10 years ago, I was living in Massachusetts looking over a snowy landscape (28 inches deep) on a drab, grey day. More snow was in the forecast and shoveling it from my driveway was not something I was excited about. Maybe, I thought, it was time to move south.
With Florida in my sights, and with my wife’s backing, the biggest hurdle was employment. For my entire career, I had worked for someone else from startups to large corporations. During these various jobs I had always dealt with privacy related issues, most recently at that time, for a large office supply retailer managing and expanding the global privacy program.
A few years earlier, my oldest son had left his first (and only) corporate job and opened a successful CrossFit box. I took inspiration from him and began exploring the possibility of opening my own business. I had several conversations with John Bruce, the CEO of CO3 Systems at the time, and Ted Julian, CO3’s then VP Product Marketing, for ideas and guidance. On July 4, 2012, Privacy Ref was started.
The plan was for me to be an independent consultant. Through Ted, I was introduced to Mike Stavrianos, the Founding Principal at ASR Analytics. Mike was looking to add a privacy pro to his team to do a performance audit of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Privacy Ref had its first assignment. It was soon followed by an engagement with Microfridge to perform a privacy assessment, remediation, and training.
The International Association of Privacy Professionals was a big part of those early days as well. Trevor Hughes, IAPP’s CEO, invited me to the IAPP offices and arranged meetings with several departments. Dick Soule, at the time IAPP’s Certification Director, invited me to join the IAPP training facilitators team something I am very proud of and appreciative. Eventually this led to Privacy Ref becoming an IAPP Official Training Partner.
In February 2014 Privacy Ref added an employee. I had so much privacy work to do, there was no time for finding new clients. Ben Siegel, my son, joined me to fill that gap. As the privacy workload grew, Ben acquired IAPP certifications, including becoming a Fellow of Information Privacy, to assist with the privacy workload while still leading webinars for privacy pros and novices globally.
We have witnessed a lot of changes in the past ten years – both within our company and throughout the privacy industry. Over the years, our company has continued to grow, yet retains the profile of a boutique privacy consulting firm. As privacy laws and regulations continue to evolve, we recognize the valuable opportunity that a team of privacy experts presents to our clients. As privacy technology evolves we have become experts in the implementation of the OneTrust and TrustArc tools.
One thing that has not changed in the last decade is our commitments to our values, our mission, and the success of our clients. I am sincerely grateful to those who have helped establish our company and these principles. Our clients, our team, our partners, those thought leaders mentioned above and many others including Garrett Williams, Terry McQuay, Rebecca Herold, Jill Eastman, Kevin Irwin, Alex Nelsas, Paul Gray, Jim Campbell, and Katy Kreiger all have contributed to the shaping of the services we deliver and our core principles to make our clients successful.
The Privacy Ref team and I are looking forward to the next 10 years, anxious to see what new opportunities (challenges?) the evolving privacy landscape will bring.