Laura Sheridan blog post

Tech& Women: Interview with Laura Sheridan

SIIA is celebrating Women’s History month by profiling innovative women thought leaders in the AI, ed tech and the privacy space. We’re proud to profile Laura Sheridan, Head of Patent Policy at Google. Sheridan advocates for an effective patent examination process, a patent litigation system that operates fairly for all participants, and transparency in these areas.

What’s your favorite part of the role (don’t worry, it can be nerdy!)

Collaborating with stakeholders across industries to help bring about a balanced patent system.

What are some of the jobs you’ve held in the past?

I was the Head of Patent Portfolio Strategy at Google, where I defined Google’s global patent portfolio strategy.

Before joining Google, I worked at WilmerHale on patent prosecution, litigation, due diligence, and post-grant proceedings before the Patent Office.

What was something you learned that you still use today?

Two (or ideally more) heads are better than one.

Is there anything you would go back and do differently?

I wouldn’t have gone straight to a law firm from college. While I have loved the path my career has taken, it would have been exciting to work as a practicing engineer before making the shift to law. I engaged regularly with engineers in my work as a patent attorney, but I never actually practiced as one aside from a summer internship at Lockheed Martin.

What is something unique about your work style?

I try to treat every opportunity to speak and share my thoughts as equally important, whether it’s during an internal meeting or at a conference. I like to prepare ahead of time, making sure I can succinctly deliver my main point. Afterwards, I conduct my own ‘mini postmortem’ to see how I could have communicated better. Clear communication is critical for this role –      even the smallest interactions can result in big learnings.

How/why did you get interested in this field?

I have worked in patents since I graduated from college with an engineering degree. I have loved it the entire time. There’s nothing more exciting than being around technology. When I started on this path, I went to work at an IP boutique law firm as a patent agent and attended law school at night. It was a slog – because it takes an extra year to go at night! The work experience during those four years of law school was invaluable.

What are your top predictions for the field (your focus area e.g., AI, edtech, privacy) in 2022?

I expect to see collaboration across industries to truly address patent quality and litigation fairness.

How do you think we can advance opportunities and recruitment for women, who are traditionally underrepresented in privacy, AI, and tech policy?

By having visible role models in these careers for women to engage with, which helps them to be aware of and      stick with these career paths.

Where do you see the greatest opportunities for women in 5, 10 and 15 years?

There are so many opportunities for women in patent law and policy, with roles in industry, government and academia!

What is one piece of advice you wish you had known when you were starting out?

Get to know as many people as possible as soon as possible. There’s no reason to wait until you’re out of law school to start making connections.

What is your organization doing to build mentorship opportunities for women and minorities who are interested in the field?

Google’s Legal Summer Institute is really tremendous. The program aims to improve access to in-house careers at tech companies by expanding opportunities and removing barriers for underrepresented talent in the legal industry.

How is your organization building professional development opportunities?

Google has an Outside Counsel LEAD (Leadership, Education, Advancement and Diversity) Mentoring Program, which seeks to enhance leadership, career development, and access opportunities for women and minority associates by providing mentoring, resources and support.

What are some of the professional development opportunities or people that have made the greatest difference to you and your career?

The Engineering Department at Cornell, where I got my BS in mechanical engineering, really started me off on the right path with visibility into many different career options. They were so dedicated to recruitment of their undergraduate students and provided useful resources along the way.

Are there any non-work activities you engage in that lift women professionally?

I helped to form the NY chapter of ChIPs in collaboration with a group of amazing women in IP. Our goal is to build bridges between women in the field so that there are more connections being made and more visibility into different career options. This has been especially important with the virtual world we’ve been living in for the last two years.

SIIA Stands #UnitedforPrivacy on the Need for Federal Privacy Legislation

Jeff Joseph, SIIA President, calls on Congress to enact comprehensive federal privacy legislation. SIIA is part of a broad coalition of associations and thought leaders who are #UnitedforPrivacy. Properly crafted comprehensive federal privacy legislation will uphold pro-democratic principles, support cross-border data flows, provide meaningful consumer safeguards, and level the playing field for businesses regardless of size. It will harmonize stakeholder needs and support a stronger, more robust global digital economy based on democratic values.

