The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has partnered with the newly established Federal Privacy Council to host what's being called a "privacy talent summit." The event, to be held in Washington, DC, on September 14, aims to bolster the government's ability to both attract privacy talent as well as recognize what kinds of skills and resumes best represent a quality privacy professional.
The summit follows President Barack Obama's Executive Order, issued in February of this year, which mandated the Federal Privacy Council's establishment as well as called for the professionalization of privacy as a career within the federal government.
The summit is specifically geared toward chief human capital officers, human resources professionals and managers interesting in hiring privacy roles at their agencies. In a December 2015 speech, Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan called on agencies to look closely at who's currently running the privacy show and scrutinize whether it was in fact the right person for the job.
"The demand for privacy professionals has grown exponentially, and we know the federal government will never pay the salaries that law firms have. However, the jobs here frankly are more exciting. We are dealing with the most cutting-edge issues, on the frontlines of privacy and ... we're doing it for the benefit of the American people and serving our nation and our country. I think that's an extraordinary and unique opportunity that beats any law firm salary you can get." — Marc Groman, senior privacy advisor at OMB
That's in line with Circular A-130's mandate, under its most recent revision, that every government agency establish or hire an SAOP, or a senior agency official for privacy. In some agencies, this person may technically already exist under a different title or may simply wear many hats, one of them being a responsibility for privacy controls. In others, onboarding will be required.
"It's really quite extraordinary to bring these two groups together," said Senior Advisor for Privacy at OMB Marc Groman, CIPP/US, of the HR and privacy professionals who may attend the summit. "This is, in my view, the start of something big. I think it's a seismic shift and a recognition that privacy is in fact a profession in the government."
But the privacy profession is a newly hot market when compared with traditional government positions, so not only is there a need for more privacy professionals, there's also a need to convince top-talent professionals that the government has a place for them to not only work, but advance and grow, too.
"It's making sure we have a career path for privacy professionals in the federal government all the way from the entry-level position to the senior executive or chief privacy officer," Groman said. "So that is exactly what we are addressing and building through this privacy talent summit, which is truly groundbreaking."
As for hiring professionals, Groman said because the profession is relatively new and evolving rapidly, both HR professionals and even privacy managers sometimes have trouble identifying the right skill sets and then fitting those skill sets into existing job classifications.
He said the summit will help HR professionals better understand the skills needed out of privacy professionals, and, in that way, hire not just anyone with privacy experience on their resume but someone who's going to strategically be able to help the agency develop its programs. To that end, HR professionals will also learn how to draft job descriptions and draw the right people in. The summit will also discuss available tools to attract such professionals; improving outreach and recruitment. To date, drawing that talent has proven difficult.
After all, private practices globally are opening new practice groups and offering salaries that would make Uncle Sam blush. How can the government expect to be considered by top talent when the alternative exists?
"There's always that concern, and it exists in the cybersecurity space as well," Groman said. "The demand for privacy professionals has grown exponentially, and we know the federal government will never pay the salaries that law firms have. However, the jobs here frankly are more exciting. We are dealing with the most cutting-edge issues, on the frontlines of privacy and ... we're doing it for the benefit of the American people and serving our nation and our country. I think that's an extraordinary and unique opportunity that beats any law firm salary you can get."
As for how many privacy professionals might agree, time will tell.
Top photo: Marc Groman, senior privacy advisor at OMB
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