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The Privacy Advisor | Volunteer Spotlight: A conversation with Jyn Schultze-Melling Related reading: Volunteer Spotlight: Catching up with Nerushka Deosaran

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Meet Jyn Schultze-Melling, a sort of human privacy Swiss Army Knife. He's dabbled in seemingly every corner of the privacy world, and, in talking to him, clearly has a passion for privacy. And stories! He's got lots and lots of stories. He shares some, and a bit wisdom, too, below.

The Privacy Advisor: How did you get involved in privacy?
Schultze-Melling: I started off as a young information-technology lawyer, back in the old days when the internet was still in its beginnings. Then, when I started to focus more and more on IT compliance, privacy as a subject matter was an infant in the corporate world, and probably one of the least regarded issues at all. We’ve come a long way.

The Privacy Advisor: What are you doing currently?
Schultze-Melling: By now I’m a lawyer again, working as a privacy strategy coach at EY Law here in Berlin. Basically, I help my clients to plan their GDPR implementation projects properly and to then get things done. It’s a fantastic time to be an advisor, to be honest.

The Privacy Advisor: What brought you there?
Schultze-Melling: I was at German Railways back in 2009 where I rebuilt their employee privacy program after the company was branded with one of the biggest privacy enforcement actions seen in Europe until then. When the Allianz group was looking for a CPO to build up their global privacy program, we moved back to Munich. After two and half years, when things there were properly running, I realized my career was shifting further and further away from technology, which is a personal passion of mine. So I talked to Facebook, moved to their headquarters in Dublin and learned my political ropes on their privacy policy team.

For some time I was working there in a great team that literally provided the buffer between the company and the DPAs, NGOs and individuals that are challenging it constantly. When the fight over the GDPR was settled, though, I became aware that many of my colleagues were deeply involved in actual implementation work and I was kind of stuck there between a rock and a hard place. Before I talked to EY, I had never thought about joining the “Big Four,” but they offered exactly that spot in between – their lawyers provide the legal experience, but run the implement projects on a team with their business consultants. I thought, “that sounds cool, that’s exactly what I want to do.” 

The Privacy Advisor: What’s your go-to advice for privacy leaders?
Schultze-Melling: My 101: First, understand why someone isn’t doing what they are supposed to do, and find out what they are afraid of. At the end of the day, we’re working with human beings. It is about trusting your gut. And, it’s not a good idea for veterans to dig privacy trenches and say, “I don’t talk to newbies.” The GDPR, especially, is a great equalizer; everyone has to go through the pitfalls, and even my 16 years of experience did not thoroughly prepare me for this situation. But I like to work with professionals, and as we need lots of those I share as much of my experience as I can. Rookies: Never try to get out of peoples’ way. Get in their way. Ask us. Challenge us. Get interacting with people, get communicating, get social — give away what you receive.

The Privacy Advisor: How did you hear about the IAPP, and how do you volunteer with the organization?
Schultze-Melling: Long ago, I was a visiting attorney with Morrison Foerster in New York City, where I worked with Miriam Wugmeister, who is amongst the most influential people in privacy I know. She told me about the IAPP, and on my first summit I was deeply impressed that there was a conference with literally thousands of privacy professionals. My involvement took its way from there, and I got in as much as I could. When the IAPP moved into Europe, I served on the small group that then became the European Advisory Board, which I’m proud to say I’m still serving on today.

The Privacy Advisor: What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever gotten?
Schultze-Melling: 
I had a boss once who explained to me that data protection is actually the wrong wording, that it sounds like we are protecting data. We’re not. We’re protecting people. It should be called people protection, really, but no one would understand what we do. I thought that was very, very wise back then. When I teach young pros — at both the university and professional level – I mention that as soon as I can, right before I start to talk about Louis Brandeis and the ‘Right to Privacy.'

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