As senior privacy program manager at ByteDance/TikTok, Samantha Bolet is an everyday advocate for user data privacy at the world’s most valued start-up. Bolet has established internal policies, standards, and procedures for best-in-class privacy standards, and she works across a global landscape to ensure her organization is on the cutting edge of policy as TikTok is for the next dance trend. Bolet is also a co-founder and VP of the nonprofit Latinas in Cyber which aims to prepare more Latinas for careers in cybersecurity. Learn more about Bolet’s extensive accomplishments, how she manages her “outgoing introvert” personality, and her love of the performing arts.
Tell us about your role at ByteDance/TikTok?
Working for the world’s most valued startup, with a current valuation of $300 billion, I champion for everyday user data privacy as a senior privacy program manager at ByteDance/TikTok. On the daily, this looks like assessing upcoming and existing product features to ensure privacy is incorporated and protected or assessing new third-party vendors with strict privacy and security requirements to ensure they meet our data safety standards.
I also establish internal policies, standards, and procedures that enable privacy across the organization and various business products. The opportunity to collaborate with international teams on privacy training and awareness efforts has allowed me to encompass a global look at the legal and regulatory landscape and ensure our products remain up to date with the latest privacy standards. Working at ByteDance is an incredible experience and I enjoy the community and culture that I am a part of here.
My expertise in navigating complex privacy issues in the rapidly evolving world of social media is a testament to my dedication and my desire to champion for enhanced user privacy as an advocate for everyday users.
What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?
I’m still so early in my career and there are so many milestones I am still working toward, but there are a few moments that come to mind when I think of what I’ve lived thus far and how I felt.
Speaking at the NASA Kennedy Space Center for HackSpace Con, and being a featured speaker at the international Latinas in Tech Summit are major life milestones for me. My presentations covered “Breaking Barriers: Empowered Women in Cybersecurity and STEM” and I spoke about my personal journey and tribulations, the history of women in technology and our leadership in the space, as well as the impact Latinas in Cyber (LAIC) is making to bring other women in.
It’s crazy to look into a crowd and be vulnerable and authentic about your story and have so many say, “I resonate with this! I thought I was all alone.” I remember at the Kennedy Space Center, there was a slide with the Venezuelan and Spanish flag on it and I had someone approach me later saying they were a Venezuelan immigrant and seeing their flag and representation in this space brought them to tears and was an inspiring image. I never would have imagined it would resonate with someone like that and its why I encourage others to speak on the things that are authentic to them, because it’s where we welcome connection with others.
My parents immigrated here from Venezuela and have built an incredible life that I am so grateful for, but I am aware that this is not a reality for all. I don’t take a single moment for granted and I’m proud when I can show my community that we are here, and we are making a difference. There is room for them too.
What is your greatest personal accomplishment to date?
When I was a freshman in college, I actually failed my first semester at the University of Illinois. Fast forward four years later, I ended up graduating with both my bachelor’s and my master’s degrees, and I was also a featured student speaker at the campus wide Latinx graduation ceremony. In the beginning, I was not prepared for the freedom and nuances of university life, but I had a strong support system in school and at home that helped me see beyond that.
I look back at this time with a lot of pride and respect to younger me who faced a challenge and still persevered and adjusted to better studying habits to ensure a successful university career. It’s very easy to sometimes count yourself out of the game when you don’t get it right the first time, but I learned that my capacity and ability is not judged by one or two instances, but by my attitude to keep going and to not take no or rejection for an answer.
How do you tackle problems and overcome challenges?
Stop pursuing perfection, opt for progress and patience instead. I spent a greater part of my life striving for either 110 percent or nothing at all and I’ve come to learn that this is ultimately not a sustainable way to live and grow. We grow through trial and error, by making mistakes and forging forward anyways, and by asking for help in the areas we fall short. Perfection is not realistic, and it can create other challenges because you’ll never truly reach it. It’s important to give ourselves grace when we pursue our dreams and to allow for errors, rest, and other unexpected moments to happen.
What do you do today to impact your community?
As a cofounder and VP, I am incredibly proud of my involvement in the nonprofit Latinas in Cyber. At LAIC, we are actively working to increase the 2 to 3 percent of Latinas in the field of cybersecurity and to equip them with the resources, community, and education to get there.
Today, I serve our community as the VP alongside my executive committee, where I cultivate mentorship programs, design and manage our external communications and social media presence, host in-person meet-ups and feature cyber industry speakers on monthly events, and launch major certification programs to provide affordable and accessible educational resources.
