Published on Nov 10, 2023
Building a successful career in privacy can be highly rewarding. With privacy concerns at an all-time high, organisations are looking for qualified professionals to help them navigate the complex requirements of data protection laws and regulations.
We appreciate the definition of success means different things to different people and that the path to a successful career is unique for each individual. However, whether you are new to the industry or an experienced professional, there are certain steps you can take that put you on a path heading in the right direction. In this article, we discuss the five steps to building a long and successful career as a privacy and data protection practitioner. But before we do that, let's consider a food analogy.
Some food combinations are simply perfect, like bacon and eggs, fish and chips, or bangers and mash. Just the thought of one inevitably leads to the pairing of the other. Of course, you don't have to eat them together. They're just as delicious whether eaten on their own or paired with any number of different ingredients. There are no rules here, we're all consenting adults, after all. The classic food combinations never go out of fashion and always have a place in our hearts. It's what makes them such great comfort food. It's what makes them classics.
Believe it or not, the same principle applies to data protection training. I know it's a leap but hear us out.
While it's not as mouthwatering a prospect as peanut butter and chocolate (or cheese and crackers if you prefer something savoury), the perfect accompaniment for any practitioner-level data protection law programme worth its salt is the IAPP Certified Information Privacy Manager (CIPM).
See how that rolls off the tongue. It's like strawberries and cream. Okay, maybe not quite like strawberries and cream. In all seriousness, though, the CIPM is the number one industry qualification practitioners look towards to complement their data protection law credentials. It's the difference between understanding data protection law and knowing how to apply it in a practical situation. Because that's the goal here, right?
However, before we get carried away, to be an effective practitioner, you need to develop a fundamental understanding of the rules of the game.
The challenges associated with protecting personal data and meeting regulatory requirements are becoming increasingly demanding, particularly due to the global nature of data flows. This can be a daunting prospect for even the most experienced data protection practitioners.
While there are numerous different learning paths available, professional certifications are an excellent way to acquire new skills in a short period of time. These industry qualifications benefit both employees and companies as they boost the confidence of certified individuals, increase job satisfaction and demonstrate competence in key areas. Furthermore, with modern, flexible teaching methods, individuals can fit learning around their busy lives. One thing we cannot emphasise strongly enough, however, is the importance of selecting qualifications from recognised independent professional bodies.
The difference between obtaining a recognised industry qualification from a respected professional body, which goes to great lengths to ensure their independence and the integrity of the learning programme, can make all the difference when applying for a new job or internal promotion.
As required in ISO/IEC 17024:2012, the international standard for bodies operating certification of persons, to avoid any conflict of interest that could undermine the certificate programme's reputation or bring the exam's integrity into question, the method of certification should be separate from the education and training processes.
One easy way to determine whether a particular data protection training course has the necessary standing is to check how many training companies offer the programme. The professional body should have a list of all the accredited training partners approved to deliver their qualifications on their website. A detailed explanation of the examination process, facilitated by different external partners, should also be available.
The two leading professional bodies operating in the privacy profession are the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) and BCS, the Chartered Institute of IT.
To support industry professionals who require in-depth knowledge of the laws and regulations across multiple jurisdictions, at Freevacy, we offer the following IAPP and BCS accredited data protection training courses:
All of the above data protection training courses share one thing in common—they are all designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of legal provisions relevant to their jurisdiction.
It's worth noting that while we prioritise practical training methods at Freevacy, the primary focus of legal data protection courses is the law.
The key to implementing a successful privacy programme is to acquire the necessary skills. That’s where the CIPM comes into its own.
The IAPP Certified Information Privacy Manager (CIPM) is the ideal qualification for practitioners trained in data protection law because it covers the practical implementation and ongoing management of privacy operations.
The CIPM includes sections on:
Simply put, CIPM holders possess the skills to translate data protection law into the policies and procedures organisations require to create workable everyday practices.
Think of ordering CIPM, like a server in McDonald's asking if you want fries and coke with your burger. The way the practical skills learnt in CIPM compliments the knowledge gained from legal data protection training makes them a classic pairing. We'll leave it to you to decide which legal jurisdiction suits your learning needs most.
It's important to remember that building a successful career takes time and effort. Just like running a marathon, it requires dedication, patience, and persistence.
While the skills acquired in data protection training courses provide a solid foundation, it is different from the knowledge gained from years of experience in the real world.
Real-world experiences offer a valuable opportunity to apply what you have learned in the classroom to practical situations and learn from the feedback you receive. As and when you encounter challenges, you can use these experiences to identify what went wrong and adapt your approach to achieve better outcomes. Continuous improvement is also an essential part of privacy operations management and programme maturity benchmarking. This kind of iterative learning process is difficult to replicate in a classroom setting. In addition, experience helps to develop problem-solving skills and builds resilience, which, in turn, leads to further confidence in your ability to handle complex situations.
Classroom learning and experience are both valuable, but it is the combination of both that is the blueprint for developing the skills and mindset needed for a successful career in privacy.
The role of the data protection practitioner has evolved significantly in recent years. Today, ensuring privacy compliance is not only a legal requirement but also a critical business imperative.
As businesses increasingly invest in digital transformation and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, modern privacy professionals are being asked to evolve into broader data specialists. To fulfil this expanding remit, practitioners must look beyond legal data protection training and CIPM to develop their capabilities to include a comprehensive understanding of the data lifecycle throughout the organisation. These new areas of competence should incorporate the non-legal aspects of information risk management and safeguarding personal data use in technology, such as privacy engineering and AI governance, which has profound implications for privacy, transparency, bias, discrimination, fairness, and ethics.
While professional certifications and years of experience are essential, staying up-to-date with current industry events is equally important. Many practitioners tend to overlook the importance of staying informed, but it is a key element in building a successful career.
One of the best ways to stay informed is by subscribing to a reliable and up-to-date news service. We've previously written about 5 essential data protection resources. One such option is our very own Privacy Newsfeed, a free service providing information about any advancements in case law, policy updates, guidance materials, enforcement actions, regulatory notices, industry and related technology news, all in one place.
When you consider the speed at which technology is changing in areas such as AI, it's more important than ever to keep abreast of the latest trends and developments. In doing so, practitioners can prepare for upcoming challenges and opportunities, comprehend the impact of these changes, gain insights from the enforcement experiences of others, and ensure compliance with laws and regulations.
In summary, by making a commitment to lifelong learning and development, working hard to gain valuable experience and staying informed about industry events, you will be on the path to a long and successful career in privacy.
But don’t forget your CIPM.
Freevacy has been shortlisted in the Best Educator category. The PICCASO Privacy Awards recognise the people making an outstanding contribution to this dynamic and fast-growing sector.