Michelle Dennedy: A day in the life of a privacy expert

Michelle Dennedy: A day in the life of a chief privacy officer

Michelle Finneran Dennedy currently serves as VP and Chief Privacy Officer at Cisco. She is responsible for the development and implementation of the organization's data privacy policies and practices, working across business groups to drive data privacy excellence across the security continuum. Here is a day in the life of Michelle who is speaking today at SxSW.

Today I woke up at 5am—I try to wake the same time wherever I am on the planet to avoid jet lag as much as possible. I’m at my least creative without lots of sleep.

The first thing I did was, sadly, make coffee. I try to kick it but I love the smell & taste & green tea just won’t do at 5am.

My morning ritual includes… On weekdays when I have my girls with me, I wake them with a hot chocolate and a cuddle before I start making loud noises stumbling through P90x3. On weekends we pile into my bed and cuddle for as long as they’ll let me. I’ve tried to really simplify my life this year and be in the moment as much as possible—particularly when my girls—9 & 14—are around.  It’s incredible how much they teach me about everything.

I started working at 12. I did babysitting every Friday night (once a nerd…) and I volunteered as a junior docent at the Corning Glass Museum.

My biggest challenge was/is being true to myself while trying to be all things to all people—it’s a terrible thing to slowly let your own self worth drain away while trying to be superwoman. If you are unloved, say something to your partner or make a change; if you cannot do everything, be present in the things you are doing and politely say no to the things you may love to do but for which you simply do not have time to do. That’s a very difficult thing for me.

I celebrated every minute I get to be a mom to my girls, whether they know it or not. I feel the same way when my team and the incredible people in my life get good things. I celebrate when we live through dark times. I may not win, but I can’t be stopped from picking myself up and starting all over again.

What I love most about my work is that data privacy, ethics and safely connecting everything and everyone is an intellectual, mystical, human, technical, social, cultural and human puzzle. I view data privacy as one of the most critical human rights issue for the entire planet for the 21st century. It sounds outrageous when I think about it that way, but I can’t think of many things more critical than reflecting on our humanity, imperfect yet evolving though it may be, in the way we get to tell our stories, learn things, trade things, and leave a better world for our kids.  That’s big. And fun. And it calls truly wondrous humans to the table again and again.

My favorite part of the day was when I figured something out that’s been bugging me and I realize the answer is dead simple.

Least favorite when someone I love treats me so badly for so long that I no longer see it. I think we get as blind to poor treatment as we do for amazing moments right beneath our noses. We forget to treat ourselves as well as we want to treat others.

I am so glad that I get to be with fantastic people and learn all the time.

I wish I had nicer legs. That’s about it. Even in a period of hardship & mourning, I am truly blessed.

Something that surprised me was how many people want to help—build things, rebuild other things. We are a social species and better together.

Did you have a plan for your day? Did it go as planned? Never goes as planned!! 

I want to recognize my older sister Suzanne for helping me with my daughter when she was frightened and felt her parents had lost their collective minds.

How do you commute? I would LOVE a public transit system in Silicon Valley—I HATE traffic and we excel in creating it for seemingly no reason at all!

For lunch I drop crumbs on my keyboard more often than not.

A personal activity I do just for myself is rare!!

I most enjoyed spending time with my girls and friends near and far. Making new friends.

For dinner I typically eat standing up. I need better feeding habits…

My favorite technology that I used today is my phone and my car. I don’t know if they are my favorites but we certainly see a lot of each other.

I am inspired by beauty, love, simplicity and people who speak their expertise with simplicity when you can clearly see it’s absurdly complex. 

Did you meditate? Did you exercise? I LOVE the app Buddhify & use it nearly every day. I also use a micro meditation strategy during difficult conversations where I slowly breathe in the word “Peace” & out the word “Freedom.” Often I do this during a rather content free familiar rant so I focus on coloring in each letter as I am breathing or select an image in my mind palace.  I hope to present a serene mask to the abusive personality but I’m okay if I simply look like a non-plussed, slightly dopey listener. Then, I try to erase the mean stuff from my day.

Exercise is very important to my sanity.  I need to have more of it in my life as I am growing into my solid middle agedness.

One strategy I use to make my time more effective is—still haven’t nailed this one down!!

I am passionate about privacy, people, my family & friends

Something I wanted to get done but didn’t get to do was be a guest on Oprah to teach girls and minorities that they are not only okay in high tech but that we desperately NEED them! Diversity isn’t an act of charity—it’s a business and political essential.

A dream I am currently focused on fulfilling is creating a dual book accounting system for data to help organizations fulfill asset value, promote social values and take risk with other people’s data with a sense of responsibility and honor.

I can’t live without Ms Thang & Sweet Cheeks.

Today I felt nervous for SxSw—I’ve never been & I’m afraid it’s gonna be a Zoo—I am actually a well trained introvert and don’t do well in crowds.

I went to sleep at 9pm

Tomorrow I am looking forward to Austin or bust baby!

Watch Michelle on YouTube as she discusses the complexity of security and thinks that its going to get worse before it gets better in the world of online security

Michelle on Interzone Banff

Michelle on digital safety for your home and children on the internet

Interzone 2015 Banff Michelle Dennedy Keynote & Generation Terrorists Panel SD

Michelle Finneran Dennedy currently serves as VP and Chief Privacy Officer at Cisco. She is responsible for the development and implementation of the organization's data privacy policies and practices, working across business groups to drive data privacy excellence across the security continuum.

Before joining Cisco, Michelle founded The iDennedy Project, a public service organization to address privacy needs in sensitive populations, such as children and the elderly, and emerging technology paradigms. Michelle is also a founder and editor in chief of a new media site—TheIdentityProject.com—that was started as an advocacy and education site, currently focused on the growing crime of Child ID theft.

Michelle was the Vice President for Security & Privacy Solutions for the Oracle Corporation. This team worked closely with customers to enable them to proceed with the confidence that information is protected and accelerated as an asset. Before the Oracle acquisition of Sun, Michelle was Chief Data Governance Officer within the Cloud Computing division at Sun Microsystems, Inc. Michelle worked closely with Sun's business, technical and legal teams to create the best data governance policies and processes possible for cloud computing in order to build trust for cloud environments through vendor transparency. Michelle also served as Sun’s Chief Privacy Officer.

Michelle is a sought-after and provocative public speaker, evangelizing new approaches and business justifications for soundly-defined, transparent security and privacy policies and systems that protect healthy, safe global businesses.

Michelle has a JD from Fordham University School of Law and a Bachelor of Science degree with university honors from The Ohio State University. In 2009, she was awarded the Goodwin Procter-IAPP Vanguard award for lifetime achievement and the EWF – CSO Magazine Woman of Influence award for work in the privacy and security fields. In 2012, she was recognized by the National Diversity Council as one of California’s Most Powerful & Influential Women. In 2014 she was cited as an AlwaysOn Power Player in On-Demand Computing and was honored as the Gold Stevie award as Woman of the Year in Technology.