In light of the global pandemic, the recent turmoil in Ukraine, as well as other world events, NOW is the time to pass a federal privacy law.

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SIIA Statement on the Illegal Russian Invasion of Ukraine

SIIA joins the global community in standing with the people of Ukraine and condemning the unprovoked, illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The horrific acts being committed by the Russian government against the people and sovereign nation of Ukraine will stand among the worst crimes against humanity in mankind’s sordid history of war and conflict. We applaud the Biden administration and free nations around the world for taking strong and targeted measures to support the Ukrainian people in their heroic fight for freedom and self-determination.

As governments around the world continue these efforts, we urge caution as some consider  measures to disrupt or prevent access to the internet by the Russian people. We fear such actions will undermine critical efforts to organize opposition to the war, disseminate first-person accounts of atrocities committed by the Russian military and acts of bravery conducted by Ukrainians, and supply food, medical and other assistance to distressed communities. Few among us have been unmoved by the viral videos enabled by access to social media platforms and the internet: The defiant speeches by President Zelenskyy. The brave individual acts of national defense including standing in the path of Russian tanks. The inhumane bombings of hospitals, schools and residential neighborhoods by the Russian aggressors. The strength of the indefatigable human spirit as expressed by the young girl singing a Disney classic while seeking safety in an air raid shelter.

Repressing internet access to Russian citizens will unintentionally bolster efforts by the Russian government to suppress the truth and censor efforts to report openly and honestly about Ukraine to citizens in Russia and around the world. Indeed, disrupting, restricting or preventing access all together goes against democratic principles of an open and free internet and runs counter to SIIA’s historic and continuing support for free speech.

The debate over restricting internet access to Russian citizens underscores the need to ensure democratic values underpin global digital regulation. We must fight for a free and open internet as authoritarian regimes around the world seek to use the power of digital connectivity to suppress their people and promote propaganda. The events in Ukraine further demonstrate the need for U.S. leadership on global digital regulation as well as alignment with our democratic allies.

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SIIA has made a donation to World Central Kitchen and #ChefsForUkraine as they serve thousands of fresh meals to Ukrainian families fleeing their homes as well as those still in the country. We are proud of our many members who are providing substantial support to assist the people of Ukraine and are working tirelessly to help secure the safety of their employees and their families in the country. Examples include:

  • Adobe is helping with humanitarian efforts, including a series of grants from the Adobe Foundation totaling over $1 million.
  • Meta is taking extensive steps to fight the spread of misinformation and helping humanitarian organizations spread their message through free advertising across its platforms.
  • Google and its employees have made substantial monetary donations. In addition, Google is helping trusted humanitarian and intergovernmental organizations connect people to important sources of aid and resettlement information.
  • Pearson committed over $1 million to charities that support humanitarian relief and is actively supporting Ukrainian employees and their families.
  • RELX is donating to the UNICEF Ukraine appeal. In addition, RELX is supporting team members in Russia, who continue to work under challenging circumstances and is providing tools to help Ukrainian citizens document potential evidence of war crimes using their smartphones, along with other tools.
  • Wiley has pledged $1 million to UNICEF, The International Rescue Committee and other humanitarian organizations. 
  • Cengage is supporting their partners in Ukraine and limiting services business with Russia.

For SIIA members and others seeking to provide support for the Ukrainian people, below is a list of organizations, compiled and vetted by the American Society of Association Executives, providing assistance and a measure of relief to people in Ukraine and beyond:

UNICEF

UNICEF supports health, nutrition, safe drinking water, sanitation and protection for children and families caught in the conflict in Ukraine.

Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders

MSF conducts a range of activities in Ukraine to help people travel to health care facilities and access prescribed medications.

International Committee of the Red Cross

ICRC helps people affected by the war, supports the work of the Ukrainian Red Cross, and serves as a vigilant protector of civilians caught in armed conflict zones.

Save the Children

The London-based organization delivers essential humanitarian aid to vulnerable children in Ukraine and around the world.

UN Refugee Agency

The international organization provides emergency assistance to families in Ukraine, including cash assistance and opportunities for resettlement.

Voices of Children

The charitable foundation of this organization provides psychological and psychosocial support to children affected by the Ukrainian conflict.

