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The Privacy Advisor | Volunteer Spotlight: A Conversation with Aneta Podsiadla Related reading: Volunteer Spotlight: Masayuki Negishi

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Meet Aneta Podsiadla, CIMP, CIPP/E, FiP, and legal counsel at Zurich Insurance Company. She's a six year veteran of the IAPP and in the middle of a "love at first sight" relationship with privacy and security — in between getting her "Sound of Music" on in the Swiss mountains and advocating on behalf of professional women. 

The Privacy Advisor: How does your role as legal counsel at Zurich Insurance Company touch privacy and/or security, specifically?
Podsiadla: In my role, I am focused on adding value to the business and providing in-house legal advice and services that enable implementation of sustainable solutions by identifying, managing and mitigating legal and regulatory risks, and enable my business partners to achieve company’s strategic and commercial goals in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. It won’t be a surprise to anyone if I say that recently, the [General Data Protection Regulation] implementation keeps me very busy. I am working closely with all business functions, IT and security teams not only within Switzerland but also globally and addressing all data protection/security issues from a legal standpoint.

The Privacy Advisor: How did you get first involved with the IAPP?
Podsiadla: I was first involved in the works of the IAPP during its first European Data Protection Congress that was held in Paris in 2010. I was preparing one of the panel sessions. I am pleased to say I could witness how the IAPP has changed and grew within Europe. I see a great value that it provides to the privacy community.

The Privacy Advisor: In what capacities do you volunteer?
Podsiadla: I am a member of the European Advisory Board, the CIPM Exam Development Board and I am co-chairing the Swiss KnowledgeNet.

The Privacy Advisor: How did you know privacy and security is something you wanted to be involved in?
Podsiadla: That was the love from the first sight. Even though I was studying law, I was always very much interested in IT, innovation and digital transformation. When I was starting my career in this field, not everyone entirely understood the importance of data protection. However, with further development of technologies, this topic became more relevant. What I especially enjoy is that its continuously changing environment does not let you get bored. Privacy/security is a perfect area for someone who enjoys working with cross-functional topics, where privacy intersects with HR, Risk, Finance, IT security, marketing etc. Working in the privacy field, very often in your daily work you have to feel comfortable getting out of your comfort zone and quickly get an understanding of different processes and procedures within those fields. That is what I particularly enjoy at my work, you constantly learn new things, even though you still focus on your core specialization. 

The Privacy Advisor: Who or what has had the biggest positive impact on your professional life?
Podsiadla: I met many wonderful people in the course of my career that inspired me and to some extent shaped the way I approach privacy and security in my daily work. Throughout my career, I was carrying different roles, I had a chance to work in different countries, and having exposure to different industries and business functions that overall gave me an opportunity to look at data protection and IT from different perspectives, which definitely enriched my experience and knowledge of the topic. I strongly recommend to everyone to not be afraid of making such a change. Beginnings might be difficult, but overall, one will definitely benefit in a long-term perspective.

The Privacy Advisor: Who inspires you?
Podsiadla: I was fortunate to meet many inspiring people during my career, particularly women. Unfortunately, women are still experiencing a lot of hurdles and challenges in the course of their careers. That is why it was a very nurturing experience to me to meet them and receive a lot valuable advice and career support. If I should name a few that would be Michelle Dennedy [and] Sheryl Sandberg. Her book, "Lean In," is a must read for every woman, regardless of her career aspirations.

The Privacy Advisor: What do you enjoy the most about the privacy community?
Podsiadla: It is very open, supportive and collaborative environment. The IAPP plays a great role in supporting the privacy community and enabling networking and exchange of ideas within the community. Although, I believe we still have a room for improvement on the local level and in strengthening the local networks.

The Privacy Advisor: What’s your favorite element of your job?
Podsiadla: Interaction with people, cracking through cross-functional problems, working with IT on implementation of new technologies and innovative ideas that our customers can benefit from.When, at the end of the day, you can tell yourself 'I did a good job,' and I am comfortable saying 'Yes, we care about the privacy of our employees/customers etc. and we have made another step/contribution into ensuring data protection within the organization. That can be a project [or a] new product, etc.

The Privacy Advisor: Describe your “happy place.”
Podsiadla: Being a woman and a lawyer at the same time sometimes does not make your daily work easier. I have experienced that many times, not only in the work space but also on other occasions, e.g. conferences, associations etc. My “happy place” would be a place where there are no prejudices. Just because someone has a law degree does not mean he/she is not capable of understating the technical conundrums, and vice versa. Similarly, being a woman does not determine your skills sets and if you are capable of doing a certain type of work or not. Privacy professionals from one country tend to be perceived as better because they come from a country that has a more stringent privacy law; that also can be a false assumption. One would be surprised how seriously some of our peers from the U.S. are treating privacy/security in comparison to their EU colleagues.

The Privacy Advisor: What do you do when you’re not working or volunteering?
Podsiadla: I am fortunate to live in a truly beautiful country that has a lot to offer for such an active people like me. Regardless of the time of the year, I am trying to get closer to the nature. I am exploring Swiss mountains by either hiking or skiing. I am in love with opera and ballet that gives a truly unique experience ... makes you see, feel and hear the world differently. I am especially grabbed by the art form where every minute of the performance is unprecedented and you feel like you just entered another world.

The Privacy Advisor: What would you tell folks who are interested about getting involved with the IAPP on a volunteer basis, but are on the fence?
Podsiadla: IAPP gives a great opportunity to meet people with different backgrounds and experience that have a similar interest in privacy/ security, and therefore it is a great forum for exchange of ideas that gives the possibility to learn from each other. It can be particularly interesting forum for those who are seeking in their career a leadership role. I would see it as one of the steps towards that goal. Definitely looks good on your CV and the IAPP is the biggest and most recognizable privacy professional associations.

1 Comment

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  • comment Abhishek Agarwal • Sep 27, 2016
    Great article! Thanks for sharing your thoughts Aneta. 
    It was a great pleasure to work with you and gain your expert advise that helped us resolving issues in a meaningful way.
    I agree with you "Lean In" is a must read for every women and men professional.
    Wish you the best.