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The Privacy Advisor | Should I Get Involved with the IAPP? Related reading: Podcast: Are COVID-19 apps doing privacy well?




As the IAPP accepts nominations for its various IAPP leadership boards, The Privacy Advisor recently caught up with one of its Education Advisory Board members about her experiences as a volunteer and its impact on her career as a privacy professional.

Heather Egan Sussman, CIPP/US, is a partner in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP. She is co-chair of the firm’s Global Privacy and Data Protection Group. Sussman has been ranked by Chambers USA and The Legal 500 United States as a leader in her field.

In her privacy practice, Sussman routinely advises companies on global privacy and data security laws. She prepares comprehensive privacy and data security programs and policies for multinational businesses and regularly counsels businesses regarding the collection, use, retention, disclosure, transfer and disposal of personal information. Sussman helps companies proactively protect information, and in the event of a breach, she helps clients respond and remediate.

Sussman serves on the IAPP’s Education Advisory Board and co-chairs its Boston-area KnowledgeNets. The Privacy Advisor recently caught up with Sussman to ask her about her involvement thus far.

The Privacy Advisor: How did you get involved in volunteering for the IAPP?Sussman

Sussman:  I started out simply by offering to have my law firm, McDermott Will & Emery LLP, host one of the regional KnowledgeNets. It worked out well and we became a regular host. Pretty soon (IAPP Member Engagement Manager) Katherine Gilchrest asked, “Would you be interested in being a co-chair?” That was the fateful moment, and then I just got hooked. I love working for the IAPP. It’s such a well-run organization, and it has the platform to take the great ideas its constituents have and make them a reality.

The Privacy Advisor: You later joined the IAPP’s Education Advisory Board?

Sussman: For me, the advisory board was really the next step after having built the base and gained the experience within the organization at a local level. Being on a board elevates participation to more of a national and international level rather than just focusing on a particular region. I also had been to the IAPP’s Global Summit and Privacy Academy, but as a participant rather than a presenter. I wanted to see if there was something I could do to help organize and direct some of the content in terms of identifying the hot topics and current issues. The Education Advisory Board, in particular, helps to drive the agenda for speakers and session topics at the conferences. So, we are able to see submissions containing the speaking proposals and learn what are people’s areas of expertise. I really like being able to help bring a lot of different perspectives to the table.

The Privacy Advisor: What have been the benefits of your involvement?

Sussman: In terms of networking and the contacts that I’ve made, the IAPP has connected me with many of the top minds in privacy. It’s funny—I was talking with one privacy partner from another law firm and I asked, “Do you go to the IAPP Global Summit?” and she said, “No, we put on our own client conference that is very well attended.” But at the March 2012 conference, who did I see walking through the door? For me, that was proof that the Global Summit in particular has become a place to see and be seen on the privacy circuit.

The Privacy Advisor: What would you say to others considering volunteering?

Sussman: I think people should know the IAPP is very accessible. Some people might fear that initial step of volunteering or maybe they volunteered but were not taken up on the offer—Don’t give up! Keep offering to volunteer, host an event or sponsor a Privacy After Hours. Do something to start that involvement and become a resource, and I think that’s the best way to network and get more involved and open up opportunities. From there, you start to make connections, and folks who might otherwise feel like they’re lost in a sea of participants can start to really reap more of the benefits of the IAPP. There is no question that you get back as much as you put in.

And being a KnowledgeNet Chair, I always welcome it when people offer to host or to speak or participate. With our regional KnowledgeNets, we aim to make them something special. I think we’ve had great success doing that. Most recently, we had a fantastic KnowledgeNet that Dunkin’ Brands hosted at their international headquarters here in Massachusetts. They had a self-service ice cream sundae bar followed by a great privacy discussion. It was an outlet to combine what we love to do, which is talking about hot topics in privacy and connecting with other privacy pros—and enjoying ice cream at the same time. How can you go wrong?


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