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Why Discovering Your Niche Is Crucial To Career Success
Episode 3519th July 2022 • Privacy Pros Podcast • The King of Data Protection - Jamal Ahmed
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TikTok's Data Protection Lead reveals the secrets to becoming a sought after Privacy Pro!

Hi, my name is Jamal Ahmed and I'd like to invite you to listen to this special episode of the #1 ranked Data Privacy podcast.

Discover:

  • How to find your niche and excel in Data Privacy
  • The secrets to rapidly progress in your career
  • The value of investing in your personal brand

Learn about Gordon's inspiring journey as a Data Privacy Expert and the game changing lessons that propelled his career.

Gordon Wade is an experienced and trusted Legal Counsel and Privacy Professional.

He is a dual Irish and England & Wales qualified solicitor and New York qualified attorney. Gordon also holds the status of Fellow of Information Privacy (FIP) from the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) as well as the CIPP/E and CIPM certifications together with the OneTrust DataGuidance Certified Privacy Management Professional (OTCP) certification. In December 2020 he was appointed as IAPP Young Privacy Professional for the Dublin Chapter of the IAPP. Currently, Gordon is the Data Protection Lead at TikTok. 


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Follow Jamal on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kmjahmed/

Connect with Gordon on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gordon-wade-cipp-e-cipm-fip-a4957518/


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Transcripts

Intro:

Are you ready to know what you don't know about Privacy Pros? Then you're in the right place.

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Welcome to the Privacy Pros Academy Podcast by Kazient Privacy Experts. The podcast to launch, progress and excel your career as a Privacy Pro.

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Hear about the latest news and developments in the world of Privacy.

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Discover fascinating insights from Leading Global Privacy

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Professionals and hear real stories and top tips from the people who have been where you want to get to.

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We've trained people in over 137 countries and counting.

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So whether you're thinking about starting a career in data privacy or you are an experienced professional, this is the podcast for you.

Jamilla:

Hi everyone and welcome to the Privacy Pros Academy podcast. My name is Jamilla, and I'm a data privacy analyst at Kazient Privacy Experts. I'm primarily responsible for conducting research on current and upcoming legislation as well as any key developments and decisions by supervisory authorities. With me today is my co-host is Jamal Ahmed who is a fellow of Information Privacy and CEO of Kazient Privacy Experts. He is an established and comprehensively qualified privacy professional with a demonstrable track record solving, enterprise wide data privacy and data security challenges for SMEs through complex global organizations. He is a certified Information Privacy Manager, Certified Information Privacy Professional, Certified EU GDPR practitioner, Master NLP practitioner, Prince II practitioner and he holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business with Law. Today he has provided privacy and GDPR compliance solutions to organizations across six continents and in over 30 jurisdictions, helping to safeguard the personal data of over a billion data subjects worldwide. Welcome Jamal.

Jamal:

Good morning, Jamila.

Jamilla:

How are you?

Jamal:

I've been practicing my dance moves for TikTok.

Jamilla:

Yes, I'm excited. My housemate made me get TikTok a couple of months ago and I've done no work since.

Jamal:

Follow someone on TikTok to teach you how to be productive.

Jamilla:

al Certification. In December:

Gordon:

Thank you very much guys. Great to be here.

Jamilla:

Thank you for joining us. And as we always start off with our ice breaker question, who is your favourite TikTok creator?

Gordon:

That's the question we always get. At the moment at TikTok the whole basis for the platform is to inspire people to be creative and just bring joy and happiness, not take oneself too seriously. So there's a creator called it's Daniel Mack, who I follow a lot. He's just a dude who walks around LA. And goes up to people who are driving really big, expensive, flashy sports cars. And he just asks him, what do you do for a living? You've got tons of money, you've got a really flash, expensive car. What do you do? How do you get here? Did you go to college?

Jamilla:

Yeah, I've seen a couple of those, and I like the people who answer, I don't do anything. I just have these cars.

Gordon:

I just exist.

Jamal:

What's your dream car Gordon?

Gordon:

Oh, I don't know if I would ever have one. Probably be if you can see from here, a Jag, maybe, or an Aston Martin Vanquish. My first car was that one, a little old Mini Cooper, which I don't have one of those again, so I probably wouldn't use one. I love them all.

Jamal:

Jamilla, what's your favourite car?