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Statement endorsing Doreen Bogdan-Martin for ITU by Jeff Joseph, SIIA President

Jeff Joseph, President and CEO of SIIA, provided this statement endorsing Doreen Bogdan-Martin for ITU.

“SIIA strongly endorses Doreen Bogdan-Martin to serve as the next Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Ms. Bogdan-Martin has decades of experience in diplomacy and technology and has devoted her career to promoting digital equity and innovation. As the current Director of the ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, Ms. Bodgan-Martin has spearheaded initiatives around digital development, youth engagement, and school connectivity. This is exactly the kind of expertise and experience that the international community needs to ensure that the future of the internet is one that is safe, trustworthy, secure, open, and accessible to all.”

 

 

 

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Tech& Women: Interview with London Biggs

SIIA is celebrating Women’s History month by profiling innovative women thought leaders in the AI, ed tech and the privacy space. We’re proud to profile London Biggs, RELX State Government Affairs Director, Western Region.

What is your role and responsibilities?
Currently, I oversee legislative, regulatory, and business development initiatives, as well as contract lobbying activity in 8 western states on behalf of a world-leading provider of digital information and analytics tailored toward private sector businesses and government agencies. Some key policy interests of mine include data privacy as well as public records access.

Favorite part of your job?
It is said that “the law is politics and politics is just people” and that really resonates with me. Working with the human aspect of lawmaking is my favorite and probably most challenging part of the job. The personalities and unlikely collaborations, it’s what keeps things interesting.

Nerd alert. There aren’t many issue areas that I don’t find interesting in my role. I think it’s pretty cool that I work for a company that’s involved in developing and deploying technology solutions that keep us focused on the latest policy conversations around biometrics, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and everything else that you can fit under the umbrella of data privacy.

What are some of the roles you’ve held in the past?
Prior to joining RELX, I was the Legislative Director at the California State Assembly and a Senior Consultant to the California Senate Budget Chairman.

What did you do in these roles?
Staffing the Assembly Member and Senator on their various bill packages, preparing vote recommendations for legislative committees, drafting letters and issue statements, as well as researching proposed legislation consistent with the member’s policy priorities.

What was something you learned that you still use today?
While working at the Capitol in California, I often researched complex issues over weeks or even months and then had only a few minutes to prepare my Senator on speaking intelligently on that issue in a high-pressure setting. To have the highest success in those “speed briefing” situations, I learned a very important lesson – there is no such thing as overpreparation. The exercise of mentally anticipating questions and taking the time to actually develop responses to those questions has become a habit that has helped me tremendously over the years. Even though I never came to love the Senator’s “walk and talk” sessions, they helped me learn to deconstruct issues ahead of time and distill my talking points down to only the most critical pieces of information.

There’s sometimes a perception government affairs folks love to hear themselves talk and are “just winging it.” There’s no doubt that preparation is the most effective weapon in the advocacy arsenal.

Anything you would go back and do differently?
I was once criticized by an executive who said that I was “too loyal” and had wasted opportunities by staying at a single job more than two or three years. Today, I see all kinds of younger government affairs folks jumping from company to company, likely upgrading their job title and increasing their salary. Perhaps, they’re doing it right. I don’t know if I would go back and do anything differently because there’s always something to be said for having a good boss and knowing that your contributions are valued. Here I am, after seven years at RELX, repeating history, with a fabulous boss and an excellent work-life balance.

What is something unique about your work style?
I’m technologically sentimental. I know a lot of people are on the newest phones and gadgets — I get attached to my devices. I prefer to do my work on my oldest company issued laptop. It’s practically on life support in a docking station that I’m pretty sure they don’t even make anymore.

Has this field always been your passion? If so, why/how did you get interested in it?
I haven’t always been interested in technology and data privacy policy. For most of my career, I was under the impression there were only two ways to influence the legislative process – as a capitol staffer “in the building” or as a contract lobbyist directly walking the halls.

Thankfully, during my time in Sacramento, a government affairs person working for a prominent technology company sat me down and asked me my plans for my future. When I told him I was thinking about contract lobbying, he blew my mind by saying, I didn’t want to be a contract lobbyist, that I actually wanted to be the boss of the contract lobbyist. After that, I started to discover how government affairs folks working within companies are able to develop policy expertise to directly influence those same conversations taking place in the capitol offices and hallways.

