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Grad profile: Passionate about privacy

Posted by Suzanne Bowness on October 21, 2021 in Alumni & Friends

Master of Information Management grad Emily Speight says her degree has set her up for success as she shifts her career to focus on privacy issues full time. (Provided photo)

As an information management professional, one of Emily Speight’s favourite professional topics is privacy — from its relevance to our democracy to its importance for every individual. As a student in the Master of Information Management (MIM) program, she gravitated towards courses that dealt with the topic, and even found other ways to bring it in.

“If there was flexibility on an assignment, I turned it into a privacy assignment. I put a privacy spin on everything. And I think that made me realize just how passionate I am about that topic,” says Speight.

Now, that passion combined with her new MIM designation has taken her all the way to a new role focused squarely on privacy for professional services firm Deloitte.

Applicable concepts

Beyond her favourite topic, Speight says she enjoyed all the courses in the MIM.

“I remember looking at the course list as I was enrolling and there wasn't a course that I didn't want to take; they were all things that were really applicable to my work,” says Speight.

Once she started, she also came to appreciate their practical approach. “Within two weeks of starting courses, I had concepts I could take back to my work and make a difference. So, I was able to apply what I was learning immediately,” she says.

Speight started her MIM in September 2018, after her husband had finished his MBA online. “The day we drove home from his convocation, as we unpacked the car, I said, ‘it's my turn now, I'm going back to school,’” recalls Speight.

Building skills while still working

She says she chose the MIM for its singular focus on information management (compared with other library programs where information management is just one component), and for Dalhousie’s reputation. She also liked the fact that the program was online so she could keep working. “That means I don't have to quit my job. I can do it as part of my life,” she says.

Working as information coordinator for Red Deer County in Alberta, Speight was responsible for implementing and administering the county’s electronic document and records management system. After 14 years with the county, she was supervising two full-time employees, creating information management policy and procedures, and rolling out new digital initiatives. A lifelong information professional, Speight had also worked as a medical library technician for her local health region and as a library technician for law firm Bennett Jones.

She earned her MIM following certificates in Foundations in Management from Athabasca University, Information Access and Protection of Privacy from the University of Alberta, and a Library and Information Technology Diploma from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.

Because Speight’s supervisor was very supportive of her continuing her education, she took the opportunity not only to apply her new knowledge at work but to focus some course assignments on issues she was grappling with. She was even invited to present her capstone course research at the 2021 Alberta Rural Municipal Administrators’ Association annual conference after presenting her research to the chief administration officer at her workplace.

Speight says she enjoyed both learning online and the in-person intensive aspects of the program. She appreciated that every professor had their own style of teaching but were all helpful. Right from her introductory course with Bertram MacDonald, she knew she was in the right place.

“He was absolutely incredible. The feedback he provided was incredibly thorough. Also, my writing skills improved dramatically.”

Embracing a new challenge

Online, she liked asynchronous elements like the discussion boards where she was able to chat with classmates about professional topics. “I think for people who tend to be a bit more hesitant in a crowd, or more introverted, they have the time to be able to do that. It's very democratizing,” she says, adding that she’s made great connections and even some close friendships through the program.

Equally valuable were the intensives, which she did both at Dalhousie and online after COVID-19 hit. While she enjoyed being on campus, Speight says the virtual intensives were also valuable. “The professors did a really good job of finding ways to keep it engaging and exciting.”

Speight says she feels that the MIM set her up well for the next step of her career and is keen to focus even more regularly on her favourite topic.

“I'm really looking forward to working on privacy full time. Right now, it’s privacy legislation in Alberta that I've worked with primarily, whereas with the broader role, I'll be dealing with privacy legislation across Canada. It’s a new challenge.”