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[People of Bigstep] Laura Constantin: Talking Law, GDPR, and a Thrill of Sports
How to stay fresh when reading a plethora of law clauses and policies every day? Laura, Attorney-at-Law and DPO at Bigstep, discusses with us the intricacies of law and GDPR, and how practicing different sports allow her to stay vigorous and on top of everything.
Hi Laura, please tell us a few words about yourself.
Hello, I am 34 years old, and I am a lawyer admitted to the Bucharest Bar Association. I have been working as a legal consultant for more than ten years. My experience spans an array of sectors, including IT, big data, e-commerce, data protection, privacy, trademarks, debt collection, and so on. I currently provide legal services for Bigstep and its affiliates.
Off-work, I love snowboarding, hiking, running, yoga, swimming, and cooking.
What’s your job title and how does your work day look like?
I am an independent lawyer, and I am appointed as Data Protection Officer at Bigstep. I start off my workday by reading news, legal updates, and syncing with the Bigstep team. During the day, I participate to meetings with colleagues or clients, I draft and negotiate contracts, provide legal advice and assistance within the company, or representation for different public or private entities, I offer my counselling on the legal implications for different cases based on legislative research. I work with departments like Sales, Billing, Support, Procurement, Finance, HR, Marketing, Product Management, Security, trying to understand the customer’s perspective and using it to meet its needs. I constantly search for mutually beneficial partnerships and win-win solutions.
Why did you choose to study law?
At that time, I don't think I knew much about law. It was more about intuition. Until the age of 16, I wanted to become a teacher or a psychologist, and one day I decided that I wanted to practice law, and I turned it into a priority; there was no longer any other option for me. I was enchanted with the idea of rights, justice, debates, solving problems, abstract thinking, and logical reasoning.
Which aspects of law interest you the most?
Commercial Law and Data Protection in IT, big data, AI, and e-commerce industries.
As a legal consultant and DPO, what’s one thing you can tell us regarding GDPR that most people don’t know?
The GDPR is not black or white, and its purpose is not to complicate or destroy businesses. I see the adoption of GDPR as something which appeared naturally, since the legislation needs to be adapted to technological developments in the 21st century and standardized at the EU level.
As the name implies, this Regulation is about protecting natural persons regarding the processing of personal data and the free movement of such data. It is not, and it could not be a rigorous set of rules. It contains some principles and some general provisions, and every business should be careful about individual privacy. Every business should be straightforward and honest with people’s data. However, certain situations can be more complex.
What most people don’t know is that if a certain information about an individual is public it doesn’t mean is isn’t personal anymore. For instance, if you can obtain the director’s phone number or name from the trade registry, it doesn’t mean you can contact that person freely for advertising purposes. I would, also, add that the individuals’ work email addresses are personal data, if they include their first and/or last name and work place (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org). However, a general business email address (e.g. email@example.com) does not represent personal data. Another thing is that the GDPR doesn't apply to a "purely personal or household activity." For instance, if I, as a private individual, process personal data for social networking, I am not responsible for fulfilling the GDPR provisions.
How did Brexit impact the hosting industry?
Brexit impacted the hosting industry since the UK is now a third country. One important aspect related to personal data is the data flow between EEA and UK. On the one hand, the UK considered the personal data transfers from the UK to the EEA to be adequate. On the other hand, regarding the personal data transfers from the EEA to the UK until June 30, 2021, there is in force the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which contains a bridging mechanism that allows personal data to flow from the EEA to the UK. Until then, the EU may adopt an adequacy decision for personal data transfers. If the EU does not adopt an adequacy decision, companies may rely on the Standard Contractual Clauses (“SCCs”) for such transfer, just like any transfer to a third country.
Do you believe the pandemic affected law professionals more than other professionals?
No, I do not think the pandemic affected law professionals more than other professionals. There was a slowdown in March-April 2020 during the lockdown because everybody's focus was on dealing with this situation, but after the initial shock, companies sought legal advice on this.
Lawyers were impacted, especially indirectly, because their clients were affected and they reduced budgets, which meant less contracted services and/or reduced fees. However, this also happened for other professionals due to the worldwide turmoil so it is not particular to lawyers.
Which are your favorite ways to spend your free time?
I love traveling, spending time in nature, with friends, doing sports, yoga, reading, writing, and cooking deserts.
How did your passion for yoga start, and how often do you practice it?
It started three years ago, and I practice Ashtanga-yoga at least 2-3 times per week. Some of my friends wanted to try yoga and invited me to join them, and it was love at first breath.
Do you practice yoga more for the physical benefits or for peace of mind?
For both reasons, but, while physical benefits I may gain through other sports, too, the peace of mind brought by yoga is way more important.
You are quite active, and you also go hiking often. Do you feel that yoga helps you in your hiking?
Yes; not so much for the physical movements, but especially for breathing, meditation, and relaxation. It is about mind-body awareness. This reminds me of the years I did martial arts. I think the fact that I played sports regularly as a child helped me the most. I had at least 2 weekly trainings for 7 years. I took a break during the Faculty of Law and in the early years working as lawyer. I focused all my energy on the career, until I realized that spending a lot of time working did not mean being productive and I returned to sports and other activities that also helped me in my professional life.
How did the lockdowns change your habits in regards to practicing these hobbies?
During the lockdown, the shala was closed, I tried to practice yoga at home, but it is not the same thing for sure. I love to practice together with other people. The lockdown canceled my plans for hiking and snowboarding, and I tried to stay active through some programs done at home recommended by snowboard instructors.
What common challenges have you encountered in your work as a legal consultant and in your hobbies?
The most challenging and the most beautiful thing is working with people. It may sound strange for a lawyer to say this, but I believe that communication, honesty, and trust are essential in a relationship, whether business or personal.
Another challenge is that I work in a field where technological development is happening very quickly. The laws cannot keep up with them, so here comes the beauty of adapting, creating, and developing.
As for hobbies, the hardest thing is to be patient with me, with the limitations of my body, and to keep a balance between doing too much sport and not doing at all.
Which are the three things that you enjoy most about working at Bigstep?
People, reliability, and technology.
What is your biggest work and/or hobby achievement?
Professionally, after graduating from Faculty of Law and working in a Law Firm, I dared to aspire to specialize in IT law. A few months later I set up my law firm and concluded my first legal assistance contract for a company that is part of the Bigstep group, which is still in force today, 8 years later. Having a professional relationship for 8 years, implementing GDPR, constantly doing new things - I consider all of these to be real achievements.
My biggest achievement regarding hobbies is that I no longer have a goal of performance. Of course, I record my runs, I'm happy when I improve my riding or when I reach a peak, but I can enjoy it as much if I run out of battery on my watch while running, hiking without reaching top, or just cruising.
You mentioned you enjoyed cooking desserts. Let’s end on a sweet note: which is the last recipe you cooked?
I cooked gluten, sugar, and lactose-free cake this weekend. It was with pistachio joconde sponge, cranberry mousse, mango panna cotta, and cashew cream. I even made the natural food coloring.