Jamilla:

Don’t ask. I only know cars by their colours. I'm so bad. My friends will give me lifts and I have to think about their cars before I get into it. I'm like, if it's any white car, I will get into that car because I think it's my friends. I have a driver's license. I just don't haven't driven yet. So no, I'm terrible. I do like a Range Rover. I know what they look like.

Jamal:

What about you Jamal? I don’t think I have a specific car. I have a couple of cars that I would really like to get to drive maybe one day, but there's nothing specific that I say that is the car for me. Like, as long as it gets me from A to B very comfortably and looks a bit flush, I guess I'll be quite happy with it.

Gordon:

Can I agree with that?

Jamilla:

Right, let's get on to the privacy questions. I'm sure we'll talk more about TikTok within some of these questions. But Gordon, why is privacy so important to you?

Gordon:

It's a great question. Privacy is a fascinating subject and something I've always been interested in and quite passionate about. It is a fundamental human rights. So any kind of lawyers in human rights law finds that absolutely fascinating, but also the concept of data protection and data privacy in and of itself. I've been really fortunate to work during my career with great colleagues, great clients, and great companies who have been at the forefront of privacy. I started my career as a trainee in Mason Hayes and Curran in Dublin who were then and continues to be Facebook’s litigation or trends litigation and have a wealth of clients. So being a trainer there and an MQ, you couldn't avoid privacy and data protection if you wanted to, it was embed in the firm and had all the big blue chip clients. So it's kind of very much instilled in me from that point of view. Since then I've tried to shape and guide my career around getting to the point where I'm doing my passion for a daily job, which is privacy as a job for me, it gets into the aspects of how people, and particularly children now to a greater extent interpret, interact and see the world around them. The childhood that I had is so different to what I'm looking at. My young niece who's growing up now and getting onto the platform, their world is so different to ours and privacy is so embedded into that, in social media and kind of social platforms that it’s just fascinating. But at the same time it'll imprint on them how they're going to steer the rest of their social interactions the rest of their life. And being part of that for me is fascinating. That's what I always wanted to get into. We're seeing now I'm working on stuff that I only saw in Sci-Fi movies in the 80s and 90s, which was kind of out there not real, but now it's real. Now we're working, now we're doing it. For me, now is the time to be privacy professional. I'm lucky enough to be able to do it now.

Jamilla:

Super interesting. And it reminds me of TV adverts I keep seeing that say we are preparing young people for jobs that don't even exist yet. We don't know where things are going to go in the future. Was privacy always the kind of sector of law you wanted to go into?

Gordon:

Yeah, it was always something I always had an interest in, for sure. I meandered, my career like an awful lot of people. I think there's a few people who say they started and ended exactly where they always intended to be. They are probably few and far between. I went commercial, went corporate, I did some litigious arbitration work groups in London. Not saying I'm a human rights activist, I'm one of those kind of constitution building lawyers. I'm not. But it's an area of law you can really make a difference and get into the real need. There is a stuff that really matters not a 3 billion euro merger and takeover for companies to make themselves even bigger again. It's the stuff that actually impacts people on the ground and impacts my family. My niece is on TikTok's so I’m always conscious of her engaging in that world. I always had an interest in it, but then when I got the opportunity, I suppose, to start working and developing a niche and expertise, I jumped at that. And it was from when I left Mason Hayes and Curran to join KPMG and I joined on a corporate commercial lawyer role. I did a mix of everything in that stream. But I had the option fantastic from Francis Hackett the head of legal in KPMG Ireland to develop this privacy service line from a legal perspective to support the audit, consulting, management consultants, risk who are already even at that point doing kind of privacy change and transformation projects with the clients. And they wanted to offer a legal service offering. So I jumped at that chance in pre GDPR days. And as that gained momentum, it just kind of went out of control. But it really got going to the point where what I was doing 20% privacy, 80% corporate commercial flipped on its head, only doing 80% to 90% privacy work, and the corporate commercial just kind of, sort of fell away as privacy got bigger and bigger and bigger for me. And I just went with us and kept that ball rolling.

Jamal:

Sounds like it was a really fun time. And one of the things that you said is you identified quite early there was an opportunity for you to develop yourself in a niche and get the expertise. I don't think enough people recognize that by finding themselves a niche, and really becoming an expert in it, they can actually really take their career to a level that thrives. What was it about having a niche and being an expertise that really was like, yes, that's what I need to do. And how did you discover that specializing in a niche is one of the keys to having a thriving career?

