The PICCASO Privacy Awards is delighted to name data protection, compliance and privacy specialist, Hellen Beveridge as the winner of the Privacy Leader of the Year Award for Consulting 2022.
The winner of this prestigious award is an industry leader who guides a team or mentors individuals; a person who takes the time to show others the ropes and ensure those coming through the ranks are prepared for the future.
As a senior leader and consultant, Hellen has consistently excelled at helping junior employees to navigate industry challenges, trends and opportunities in a way that prioritises data protection, compliance and privacy at every juncture.
Hellen is Senior Manager for Data Responsibility and Privacy Delivery at tech transformation multinational, Cognizant. She leverages a wealth of expertise in implementing data protection compliance procedures within an operational environment across a wide range of organisations.
We spoke with Hellen for reaction to her win and for her views as an industry leader.
Could you briefly outline your career pathway to date?
I’m a bit eclectic as my career path has gone in all sorts of directions. I started out in the publishing industry as a statistical editor. I always had a knack for both words and numbers and following rules, so it seemed like a natural fit.
I stayed in Publishing and Events, moving into marketing and communications and then ran a successful agency for about 15 years. During that time, I gained experience in many different industries and verticals, all while using data to inform my strategies.
I remember the early days of the internet when a website could cost upwards of five thousand pounds for a few pages of static content. It was a different time, long before cookies and data protection laws were in place. But, as the industry evolved and more regulations were put in place, data protection became a crucial aspect of marketing.
I realised that I wanted to pivot my career in a new direction and worked with a mentor who helped me to identify my strengths: making complicated things sound simple and distilling complex information into easy-to-understand concepts. Armed with this knowledge, I decided my next career move would focus on data protection, just as GDPR came onto the horizon.
I transitioned my agency from marketing communications to data protection, taking my clients along with me – a bold move, but one that paid off. I built my new career around training and communication, providing services like DPO, privacy officer, consultancy, gap analysis, and M&A activity.
Then Covid hit, and I had to re-evaluate. It was pure serendipity that Cognizant approached me at just the right time – I never really envisioned being part of a mammoth, global tech company with over 380,000 employees.
It was a big change, but the opportunity to work in AI and analytics was too good to miss. Now a part of the modern data engineering team, my work is enormously varied and the client base very diverse.
What does the winning of the award mean to you?
If you work in data protection, it is enormously difficult to receive recognition for the work that you do. Our efforts are often seen as more housekeeping and less as driving profit, and this makes it hard to measure success. However, I take pride in the fact that Cognizant recognises the value of privacy careers and actively creates pathways for apprentices and graduates to thrive.
The ability to nurture and develop young minds is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. We have 19-year-olds working with us and graduates who started out wanting to pursue data science. They came to us and discover a whole new world of data privacy, which they find fascinating. Seeing their passion and interest grow is the most gratifying experience for me. The work we’re doing around creating privacy careers is what I’m most proud of.
What are the primary challenges coming up on the data protection & privacy horizon in your sector?
Working in data protection and privacy, I am constantly aware of the issues that arise in this sector. While complying with regulations is important, the ever-changing technology landscape presents significant challenges.
AI is the latest new shiny thing, and I feel there’s real danger in moving forward with such technology. In particular the layering of really complex AI on top of potentially creaking legacy systems without proper thoughtfulness. When people are fighting for budget, it’s easy to get carried away with the pace of change. We have to be brave and take time to consider risk, ensure that privacy protections are not compromised or lose their essential granularity.
If we progress with AI naively and without meticulousness in development, we will hit unintended consequences that will impact privacy and other protections. There are always unintended consequences when technology advances: one example (though not AI) is the UK-wide phone alert – it’s a great idea but if an individual in a vulnerable situation has a second phone that an abuser doesn’t know about – it creates a potential threat. We must have the courage to take our time, both in development and regulation.
Diversity in experience is also crucial in creating a more thoughtful approach to AI development. At Cognizant, we are working really hard to address things like gender imbalances, and getting things right in terms of diversity. I think one of the biggest risks in our field lies in having a homogenous group of people delivering privacy.
What do organisations need to prioritise within their data protection and privacy strategies in order to meet these challenges?
Data protection and privacy are becoming increasingly important for organisations as they face numerous challenges related to cybersecurity, regulatory compliance, and reputation management.
However, in order to effectively prioritise and implement data protection and privacy strategies, we need to break down silos and ensure that security, data governance, and privacy are all integrated into the overall architecture.
One of the biggest challenges in this regard is the tendency to separate security from data privacy, leading to a siloed approach that can create friction. To avoid this, it’s important to include the privacy team right from the beginning when buying new tools or developing new products, and to engage in detailed conversations with all stakeholders to identify potential risks and whether the actual output matches the organisation’s intentions.
Privacy by design is a key concept that can help organisations address these challenges, but it’s important to approach data privacy as more than just a box-ticking exercise. Instead, it should be viewed as a critical part of the overall strategy for protecting sensitive data and maintaining customer trust.
One way to ensure that privacy is integrated into the overall strategy is to adopt a diverse and inclusive approach that encourages different perspectives. This can help organisations identify blind spots and potential risks, and avoid the kind of epistemic impenetrability that can arise when brilliant ideas are developed without a clear understanding of what they are intended to accomplish.
In particular, the development of AI requires a careful approach that takes into account both technical and ethical considerations. This means working out what tools to use, and also determining the desired outcome rather than simply working with the data that is produced.
Again, if you don’t have enough diversity of thought and experience, your organisation is open to greater risk; you need people who ask tricky questions, challenge the status quo and are willing to speak truth to power. You also need senior management teams who are willing to listen. There has never been a more important time for privacy professionals, and those with good communications skills are the imperative organisations need to accelerate into the digital future.
The PICCASO Privacy Awards Europe recognise the people making an outstanding contribution to this
dynamic and fast-growing sector—from the professionals ensuring their companies meet increasingly complex legal demands to the academics and engineers pushing privacy thought leadership and innovative protections forward.
Enter The Awards
The PICCASO Privacy Awards Europe are free to enter, and you may enter as many categories as you would like.
- Register for your free account.
- Start your entry (you can save it in-progress).
- Submit your entry!
Entries close: 02/07/2023 at 23:59.
Shortlist announcement: Week commencing 17/07/2023.
You will be notified via email should your application be successful.
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