen knowledge and broaden your scope and understanding of the industry. Read articles, go online, there are numerous organisations out there that provide a lot of information, align yourself with these organisations to deepen your knowledge.

A big thing for women to do when entering the professional arena, is to become their own advocates especially in male dominated industries. A big part of that also means u have to acknowledge and promote other women’s successes.. make alliances and connections where possible. Reach out and make network connections with professional women’s groups. Find a woman in the industry that is heralded and make contact; she could be an author on the industry or public speaker. Be bold and introduce yourself in whatever format you can and ask for tips.

Find a mentor. I can’t stress this enough but remember mentoring is a two-way street. Reach out to senior people in the profession, most women are supportive of anyone asking for advice, because we do understand going into any profession can be daunting, so women tend to be supportive of anyone reaching out and asking for advice. Make alliances and connections wherever possible. Use LinkedIn to see what’s happening, see who you can speak with and build those connections.

What are your top tips for success?

Invest in yourself but most importantly, believe in yourself.

  1. Invest in yourself. Investing in yourself I think is probably one of the most important thing you can do. When you think about investing in yourself, it’s not just, “I’ve got to get a degree or any other academic qualification. While that is important, you also need to invest in your physical and mental health. Really investing in every aspect of yourself so that you can perform at your at your best.
  2. Believing in yourself. So often women doubt themselves time and time again you will come across research articles on how women would read a job description and say, “Oh no, that’s not for me, I’m not qualified to do this”. While men will read a job description and confidently state “I can do this!” So believing in oneself is very important. I usually overlook some things on a job description, for example, it might say you need 10 years’ experience, I will tell myself “I’ve got six, but I can do this!”
  3. Manage expectations. Under promise and over deliver. Managing expectations is a very, very key part of a successful working life. If you’re under promising and over delivering, for example you say “I’ll get this to you in two days” and you get it to them in a day, they’re going to be happy, right? But if you say “you’ll have it in two days” and you get it to them in three-four days, it’s a different reaction. So managing expectations is really, really important, not only in personal life, but especially in the working environment. Especially in an area such as Privacy where the queries are coming from so many different angles with everybody having an urgent deadline. I have a habit of, where if somebody sends me a request and I’m really busy and there’s no deadline on it, I go back to them and say: “I’ve received your email. What is your deadline?” Ask for a deadline if one’s not given to you, ask for it, because then you can start to prioritize. If they don’t give a deadline, you have to use your good judgment. What can you reasonably do now? And what can you prioritize?

The list can go on and on. But my two musts: are investing in oneself and believing in oneself.

Final Thoughts?

Claudine: Actually I would add giving back. I love giving back and it’s not just for those that you give back to it’s hugely beneficial to yourself as well. If you’re going to reach out to people to ask them to mentor you, think about how you reciprocate? What are you giving back, even in that mentor mentee relationship. What can you give back, are you taking all the knowledge that you’ve learned from your mentor and mentoring someone else with that knowledge you’ve gained? I view giving back a crucial part of being a holistic human being. It’s not just about the receiver. I think giving back also helps you feel good about yourself.

Evin: Definitely. It’s a bit like Karma isn’t it? What goes around, comes around.

Claudine: Yes there may be a selfish element in giving back, but it’s good for your mental health to give back in any way that you can. It doesn’t have to be someone in your same field of expertise, it could be someone within any area of the business. It could be someone in your organisation struggling to fit in, for example, and you’ve managed to master the art of fitting into the organisation. You can support someone from that perspective. Giving back doesn’t really mean “Oh, I can’t help because I don’t know your area. I don’t know that area of law, or I’m not a finance person”. It doesn’t have to be so focused on your level of expertise, but just what skills in general you have that you can offer to someone else really.

Evin: Oftentimes it could be as simple as just a thank you. A lot of people definitely overlook a ‘thank you’.

Claudine: That is correct. ‘Thank you’s just go a very, very long way. One of my [previous] never left the office without saying a genuine heart felt thank you. That has left a lasting impression on me.

Evin: Oh, that is so nice! I love that!

Claudine: Finally, there are certain soft skills that I would say do not overlook. Definitely work on your people skill, develop a pragmatic approach and learn the art of negotiation. You will need to integrate into the business and build relationships with key stakeholders. When you get a query form the business, know that your answer should never start with “no” but more “how can I help you achieve your objective?” No, is never really a good answer from a privacy officer, especially at the start of a conversation, unless it’s an absolutely “are you crazy” idea, even then, you might pause for a minute and say “let’s see what we can achieve, instead of just saying no.”


Stay tuned for the next Privacy Leaders post by following our LinkedIn and Blog. 

Join your peers and get the latest GRC, Privacy, Security and Regulatory updates delivered straight to your inbox

Read more about our tailor-made software for data privacy and integrated risk management

Relevant news & insights: