Career Notes 6.19.22
Ep 105 | 6.19.22

Lauren Van Wazer: You have to be your own North Star. [CISSP]


Lauren Van Wazer: Hello, my name is Lauren Van Wazer and I am Vice President, Global Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs, for Akamai Technologies.

Lauren Van Wazer: So I wasn't someone who had a particular profession and emblazoned on my forehead from when I was young. I just, I enjoyed doing a lot of things everything from language, mathematics, um, outdoors. But I had a father who was a PhD engineer and who said to me, okay, Lauren, you know, you like doing so many things, but you'll never pick up an engineering textbook for fun on a Saturday night but you would pick up something in history or languages and so why don't you give that a shot? And so I went into engineering. I have a BSE in system science engineering, uh, very few women in my field at the time. There were 5% women in my major, um, believe it or not, that was not yesterday and there are only 9% women in my major today. 

Lauren Van Wazer: I think having had an engineering background has made all the difference in the world, uh, in my career because I think engineering gives one an analytic and rigorous approach to problem solving, uh, which I ultimately became a lawyer later on and it's sort of two disciplines that have a different way of looking at problems, analytically and I think the engineering background was a great grounding. It also has given me a fluency in technology, um, which has been critical and all of the work that I've done. I work in an area where law, technology, and policy overlap and so having that technical background gave me a fluency that has been very valuable. 

Lauren Van Wazer: So I was a network engineer for AT&T uh, in Northern Virginia doing network planning for Pennsylvania and Virginia and then decided to go to law school at night. Got AT&T to pay for law school, which was my first successful bid at advocacy. Then I clerked for a federal judge and went into private practice after that. But I think what was interesting was even though I was an environmental lawyer, it was always in areas that were deeply heavily technology-based. So, I mean, leave it to the engineering degree within 10 years of reentering the workplace having been a stay at home mom, I was doing cybersecurity policy at the White House. I was the lead for cybersecurity policy in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, dual hatted with the National Security Council. 

Lauren Van Wazer: So every job in the White House is a temp job right? And so, you know, really needed to think about what I was going to do next and had the very fortunate opportunity to start the public policy function at Akamai Technologies and it's been marvelous. In two weeks it'll be nine years that have been Akamai, and I've started and grew the function to a worldwide function. I've got purview in over 140 different countries around the world um, so I'm tracking cyber everywhere. It's not a job for someone who likes sameness, it involves, uh, interpreting, monitoring, uh, legislation and regulation around the world. So for a company like Akamai it's cybersecurity, internet, regulation, things like net neutrality, um, it's advising the company on positions to take. So, you know, briefing my senior executives briefing our board and basically I'm the one-stop interface with all things in terms of the government. So, I don't have government sales as part of my function, but any other interaction our company has with the government is something that I'm a part of.

Lauren Van Wazer: I'm definitely like a coach, leader and collaborative. We necessarily have to be collaborative. I've got a small team and we're interfacing with very senior leaders around the company around the world. Um, and I view my empowering of the people who work for me as the most important part of managing them and so my view is I've got their back, if they make a mistake, it's my mistake, and if they do well, they've done well.

Lauren Van Wazer: I hope to have made an impact in the policy area that makes the world a little bit of a better place. I like the Girl Scout motto, wanting to leave a campsite a little better than when you found it. So I've had a career working to promote getting broadband. I worked at the FCC for a long time, getting broadband to places that didn't have it before or improving cybersecurity. I've had a key role in facilitating wifi technology. Just having been able to have a seat in the front row at some of the major technological transformations we've had in the past 20 plus years and have had a little role in helping to make them happen.

Lauren Van Wazer: Just do it, don't listen to any naysayer. You have to be your own North Star. I mean, nobody would have said, oh, geez. Or you're a stay at home mom. Oh, you know, within a decade, it'd be at the White House. Right? Oh geez you've done this or that just don't listen to anybody. You know, it's your career ladder you make it what you want and it's natural for it to have twists and turns. So don't get discouraged. Take the risks and do things that you think will be really cool and, and be an engineer or do something technical, it's just been an extraordinary journey for me.