Alumni Spotlight: Elena Elkina
Associate Editor, 2011-2012
Elena Elkina (Berkeley Law LLM) is Co-founder and Partner at Aleada Consulting, a boutique privacy and data protection consulting firm in Silicon Valley, and Co-founder and Vice Chair of Women in Security and Privacy (WISP), a non-profit organization that aims to advance women to lead the future of privacy and security. Before coming to Berkeley Law in 2011, Elena had obtained her law degree in 2000. At Berkeley Law, she was an Associate Editor of BTLJ in 2011-2012. According to Elena, “Berkeley Law was one of the best years of [her] life.” Specifically, the highlight of her time here was “people; classmates and other students, faculty, staff, Berkeley residents.”
Read on to learn more about Elena, including what lessons she learned from her participation in BTLJ that are relevant to her professional life, what advice she has for current law students, what advice she has for new lawyers, and more! Additionally, to learn how Elena became involved in privacy and data protection, you can also read her article here.
What brought you to law school?
I finished my first law degree in 2000. At that time, I had a dream of becoming a lawyer and saving the world. My understanding of what it meant to practice law was very naive. Soon, I became disappointed in the profession, but found a legal outlet to pursue my dream anyway.
In 2011, I went to Berkeley Law to pursue my second law degree. Leading up to that time, I reached a plateau in my legal career and needed a break to think about my future. Berkeley Law was my sabbatical that I used to explore the next steps in my professional journey.
Please describe your most memorable law school moment
I cannot highlight any specific moment because it would be unfair to my whole experience. Berkeley Law was one of the best years of my life. The highlight of my Berkeley Law time was people; classmates and other students, faculty, staff, Berkeley residents. During my time at Berkeley, I’ve built amazing personal and professional relationships that I continue to cherish.
Please describe your current professional position and your journey there
I am a co-founder and Partner at Aleada Consulting, one of the first boutique privacy and data protection consulting firms in Silicon Valley. In my current practice, I advise clients on privacy, data protection, and information security issues. Our clients range from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies around the globe.
I am also a Co-founder and Vice Chair of Women in Security and Privacy (WISP), a non-profit organization that aims to advance women to lead the future of privacy and security. Today, knowledge of both privacy and security principles is critical in any information-driven organization. Until recently, these two fields have generally been viewed as separate, sometimes overlapping, disciplines. Few organizations bring the two together and view the fields holistically. WISP aims to break down the silos between privacy and information security by promoting a collaborative relationship between these fields. WISP is a cross-disciplinary organization – our membership base consists of women with STEM or STEM-related backgrounds and non-STEM backgrounds. Through our varied membership base, and membership exposure to Privacy/InfoSec careers, we hope to encourage women to enter STEM related professions, by demonstrating that Privacy/InfoSec knowledge is a valuable asset that can be applied across industries.
What are some lessons you learned from participating in BTLJ that are relevant to your professional life?
One of the lessons I learned from participating in BTLJ was collaboration. I had a chance to work with a diverse team of Berkeley Law students. Learning about each other’s personality and work styles helped me to understand how to be a good team player.
What advice do you have for current law students?
Do you know why there are many unhappy lawyers? Because they chose this field for wrong reasons. If you are here for money only, you will hate it. Make sure you really want to practice law.
What is one piece of advice you would give to new lawyers?
Seventeen years ago, I asked a friend, who I dearly admire, if she painted and she responded, ‘I do not know; I’ve never tried it.’ Her response made me curious. I went home and painted my first canvas. The painting was okay, but my experience was liberating. I began to think about our unlimited human potential and how often we stop ourselves before doing something new. Self-doubt and fear are a big part of our lives, but there is a cure and that cure is saying ‘yes.’ ‘Yes’ opens new doors, begins new journeys, and leads to new experiences, wisdom, and fun.
Saying ‘yes’ helped me and six other women create WISP which is successfully blooming. ‘Yes’ opened the door to my current business venture, which is also expanding. All of us are searching for something — a meaningful job, a profitable business venture, fulfillment in life. Do not look for it too far, as it is right in front of you. Just do it — especially if you’ve never done it before.