After almost 25 years as a regulatory and compliance attorney, a few months ago I suddenly found myself abruptly and unexpectedly unemployed for the first time in my career. My most recent role as the head of global compliance for a large multinational corporation, was unceremoniously eliminated as part of a larger corporate restructuring and cost cutting initiative. I received a whole four hours’ notice that the job I loved and had worked in for eight years, no longer existed.
I spent the first few days afterwards in a complete fog, so blindsided by this sudden change I wasn’t sure what to do next or where to even begin. Certainly I needed a new job, but what would I do in the meantime while I searched? How would I fill all the empty hours in my day? Slowly, I emerged from my sad and stunned confusion and started talking with friends and colleagues about my next steps. It was during one of these conversations that a friend and mentor suggested I should leverage my experience and create a podcast about human trafficking prevention.
Human trafficking is a horrific crime where people are the product. It involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people through fraud, force or deception, with the aim of exploiting the victims for profit. It is quite literally the buying and selling of people to enable criminal manipulators to make money off of their forced labor.
The stories of human trafficking victims are the stuff of nightmares; children sold into prostitution, people forced to work for less than a dollar a day, dozens of people who were promised housing crammed into an empty shipping container with no running water or electricity, victims stripped of their identification documents and threatened with violence if they dare to protest or try to leave.
I have years of experience creating prevention programs for corporations to help them identify and eliminate the potential for human trafficking in their supply chains, but I had zero experience hosting a podcast. Could I do this? Did I actually want to do this?
Ultimately, I realized this was a unique chance for me to give back. This was an opportunity for me to use my legal skills and speaking experience to help, even in a small way, fight human trafficking. It was something I could do to educate other compliance professionals about the problem and encourage them to join the fight against it in their own organizations.
As corny as this will likely sound, I started to feel like maybe my job being eliminated was actually a “nudge” from the universe to use my law degree in a new way. Maybe I was meant to do this, meant to educate other compliance professionals about how prevalent the sale of people still is and how companies can work to end modern slavery.
I launched my podcast, “Hidden Traffic” earlier this fall and have found it to be one of the most rewarding things I have done in my career. Leveraging my professional network and legal skills to take on a volunteer “passion project” like this, is something I would recommend to everyone. Maybe podcasts aren’t your thing, but I urge you to find your own passion project. Find something you truly care about, and volunteer your own unique skillset and experience to work on that cause.
The dividends you’ll receive are the kind that money can’t buy – the feeling that you are using the skills you have worked so hard to obtain for a higher purpose, and in your own small way, making the world a better place.
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With more than two decades of experience working for public multinationals, Gwen’s practice areas include corruption prevention, compliance program design, structure and operation, trade compliance, and supply chain integrity. She most recently served as Managing Counsel for Global Compliance with day-to-day operational responsibility for the global compliance and ethics program for CNH Industrial, the world’s third largest capital goods maker and second largest manufacturer of farming equipment. Areas of specific experience include global compliance investigations, enterprise risk assessment and management, third party due diligence, cross border transactions, human trafficking prevention, policy development and training. Gwen has also served as an adjunct professor for the Loyola University School of Law where she developed and taught a course on compliance law practice. She is a graduate of DePaul University School of Law and the University of Wisconsin – Madison.