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EDITOR’S NOTE: The DRJ Career Development Committee is supporting this series of articles featuring the career paths of industry professionals. Throughout this series of candid interviews, we hope to provide career advice to our readers by highlighting lessons learned, highs and lows, opportunities and challenges. The DRJ Career Development Committee promotes education, opportunity, inclusion, and excellence surrounding the exploration and evolution of career paths in all aspects of business continuity and risk management. Key elements of our mission include promoting open and candid discussions of career opportunities, providing mentorship, resources, and guidance to equip our membership with the necessary knowledge, best practices, and tools to succeed in their chosen career path.

Many years ago, Susan Brown worked for a financial firm as a computer operator. Performing disaster recovery was part of her responsibilities. Back then, business continuity didn’t exist. As disaster recovery evolved and business continuity was born, she took on those responsibilities. She continued to grow in her knowledge by going to classes to learn more, joined peer groups, and attended conferences to build her knowledge in this area.

Brown is now vice president of the business continuity and disaster recovery program at Guggenheim Partners.

She said she thinks most professionals deal with the challenges of management buy-in to build a great program. Many organizations she has worked for in the past have looked at it as an insurance policy or to address a regulatory requirement.

“I’ve always found ways to pull information out of my programs to show value but doing so was always a challenge because I didn’t have a system where all this data resided,” said Brown.

When Brown joined Guggenheim, she found a highly collaborative culture and well-defined program already in place, including crisis management teams and response and business continuity plans (BCP).  The BCPs had valuable information, but Brown identified opportunities to enhance the program she believed would be beneficial.  Brown credits Guggenheim’s focus on innovation and excellence as enabling her to work with business groups and make these enhancements immediately. Working directly with the business groups also allowed her to understand the value add of these changes.

Shortly after that, Brown completed an evaluation of seven business continuity management systems to help support the program. These systems were all in the Gartner Magic Quadrant. After documenting her evaluation and recommendations, the company accepted the recommendation and within three months they migrated all business continuity plans into the new system.

Brown performed training and created supporting documentation for the users of the system. This system has become more than just a business continuity management system, the data within is valuable. Brown has become the one whom different groups look to for this data. They use it for critical vendor contacts for the vendor risk management group, critical applications, IT projects which need contacts at third parties and data classification of applications. She is able to create timely reports for information requests or identification of incidents and areas impacted. The business units have more visibility as to their requirements vs. actual recovery capabilities, using signals which outline any gaps. With this, they are required to enter quantitative and qualitative business impact information to justify their requirements.  This information is then used to request funding to mitigate any gaps.

When asked about other achievements made in her career, “I believe I made a significant impact when I worked at The Chicago Board of Trade, as their director of business continuity, disaster recovery, and risk management,” said Brown.

She developed, recommended, and implemented a full disaster recovery program within eight months of her hire date. This was accomplished by collaborating with internal subject matter experts and executive management to understand what the priorities were and technology required to support these requirements.

As for lessons she has learned and still uses today, Brown said it is patience, perseverance, and “to know when you just need to roll with it.”

For advice to other professionals who are just beginning to embark on their careers in this industry, they should take advantage of industry training opportunities and their peers. “Get involved in user groups within your area. Your network can be a big help.”

Brown concluded by saying professionals should put the time in to learn about their company, culture, and people. “Find your allies because they will help you to be successful. Be available when you need to be, but don’t work so much that you don’t have time to live.  Enjoy life, after all, isn’t that one reason why we work?”

For more information on the DRJ Career Development Committee, contact Tracey Forbes Rice. Rice is a member of the Disaster Recovery Journal Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) and chairperson of the Career Development Committee. Rice has 20 years of experience in business continuity and risk management. As vice president of customer engagement at Fusion Risk Management, Rice brings customers together, partnering with them to develop innovative solutions and to achieve new levels of program success. Rice welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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