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11/27/2018
02:30 PM
Louise Thorpe
Louise Thorpe
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How to Find a Privacy Job That You'll Love (& Why)

Advice from a millennial woman who has done it: Find your niche and master your craft. You will be amazed at how significant your work will be.

When I accepted my first job in privacy back in the 2000s, the industry had little to do with data or technology. To my family and friends, it seemed like a bit of a strange choice. My co-workers largely consisted of professionals at the close of their careers, investigating offline issues such as mail privacy or the accidental faxing of documents to the wrong recipient. To your average consumer, privacy simply meant the comfort you received from closing the curtains.

But, within a few years, the world dramatically shifted. Social media platforms and smart devices proliferated. Consumers often found themselves paying for online services — not with cash — but with their personal information.

My role quickly transformed into a valuable link between the fields I loved — technology, consumer protection, cybersecurity, law, and human rights. I garnered a critical voice in key business decisions, advocating for customers to gain greater control over how their data might be used in the face of increasing innovation.

Looking back at my first day, I didn't anticipate how significant privacy would become. But I was proactive in searching for a career path that I knew would have longevity and let me evolve alongside technological developments. Here are four reasons to explore a career in the privacy field or any other job-of-the-future, yet to be.

Technology + Humanity = A Great Job Description
A recent report by McKinsey Global Institute found that roughly 50% of current work activities can be automated. As robotics and artificial intelligence continue to disrupt today's workforce, society will need even more individuals with the ability to guide innovation in ways that are helpful — not harmful — to the public.

As a chief privacy officer, I ensure that customer data is used in an ethical manner. To do this, I need to anticipate how consumers might feel about a new service or product and be able to empathize with how it could affect them personally.

For me, finding a job at the crossroads of technology and humanity led me to a career that is not only rewarding but of increasing value to both companies and consumers alike.

Privacy Roles Are Broadening
Technological advancement has continually driven growth in privacy. But the expanded role of many related fields, such as risk analysis, data science, and product development, has also advanced the sector. In my position as chief privacy officer, I work with business partners in these areas on a daily basis. I make it a priority to better understand how their fields are changing, so I can anticipate how I need to evolve to keep pace.

This involves asking questions about who their business partners or clients are, where they are looking to innovate, and where they are focusing their long-term investments and strategies. Then I ask myself how I can adapt my role to be meaningful to their efforts.

Welcome Diversity
Privacy depends on a sincere understanding of people's rights and feelings. So it is a business imperative that our workforce represents the diversity of those we serve.

While women have fought tooth-and-nail to succeed in industries like technology and finance, privacy has a solid reputation for welcoming diversity. According to research by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), women make up the majority of chief privacy officers. As a woman, having these clear examples of diversity in management has helped me feel included and empowered throughout my career.

Seek to find inspiration from industries that don't just accept differences but embrace them. Draw strength from role models and search for the sponsorship you need to truly succeed at your job.

An Industry with Growth Potential
Privacy is a young, developing industry that is always looking for fresh talent. In fact, a recent IAPP study estimated that the introduction of new rules and regulations will create an additional 28,000 privacy jobs in the Europe and the U.S. alone.

As a millennial leader, I have found this to be to my benefit. I often have fewer total years in the workforce than many of my more senior peers in other fields. But with only 11% of privacy professionals beginning their careers in the sector, I have just as much expertise as my privacy colleagues.

Be open to considering occupations that are growing — even if they might not be the hottest jobs at the time. As your knowledge and responsibilities expand, you will likely find that the role is far more interesting than it appeared at first sight. And as the industry grows, your professional opportunities will grow with it.

All said, my advice to you is to find your niche and master your craft. You will be amazed at how significant your work will be in the future.

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Louise Thorpe is American Express' chief privacy officer. She leads a global team that drives transparency, and oversees risks related to privacy, information security, records management, and information technology. View Full Bio
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