Throughout my years in IT, product management, software development, and systems analysis, my Mother never understood what I do. It hasn’t been her fault, but mine; I couldn’t explain in “plain English” what I did. Since becoming a privacy professional she now understands. It may be not as good as being a doctor, but at least she can explain it to her friends.
“The Mother Test”
For years I have used what I call “The Mother Test”. If I needed to design a user interface I’d ask myself “could my mother use it?” If I was developing a presentation the question would be “would Mom understand this?” Sometimes I’d even subtly (usually without her knowing) test my approach with her.
I use “The Mother Test” because Mom usually represented many of the attributes of the audience I was trying to address. Generally, I was successful in getting Mom to understand…except for one area. I could never get the elevator pitch about my role right with Mom.
My son, the Privacy Pro
When privacy became my full time occupation I wondered how I would explain it to Mom. It was easier than I thought.
For the first time my occupation directly touched my Mother’s life. “Mom, you know how you share your name and address and credit card numbers to buy something on-line? Well, I help companies understand how to protect that information.” You could see the understanding as she listened to my explanation. I may not be a doctor, but I am contributing to society.
Mom explained to me her perspective on the importance of keeping personal information private. Without knowing it, Mom explained the principle of Collection Limitation to me (“why do doctors keep asking for social security numbers?” is how she started).
And, yes, Mom can (finally) explain to her friends what I do for a living.
My mother, the Privacy Watchdog
Today, it is not unusual for Mom to give me a call to share how she has dealt with a call from “Microsoft” about the viruses on her computer. Or, when she is visiting us and takes the time to review her emails, for Mom to share the most recent phishing attempt she ignored. I have even overheard Mom discussing privacy topics with her friends.
Yes, I can say my Mother understands my work.
Happy Mothers’ Day!