HPW’s Inspiring Women series profiles remarkable Greek-American professional women whose stories of success inspire and encourage us to achieve our own career goals and aspirations.
Harriet Pearson is a partner in one of the world’s largest law firms specializing in cybersecurity and privacy issues in which she has many years of leading-edge experience. She also provides general advisory services to clients, drawing on more than two decades of executive-level business and in-house legal experience.
Recognized by Lawdragon in May 2015 as one of the 500 “Leading Lawyers in America” and dubbed by another legal publication as the “First Lady of Privacy,” Harriet joined Hogan Lovells in 2012 from the IBM Corporation, where she served as Vice President Security Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer and was responsible for global information policies and practices affecting more than 400,000 employees and thousands of vendors and clients.
Born and raised in New York City by parents who emigrated from small towns in northwestern Greece, she graduated with honors from the UCLA School of Law and from Princeton University, where she earned a degree in engineering.
I’m passionately interested in how business and societies capitalize – and cope with — the enormous changes that new technologies make possible. Things are changing at warp speed. What are the implications for how we communicate with each other? For how we work? For how laws and policies might need to change? The privacy of information and the security of the systems on which it is processed are complex and important challenges that fascinated me from the start when I started working on them in the mid-1990s.
Like so many others before them, my parents came to the United States in search of a brighter future. The challenges of immigrant life propelled me to work hard to ensure that my generation would fulfill their dreams. The warmth and unconditional love that characterizes Greek family life gave me lifelong confidence that I could succeed.
My current work as an advisor and advocate is hugely rewarding. I draw on every experience I have ever had in business and law while learning about industries and their issues at the same time.
Consider this analogy: A career is like a building. First you lay the foundation through education and then every experience adds to the structure. Over the years I have embraced opportunities to lead and learn in multiple fields: law of course but also engineering, human resources, communications and public policy. And now as a partner in a global law firm I am responsible for overall management of a business. So at this point in my career I can draw on a wide range of experiences and disciplines – not just law – to help solve problems. Clients value that kind of perspective when they need to address complex issues like cybersecurity and privacy that require multi-disciplinary approaches. It’s so rewarding to be able to engage at the level with some of the world’s most innovative and significant organizations.
My husband, whom I met during our time at Princeton, is also my best mentor and supporter. For over 30 years I have sought out and relied on his insights which are motivated by love and based on knowing my strengths and weaknesses.
Listen carefully to yourself: What type of work interests you? What makes the hours fly by? What are you naturally good at? That’s the type of work around which your career should be built, no matter what others might think is appropriate or best for you. Over time the specifics of what you may do will change, but the essential elements that drew you into a particular type of work or field will continue to reward your investment of time and hard work.
More information at www.hoganlovells.com/harriet-pearson