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Whistle-stop Wednesdays: Becoming an expert in Data Protection

We spoke with Shannon Smith, Senior Data Protection Executive, about her career so far in Corporate Governance.

What do you do in Admiral and how long have you been working here?

I have been with Admiral for just over two and half years. I joined at Executive level and was promoted to Senior Executive on my second-year anniversary. As a Senior Executive, I get to coach and mentor newer team members and design and deliver internal training. I also take the lead in privacy-impact assessments and generally act as a role model to the team in terms of best practice when conducting work. I also act as a representative for the team, attending forums on data protection issues, supporting the business on technical knowledge, and dealing with senior stakeholders. With a background in Information Technology, I’ve quickly found myself supporting areas such as Data and Analytics (DnA), the Cloud Programme, and Telematics. I’ve had the opportunity to support our Pricing department, the Pricing Working Group and Veygo and now my focus is supporting Admiral Group’s new dynamic venture, Admiral Pioneer. My involvement with these areas has led to exciting opportunities such as working with the Alan Turing Institute on a collaboration, attending external meetings with senior players in the Telematics market, and attending the Data Science Academy at Cardiff University. I’ve also had the opportunity to travel to Admiral’s Rome office, Conte, as part of our annual Data Protection Symposium, where I presented to our Data Protection colleagues across the Group.

How did you get into your role? What is your background?

I graduated with a degree in IT in July 2018. My degree’s focus was around developing the skills you need to understand an organisation's information and technical needs, web development, computer programming, GIS, technical and end-user support, application development, databases, and modelling. Whilst the technical aspect of this was fantastic, I always found myself enjoying the governance modules a lot more and found a particular interest in data protection. After graduating, I applied for this position at Executive level using the Admiral Jobs website and was successful in my application.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I really enjoy being able to continually learn about things that I am passionate about, such as technology, and particularly being female, learning about technology whilst in a governance type role is so rewarding. During my degree, I became a Science Technology Maths and Engineering (STEM) ambassador to help encourage young females to take up tech-based roles; I found that most of the misconception about STEM roles is that they are too technical, and I think my role here at Admiral is a perfect example as to why it’s not. What keeps me motivated are the opportunities I find myself landing and the experience I gain from these. I constantly question whether I am good enough, which is why I absolutely love my team and management and the trust they have for me.

What can you tell us about the most exciting change or project happening within your area?

There are lots of exciting changes happening in the Data Protection department; plenty of recruitment and the creation of different roles which is great to expand the team, meet new people, allow more focus on individual roles and a better opportunity to progress the teams’ individual careers as there is more space to grow. In addition, I am particularly excited to directly support Admiral Pioneer and Veygo, as I can work with lots of new people and help bring the new and upcoming ventures to delivery.

Do you think there are lots of opportunities to grow and develop here?

Yes, regardless of what stage you are at in your career, if you show that you are interested and are hardworking, you will be trusted to do things that you don’t even feel you should be doing, and this naturally leads to more and more opportunities. There are several qualifications available to our team; a year and a half into my role, I was given to the opportunity to sit CIPP/E – Certification IAAM Exam, which I successfully passed. There is also always opportunity to be rewarded, for example, in my first year, I was nominated and chosen for an Admiral Group Star Lunch award, hosted by senior management. I was also chosen to attend the European Data Protection Summit & Dinner held in London which gave me the opportunity to network with many data protection privacy and security professionals, most notably Max Schrems, who is well known for privacy activism, at such an early stage of my career.

What’s the culture like in your area? How has this adapted with remote working?

Second to none. Everyone is extremely friendly, easy to get along with and always eager to help one another. As mentioned previously, each one of us is tasked with learning something new each day but we share this with one another to expand our knowledge of the business, as we recognise that collectively we can do things better. Remote working has of course been a challenge, but this has been managed by various formats of catch ups, weekly meetings, quizzes, and face to face sessions when safe to do so.

Do you have any advice for someone looking to join your area?

My main piece of advice would be that Admiral’s Data Protection department differs massively to that of other companies. We are particularly large in size and support everything within the business from your general Car Insurance product to machine learning models. Therefore, regardless of your background, a willingness to learn is key. Other important skills and characteristics I’d say is to have adaptability, be ready to speak up, have an analytical mindset but also have the ability to see the bigger picture. 

 

View our current vacancies in Corporate Governance.


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