What are your top predictions for the field in 2022?
Obviously, we are seeing omnibus privacy bills pop-up everywhere, not just in blue or red states, but everywhere. We are also seeing legislators talking about looking at existing issues through a new “equity lens.” So, we are no longer talking about just the technology itself, but it’s impact on specific demographics. A good example of this is the artificial intelligence legislation that is out there and the discussions involving algorithmic accountability.

How do you think we can advance opportunities and recruitment for women, who are traditionally underrepresented in privacy, AI, and tech policy?
Some of these policy areas can be intimidating, but it’s helpful for the women who are already in these roles to look for opportunities to share what they actually do on a daily basis and how they came to be experts in their field. For younger professional women who are just starting out, sharing real-world examples of different career paths can help with recruitment by demystifying the barrier to entry.

Where do you see the greatest upcoming opportunities for women?
The pandemic’s removal of the “stigma of remote work” has changed the game in employment opportunities for women. As a mother of two very young children, I appreciate the flexibility that remote work offers. Professional women are able to take advantage of career opportunities in other states and even other countries where they were previously geographically stuck.

What is one piece of advice you wish you had known when you were starting out?
Cultivate your strengths. Ask for feedback early and often. Beware the blind cc. Honestly, in my case, I spent a little too much time waiting for mentors to push me into stretch assignments and hoping I would get chosen for merit-based opportunities rather than just putting myself out there. When opportunities arise, make sure the high standard you’re holding for yourself, doesn’t bar you from entry all together.

What is your organization doing to build mentorship opportunities for women and minorities who are interested in the field?
We know that diverse, inclusive cultures are higher performing and drive more innovation. So, it’s not surprising that RELX has launched numerous mentorship programs including the “Networx Mentorship for Diversity and Equity” designed to help mentees grow their professional networks, learn to navigate workplace challenges, develop confidence and leadership skills, and plan next steps in their career journey. RELX also has more than 100 Employee Resource Groups across the business, focused on a range of inclusion priorities including gender, race and ethnicity, age, LGBTQ+ and disability.

Is your organization building professional development opportunities? How?
I’m thankful for the opportunities RELX has provided me to learn from world-class female mentors. As part of a project in California last year, I was able to receive policy insights directly from Kumsal Bayasit, the current CEO of Elsevier and former Chief Strategy Officer for RELX. (She was named among the top 10 best CEOs for women for large companies and one of the best CEOs for diversity by an independent compensation, culture, and career monitoring site in 2021. The ratings are based solely on employee sentiment.) Seeing her in action was an inspiration and has had an impact on my own professional development.

How does your organization contribute to the industry at large?
I’m proud of my company for its strong stance on the use of data and technology for good. It’s not just words, it’s actions. During the pandemic, when our healthcare systems were completely overwhelmed, not only in the US but everywhere around the world, Elsevier, is a division of RELX, responded by developing a platform allowing its entire compendium of scientific research on the Covid-19 from the world’s most prestigious medical journals to be freely accessible to healthcare workers across the globe and the public.

Are there any non-work activities you engage in that lift up women in professional settings?
As a mom of two under 3 years of age, I’ve struggled with finding time for extracurricular activities that don’t involve my children. One thing I was able to continue during the pandemic was participate with a virtual forum for professional women — a safe space to ask questions and get feedback on issues that cut across all types of jobs such as salary negotiation, job application, and dealing with direct reports or managers. I’ve seen diversity of opinions really do make a difference. I hope this year will bring more opportunities to network with other professional women face to face.

What are you reading?
I’ve recently come across Rick Steve’s “Travel as a Political Act”. It’s about the importance of keeping the world connected. Travel doesn’t just have to be a vacation but can be something important that brings people together and helps build understanding. We’ve felt the weight of that with Covid going on. The pandemic has made travel seem like it’s too difficult to attempt, but this book reawakens the pleasure of possibility and has me looking forward to dusting off my passport and making some real cross-cultural connections.

Tell us something people might not know about you.
I was admitted to the School of American Ballet in New York City by live audition when I was younger. To help deal with stress during the pandemic, I enrolled in a socially-distanced Irish dance class and learned to do an actual “Jig” which is something I’ve always wanted to do.