I have had the opportunity to present at various global and national conferences as a featured speaker and to share my story and background as an industry disrupter. Currently, we are also running an international campaign to highlight the Top 50 Latina Women in Cybersecurity in LATAM and United States in partnership with the nonprofit WOMCY because we believe in the importance of visibility and recognition for the women already in the cyber space.
Ultimately, I am so proud to be a first-generation American and Latina, and I have a lot of dedication and commitment to the future of other Latina women like me who want to build their own professional future. This is what I drive forward with Latinas in Cyber to impact my community.
Describe yourself in five words.
Resilient, creative, rebellious, compassionate, and authentic.
What are your future goals?
Latinas in Cyber is proud to be the first woman and veteran-led, US-based nonprofit specifically targeting Latina women in cyber. I hope the number of Latinas in cybersecurity dramatically increases and that our mission and vision is a major pioneer in this space. When we talk about cyber and the Latinx community, it’s so important that we present it as a viable career path because it represents a certain level of financial independence and generational wealth, as well as a lower academic barrier to entry compared to other career fields.
In addition, Latina students are often the first in their families to pursue an education and attend college. Latina women also experience the largest wage gap of any major racial or ethnic group and may not relate to the cybersecurity culture and community. Lastly, social and cultural norms often constrain a Latina’s choice of what she can study, and unpaid home responsibilities may limit her ability to enter or succeed in a cybersecurity career. This is why Latinas in Cyber exists and that’s my future goal. I want to change this industry and to bring Latinas into it with the incredible LAIC community.
I hope that by sharing my experiences, I can inspire others to embrace their authenticity and create meaningful change in their own lives and communities.
What is your favorite form of self-care?
Setting boundaries and allowing myself to participate in the things I know I have the capacity for, and then saying no when I know I can’t. It also manifests itself in asking for help, going to therapy, and giving myself the emotional and physical resources that can support a peaceful and fulfilling life.
I’m also an outgoing introvert, which means I have short bursts of social energy and momentum followed by periods of rest and alone time, so it’s important that I honor those periods of rest for myself. It keeps my energy levels steady and allows me to retract and focus on my re-charging activities, which include hot yoga and reformer pilates, reading, spending time with my dog, journaling, going for long walks around my neighborhoods, etc. It’s so important for me to lean into the things that bring me comfort, peace, and fulfillment, so that I can continue to show up in other spaces and for others.
What do you like to do for fun when you’re not working?
I am a huge fanatic of the performing arts and all things creative! I nurture this passion on my blog The Bolet Collective, where I focus on self-care, fashion, solo travel, and more. It’s a fun way to connect with others virtually and express myself in a different medium. I also make sure to attend live concerts, Broadway shows, ballets, orchestras, and more because I love seeing artistic expression active and in-person. It’s where I always feel the most alive honestly and I attended over thirty shows within the last year and a half!
I also have an incredible support system of family and friends that I enjoy spending time with so I make sure to plan things together with them, as well. It’s important to surround myself with those that I love the most and I make this a priority in my life. Lastly, I love traveling and am a big advocate for solo travel. Last year, I spontaneously booked a two-week trip to the French Riviera and Paris, by myself, and it was an incredible experience that taught me to honor my own company and embrace this stage of my life.
What does making NextGen Collective’s 30 Under 30 list mean to you?
When I graduated and started my career, I was the only woman in my family pursuing tech. But years later, my cousin approached me and wanted to get into cybersecurity. I was able to offer her a position as an intern at Latinas in Cyber to get experience and mentor her and she ended up receiving her first cybersecurity role five months later. Someone is always watching and wanting to follow what you do and it’s important to remember that and to provide the help you may have wished you had received at one time.
In our culture, we’re community centered and where one goes, we bring others with us. For Hispanic Executive and NextGen Collective to create this list, it shows visibility, representation, and honor to those braving their industries to make a difference. Today, there is a young girl or boy or a parent or a student reading this who is wondering what their life legacy will be, and they will see direction and a path by the ones who forged it ahead.
What is your personal theme song?
“That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra or “Just Like Magic” by Ariana Grande.
What is your Latino background?
My mother was born in Caracas, Venezuela and my dad was born in Cadiz, Spain. I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, but have spent time living in both Venezuela and Spain growing up.
Editor‘s note: This Q&A has been edited for clarity.