Gordon:

ents that we had. I know from:

Jamal:

I've been reading into some of the articles that you've written and some of the places where you spoke at, and it's all really fascinating. I can see how you have been really progressing rapidly for somebody so young in your career and taking it from one strength to another. And one of the things that stands out about you, for me, Gordon, is your development and your devotion to investing in yourself and constantly improving. So even though you work for some of the biggest companies around the world and some really leading firms, that hasn't stopped you, even though you've got your legal qualifications from pursuing the more IAPP based qualification. So I can see that you're also a Certified Information Privacy Professional, Certified Information Privacy Manager. And you've also been awarded Fellow of Information Privacy. And for somebody who is a lawyer to actually be pursuing those things, number one is not only is it commendable, but two it’s really admirable. So I want to ask you, for our listeners, why is it important to invest in yourself and to acquire these certifications, even if you have other qualifications such as a law degree?

Gordon:

p as a professional, even for:

Jamal:

, hey, I've been around since:

Gordon:

ely non-existent in Europe in:

Jamal:

And talking about staying current, what are your favourite hot topics in privacy right now?

Gordon:

For me, the main topics in privacy is greater enforcement, greater fines, and greater awareness. They're kind of the top three, the regulators are now starting to really get into the substantive meaty privacy issues of the AI and the children's privacy and children's safety, etc. And the only thing about the hot topics, and these are the questions that are asked every kind of November, December of the year, what's hot for next year? And there will be topics that will ebb and flow and kind of come in peaks and troughs. There will always be the underlying core issues of privacy that will remain hot, constant topics, no matter the time of year, no matter when, what year or whenever. And those will be matters of keeping data secure, being transparent with your users and fulfilling subject access rights and requests. They will never go away. They're forever constant. And obviously we know they are touch points for an awful lot of regulators. So if you're not treating those areas as hot, important topics every single day of the week, then you're not meeting your privacy obligations. So for me, it's those areas rather than big sensation headlines, it's the bread and butter stuff day today that you need to get right, rather than trying to say, oh, we're going to be doing amazing things in AI in ten years and here's our plans. What are you doing right now? What's happening today and what's happening tomorrow? What did you do yesterday?

Jamal:

Thank you. Thank you for sharing. What's the difference between a good privacy professional and a great privacy professional?

Gordon:

What is the difference? Yeah, I think there is a difference. I think there's a substantial difference. I've been lucky so far and I'm in TikTok now just about four to five months. Everyone I work with appears to be amazing, great privacy professional, it's quite intimidating. They're all hugely knowledgeable, massive experience and phenomenal lawyers and privacy professionals. I'm very lucky. I work with some really great ones. I think those who I've worked with, who I see as truly great for professionals. They champion privacy in the business and that means not just user, consumer ,external facing privacy, which is fundamentally important for big global business like TikTok. It's employee privacy as well, and that goes across for any big companies are championing privacy across the board. A great privacy professional is heavily heavily entrenched in the business and they are so close to the risk decision making, the commercial decision making and they know the company inside out. Even for people I work with TikTok. A lot of people have come in new over the last couple of years as the platform has grown and the extent to which they already know the company inside out is phenomenal and decisions they can make based on their knowledge and awareness. I think a good privacy professional will help guide a business expertly based on the law, based on the facts, through privacy issues as they come along, as they are encountered and they'll guide and they'll advise. A great privacy professional has already identified that problem about a year ago. Has already developed process and procedures to deal with this. Is already aware of the CJU case law or UK or Irish case law that's pending or on the way that's been decided that will impact on those processes on what you're planning to do and has already done that for next year as well for the next issue. So a great professional is really current, they know what's coming down the tracks and they've already got plans and processes to deal with the commercial risk and the privacy risk to go with it.

Jamal:

Amazing. Awesome. Thank you. So what I took away from that, just to summarize it very quickly, was what you're saying is a good privacy professional deals with the challenges that come to them, they deal with that in a very diligent way and they deal with it well. But a great privacy professional is someone that I can actually see the bigger picture. They've already seen that this was about to come, they've already planned three kinds of responses to it. And all of that is based on what's already happening in the industry, what's happening in other parts of the world, what the key decisions are, and they have this holistic understanding of the whole playing field in which they're playing and they can already see the problems before they come up. And they've already thought about this and they're prepared to already overcome them absolutely.

