People of Kuma – Jenn Behrens
An animal lover (she has 2 great danes, 2 cats, 5 fish, and 2 hermits), a cancer-warrior (she beat breast cancer and is now in remission), and a to-do list lover, Doctor Jenn Behrens is more than meets the eye. Learn how she’s always looking to better herself for Kuma’s team and their clients.
Tell us about your role. What’s a typical day like?
As Partner and Executive Vice President, Privacy & Security, I oversee privacy and security engagements for the company and actively deliver on several of the engagements. Additionally, I drive business development activities, participate in marketing, represent Kuma and clients at events, and generally provide oversight and guidance for the Privacy and Security Teams.
As a morning person, a typical day consists of waking up around 5:00 am and working for about an hour–-catching up on emails, finalizing reports, or processing activities for the day–-before I get my workout in at 6:30 am. Since I am training to run the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim trail, a typical workout consists of running several miles or getting in a strength training workout. My trainer just moved me to several two-a-days a week, so I’m also typically sore these days.
By mid-day, I am participating in various client meetings where I represent them as CISO or CPO through our virtual engagements. I’ll finish out the day with writing reports, working on project tasks, and conducting analyses. However, due to clients being in different time zones, I’ll also have some later meetings, but try to keep them down to only two or three times a week to maintain a healthy work-life balance. When I’m not working late, you can find me out on a date night with my SO or spending time with my kids, whether it be hiking, fishing, or even attending to some yard work as a family.
As a true super nerd, I try to do some sort of professional development every week. Whether it’s light research in security or privacy, digging into a specific topic for a client (like consent in the context of sensitive data exchange), or attending a webinar, I do my best to fit this into my busy schedule. Not only does it help me get better at my job by staying on top of the ever-changing industry, but it also allows me to help our clients out more by applying relevant innovations and industry best practices.
What’s been your proudest moment at Kuma?
I am consistently proud of my work at Kuma, and in particular of the members of the Privacy and Security Teams as they grow and evolve as leading professionals in their respective industries. My overall proudest moments are always seeing how our Privacy and Security Teams provide meaningful and consequential work for our clients, while our team members themselves continue to mature and excel professionally. When we work with a client, we often do assessments of compliance, and from this, clients can choose to move forward with our suggestions or forego them. When clients choose to move forward and implement changes in their organization, it’s a moment of fierce pride for our work.
One of my proudest moments in the privacy sector of Kuma is when we conducted an assessment of privacy compliance for an organization that had no formal privacy guidelines or appointed privacy officer. We provided a roadmap with suggested activities to mitigate gaps, in conjunction with a security assessment. Not only did they formalize a privacy program, but they sent a newly appointed privacy officer to training, gave them a budget, and made immediate changes in how they were communicating with clients and their workforce. I received a call from their newly appointed privacy officer who filled me in on how this organization took everything to heart and made the appropriate changes. These types of moments make me realize how big of an impact Kuma has on other organizations.
Another one of my proudest moments reflects our commitment to long-term partnerships with organizations, often as they scale and go through periods of rapid growth and expansion. Since it can typically take six to nine months to see a cultural change towards security in an organization, we often operate on faith and patience with an onboarded client that they will accept recommended security changes. Recently, we started seeing the results of our efforts and our vision for how the organization would evolve and mature its security practices. And we witnessed this not just from our main point of contact, but also throughout the organization’s different departments. We knew we were being effective in our work and making a positive difference when all parts of the organization started absorbing a security-forward thinking state.
What do your friends think you do?
If you ask my sister, mother, or even best friend what I do, they’d probably say something along the lines of, “She keeps telling us but we don’t really get it. All we know is she’s in privacy and security, but she absolutely loves what she does and she’s really good at it.”
If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be and why?
As someone who likes to constantly achieve more and get better at things, going after something out of the ordinary is fairly normal for me. I recently watched Somm on Netflix which explores the world of becoming a Master Sommelier. A sommelier is a wine expert who specializes in wine and food pairing and is knowledgeable about all things wine-related. I was captivated by this because there are less than 200 Master Sommeliers in the world, and the test to become a Master Sommelier has one of the lowest pass rates on the planet.
It flipped a switch in me and I thought, “I can do that!”. I have an incredibly high capacity for cognitive challenges and I am very passionate about learning. So, of course, the thought of studying for such a high bar is fascinating to me. Plus, the “field testing” could be pretty fun, and everyone could use a Master Sommelier at a party.
Who inspires you?
While we’re all dealt with our own set of cards, it’s truly inspirational to see how people take the cards they are dealt with and succeed. My sister is one of those remarkable people, whose commitment to being the best she can be despite life’s obstacles, is a constant source of inspiration for me. She is one of the smartest people I know and is probably the hardest worker I’ve ever met. Her ability to balance motherhood to children with health issues with driving a successful career is just one of the reasons why I look up to her. Of course, her wicked sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either.
What’s your favorite local business?
I have two that I absolutely love. The first is a local winery, King Family Vineyards. They have great wine and bucolic vistas of the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. Between May and October, you can find me here with friends and family almost every Sunday enjoying a polo match “tailgate style.” It’s a great time to be outside, to be with friends, and experience a great local business.
The other local business is my personal trainer, Nikki Hart, at Charlottesville Fitness and ACAC. Nikki is phenomenal at convincing you to stretch and reach for seemingly impossibly fitness goals. Before my diagnosis of cancer, she had me competing in bench press competitions and 200-mile relay races and more. Even though my rehabilitation started just a few months ago, Nikki now has me doing 8-10 mile trail runs several days a week, competing in monthly obstacle course races, and somehow now training to run the Grand Canyon. Between Nikki and the great community of people who train with her, I’m graciously regaining my physical endurance and enjoying a greater positive social network.
What advice do you have for someone interested in joining the privacy and security sector?
Jump in, the water is warm!
I think security can be a daunting field to get into, particularly for women. There are not as many women represented in the security field. However, I will say it has been a fascinating journey and I highly recommend it. The interaction of technological advances and security rigor is increasingly complex and demanding, particularly in the healthcare and public health spaces. I encourage anyone who has an interest in promoting effective and efficient healthcare to consider driving change and value through a security career which can be as valuable as through direct service.
Interestingly, privacy is more balanced between genders and is one of the most welcoming fields in which I have worked. For years, privacy was presumed to be a legal career, but now more than ever privacy is trending towards practitioners rather than being populated mostly by lawyers. I strongly encourage those who are thinking of getting into this field to not be discouraged if you don’t have a legal credential. Privacy practitioners are driving cultural adoption of commitment to privacy within organizations, and serve as great counterparts to legal privacy experts.