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Celebrating Women in Privacy - Ellen P. Blanchard, J.D.

To celebrate Women’s Day, Meru Data is proud to showcase a few renowned privacy professionals in this space and share their journey. 

Celebrating Women in Privacy - Ellen P. Blanchard, J.D.
Celebrating Women in Privacy - Ellen P. Blanchard, J.D.

What do you love most about your profession? What excites you about your job? 

“One of the most interesting aspects of working in the legal industry is the fact that every matter is different even when the current legal issue or legal process is similar to matters handled for other clients.  We all develop skills to become experts in particular practice areas, but each matter has its own unique set of facts and circumstances that impact the way any individual matter actually develops.  It makes every day interesting as you think through how the laws and regulations actually apply to the current matter based on those unique facts.  This is true especially in the primary areas where I practice - privacy, cybersecurity, information governance, and eDiscovery.  The law is not settled in these areas and with the rapid change of technology over the last several years there are numerous opportunities to impact the development of the law in these areas.” 


How has your career evolved in the last two to three years?  

“This time last year, I made the decision to leave my role as the Head of Discovery and Information Governance at T-Mobile and join the Information Governance, Privacy, and Cyber Security practice at Norton Rose Fulbright.  That change has allowed me to take what I have learned at T-Mobile and apply those lessons to different clients who have different structures and different risk profiles, particularly in international space.  There are clear links between privacy, cybersecurity and Information Governance – the data can only be accessed if it still exists.  That coupled with the explosion of data and new technologies have created significant opportunities to develop Information Governance programs that address data proactively in order to minimize risks and manage data more effectively.” 


Why do you think privacy is essential for an organization?  

“While there are certainly monetary consequences associated with privacy issues, it is essential for companies to focus on privacy in order to prevent the reputational harm when a company has a breach.  Most people don’t understand the technical challenges that make it hard to protect enterprise data and they certainly do not realize that there are thousands of attacks that were prevented by the security measures most companies employ to prevent breaches.   From their perspective, they trusted the company to hold the data safe and that trust was breached so they may decide not to use that company again.  The privacy rules and standards promote better data hygiene which protects the company when data breaches occur so that there is less risk of reputational harm.” 


From your experience, what skills are essential in what you do? How have your skills helped you be successful in your role? 

“The keys to success in legal are the same as the keys in any profession: 1) the ability to think on your feet to devare leadinge solutions to the challenges that your clients and customers are facing; 2) be able to see how things are interconnected in order to address problems proactively and avoid creating other problems downstream or in the future; and 3) the ability to effectively communicate to teams that you are leading, to the people above you, and to the people from whom you need support to succeed.” 


If you have to go back to the beginning of your career, what advice would you give to your younger self? 

“Make sure you get a seat at the table where information is shared, and the decisions are being made by participating in cross-functional teams and industry organizations throughout your career.  When you first start at a job, it is easy to focus exclusively on the work that you have been assigned and ignore opportunities to get involved and build your brand in other ways.  Participation in cross-functional teams and industry organizations can significantly increase your profile in three distinct ways: a) being seen as a problem solver; b) becoming a go to person for general questions about the various business units; and c) finding and building trust with allies, mentors, mentees and champions.” 


Do you have any closing thoughts or words of wisdom for our readers? 

“There are going to be some really exciting developments over the next few years as cybersecurity and privacy.  The law is not settled, and technology is rapidly changing, including the development and adoption of AI tools.  Cybersecurity and Privacy risks are going to continue providing support for Information Governance programs to proactively manage data.” 


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