Gordon:

100%. I mean, I think the difference between a reactive privacy professional and a proactive one, you said it's deal with issues as you face them, or deal with issues that you've already planned for in advance because you know they're coming because you have that holistic overview of what's happening in the market.

Jamal:

Thank you. That was super insightful. You've been the young privacy professional for the Dublin chapter of the IAPP. What have been some of the highlights of that?

Gordon:

There's been quite a few. I have a real pleasure, an honour and a privilege to be nominated last year. I do think I'm probably pushing the term young and really stretching that now in my mid thirt s and I'm not quite sure how young that really is. But the highlights for me has just been assisting and being able to work with the chapter chairs like Kate Colleary, who is the Ireland lead for the IAPP. Kate is phenomenal and she spoke at the IAPP congress this week in Brussels, and Connor Hogan who I worked a lot with and just getting to hear them and again, it's a learning journey. They've got more privacy knowledge than I've ever learned today anyway, so it's just a learning curve. You if see them in action, talking about different topics particularly when Kate moderates the type of questions she asked and what she gets the guest professionals that we would have on board. In previous years obviously being with the IAPP and being the young volunteer. You do a lot more in person events, be there for the drinks, receptions and everything else and the socialize. Which obviously we haven't had and that's been a shame. But it's still been just great to be around them. Phenomenal sessions. A recent one on cybersecurity, was a really great panel, really great feedback. And you’re just there. I mean, thinking when you're there, this is gold, this stuff is so great. I'm here, I get to be part of it. I get to chat to them before and after the sessions as well. And I really kind of ask the questions one to one, which is so phenomenal. I'd love to have a minute of it. And I'd encourage anyone who wants to get involved in an area, just try and volunteer for local IAPP chapter. They're all around the world. I helped out when I was in Dubai and the Middle East chapter there, and they're so great. Got to meet like-minded people, colleagues, and grow your network, which is so important, and get your name out there as well. And look, it comes with a nice fancy title, which looks good on your LinkedIn profile as well. And the brand value in privacy that IAPP brings kind of speaks for itself, to be honest with you.

Jamal:

Yeah, absolutely. And I'm really grateful that IAPP have selected us as an official IAPP training partner. And so we offer individuals the opportunity to come and mentor mentoring programs for the CIPPE, the CIPM and the CIPT. There's a couple of things that you mentioned. So as part of the Academy, we have a twelve-week accelerator program which is designed to take people from where they are now and work with really ambitious people to get to where they want to be so they can have a thriving career, make that massive impact, get more credibility, get more, and ultimately get rewarded more for their investment in themselves. You mentioned a few aspects of what we teach in the Academy. Number one, you mentioned about the importance of having a strong network. And number two, you mentioned about having a strong personal brand. Can you share a little bit more about why both those things are so important for somebody who is young, ambitious and looking to thrive in their career?

Gordon:

ant it is because I did it in:

Jamal:

Thank you so much. That is really valuable piece of wisdom that you shared. And we don't really get too many professionals talking about the softer side other than the privacy related matters. And to hear it from somebody like yourself who's actually been there, done ir, and we can see the results, and you continue to invest in that because you've seen the return on investment. It's absolutely really insightful for myself and for everybody listening. So I really want to say thank you for sharing that. Gordon, one question that we always like to ask, I guess, is you've had so much experience across working for consultancy firms in house legal counsel now at TikTok. What is your most memorable client story that you can share with us without breaching any confidentiality agreements?

Gordon:

that certainly changed since:

Jamal:

It sounds like the leadership in that company really understood what was up and coming and what's going to be important for people. And the fact that they invested so much even before most other companies realized GDPR was going to be a thing shows how forward thinking they are. And I wish them all the best. And I think you're very lucky to have had the opportunity to be traveling all over the world and doing and delivering what you're really passionate about. So I hope you get more of those opportunities and I hope we all get more of those opportunities to really live with passion and get to see more of the world while we're doing that.

Gordon:

Absolutely. I've been very fortunate and very grateful. Thank you so much for that question. I loved sharing it. And I'll always say, if I can help, I will. If there's anything I can share, however small, that gives a bit of insight, a bit of guidance, any help whatsoever. I'm always glad to do so.

Jamal:

You know what you've just said there, Gordon, that's one common thing I found across some of the people, not just in privacy, but in any area, if you look at the people that are really at the top of their game, they're always happy to give back, they're always happy to offer value and be of service. And I think that is what makes all of the guests that we've had on the podcast stand out. And that is what people are attracted to magnetically when they see people doing really well is, these are the people that are doing really well, it's not because they're just doing well for themselves, they actually want to contribute back and add that value. Where do you think that comes from?

Gordon:

Look, I've been lucky enough, I guess, to have a couple of really great mentors in my time. The biggest one stand out for me was Niall Collins, who was a partner in Mason Hayes & Curran. Not a privacy partner, a competition law, but just a phenomenally good guy and would always have time to impart some form of knowledge or guidance or whatever it might be. I think when you're lucky enough to have had someone like that in your career, it helps you so much and brings you on so much and instils in you the importance of being a mentor too at some point down the line, you will be that person, hopefully, having gone in your career and gone up and up and progress. And now people will be coming in behind you who want to get to where you are. And not everyone has the chance to have a great mentor and have someone to help them along the way, which makes it even harder. And some people, they still make it without, but it really does help. I've got younger colleagues in my team I see in their early 20s. They're practically kids, but I want to be able to be that helping hand that I had all those years ago when I was a trainee in an NQ, et cetera. And I love talking about privacy and if you want to have chat, we'll have chat, I give you my opinion, but I think just kind of have a chat about it really and that's it. If I can help you and get my opinion from experience. I've got colleagues who are now going through the training solicitor that I went through and applying to law firms for training contracts and jobs. And I remember how horrendous that was. And so here's a bit of my two cent and the things that I've learned through the journey that will hopefully help you get to where you want to be, that I want to be. I left college smack in the middle of the recession, which is obviously pretty hard in Ireland and in the UK as well. No jobs anywhere, did a Masters, still no jobs. Went to London came back, it was a couple of years before I really got my career going, so I came late to the game. I wasn't a qualified solicitor until I was 30 because I had been trying to do so, trying to stay relevant, stay employed, and keep a skill set going when there were very few jobs. And that gives perspective, it gives experience. And that's sort of things I hope to help other people with.

Jamal:

Yeah. And I think what I really love about what you've just described there is the resilience and the ambition that you've had that got you through, even at 30, to still qualify as a solicitor, not give up on your dreams, and not just qualify and say, you know what? I've qualified, I'm there. But then go on to get all of these additional education, additional certifications, continuous improvement. And one of the things that we really love to promote in the academy is that progress over perfection. You're never going to be able to perfect something, but we always should be making progress. And as long as we're moving in the right direction, then we're moving towards mastery. And I think just listening to you now, you've really summed up and you're someone who actually embodies and living the values that we teach in the academy. So I just really want to say I'm so grateful that we had the opportunity to have this conversation with you and thank you very much for being so open and sharing all this fascinating information with us.

Gordon:

No, thank you. It's been absolute privilege and I wholeheartedly agree, everything you just said in terms of the approach, progress over perfection, I couldn't agree with that more. Thank you so much and it's been an absolute pleasure to talk to you today.

Jamilla:

One more question, but it gives you an opportunity to ask Jamal a question. It can be anything you like, anything that maybe has come up today that you want to ask him.

Gordon:

It's always great to ask other privacy professionals, you've heard my journey. What is it about privacy for you? What does it do for you that keeps you up every day wanting to be CEO of your own company? And what will it be tomorrow that keeps you going?

Jamal:

ked into privacy, I could see:

Gordon:

That's really great and I couldn't agree more. That's what really brought me into TikTok was, it's something that has become so important. We have over a billion users a month on the platform. It is truly global. There's people everywhere, users, young users, and it will have an impact on their lives on every single day. It does. And for me it's making sure that we're doing the right things, we're privacyy respectful, we're committed to online safety and all these great things and that's where I can make a difference. I wanted to move away from the purely commercial privacy where it's just ticking boxes and drafting contracts and making sure everything is in place there to really current issues that are sensitive, that really matter and will have a lasting legacy going forward. So I completely agree with you on that.

Jamal:

Thank you Gordon, it's been an absolute pleasure having you in the podcast. Thank you very much for sharing all of the fascinating and really insightful pieces of advice with all of our listeners.

Gordon:

Thank you very much. Pleasure.

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Jamal:

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Until next time.

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Bye.

Jamal:

Peace be with you.