Spotlight on Women in Business Continuity: Marsha Buehler

The Women in Business Continuity Management (WBCM) group shines a spotlight on accomplished women across the field of business continuity and related fields.

For the first series in Spotlight on Women in Business Continuity, we have interviewed each of the members of the Women in Business Continuity Management Charter Committee on their experiences in the field. The leaders of WBCM come from a diverse range of industries, and provide unique perspectives based on their experiences in the field.

Photo BuehlerMarsha Buehler, CBCP
WBCM Charter Committee Role: WBCM Membership and Communications Committees
Current Role: Global Business Continuity Manager, Mayer Brown (Legal industry)

What business continuity related industries have you worked in?
Within the business continuity world, I have worked in the Finance and Legal industries.  In my current position, I am responsible for a business continuity program (including crisis management and disaster recovery) for 26 locations worldwide.   I answer a number of client audits on our business continuity/crisis plans and testing.  In the financial industry, business continuity is a regulatory requirement, and vendors are required to be similarly compliant by their specific regulatory requirements as well.

Tell us about your overall background and how you got into this field.
Business continuity seems unusually well suited to being a field people essentially stumble into. My career has been highly varied – it has spanned IT, telecom, marketing, training, project management, and business continuity. I started in Lucent Technologies, managing the technical website support to telecommunications companies. I transitioned to marketing, where I was a technical trainer for business partners, teaching executives and tech teams how to use the IT systems.  We regularly attended road shows and conferences, and I enjoyed getting out to train and network with people directly.

When 9/11 hit, there was widespread impact to the telecommunications network. In New York especially, where our telecom customers were scrambling to restore communications, and I was on a special team to provide website support to telecom techs.

I transitioned to the finance industry, working as a systems analyst and then project manager for a division of Rabo Bank. As the result of an audit, I was tasked to create a business continuity program, which I rolled out to 65 locations in the U.S. over two years. I found that I liked the field, so I pursued business continuity certification, and have stayed in business continuity since then. I currently work in the legal industry as a global business continuity manager for 26 locations globally.

I don’t think my experience is unusual in this field, many people have varied backgrounds. I believe there can be opportunity when a lot of unrelated work gets heaped up on someone’s plate – it can be a struggle in the short term to balance everything, but it also offers opportunity to shift careers, as the industry is underserved and in high demand.  Once someone gets some experience on one project, they can pursue certification, like DRI’s ABCP or CBCP, and then be situated for rising in a fairly niche but high demand industry.

What do you enjoy about your job?
I enjoy networking with people.  I like bringing people together and teaching them about how important it is to have a Plan B, just in case.  I work with business unit leaders across the organization to help them identify risks and critical processes in order to make plans to ensure business resiliency.   I am also a strong proponent of professional networking in one’s city.  I joined professional associations for business continuity and resiliency in both St Louis and Chicago.  Through them, I was able to learn about local emergency planning, such as by visiting the city Emergency Management Agency. I learned from fellow planners, and even found jobs through those connections. Professional networking can be a key factor in branching out and learning from your peers and possibly launching your career.

What aspect of business continuity are you passionate about, and why?
I’m motivated by protecting the safety of our employees, and helping to prepare people to know what to do in a crisis situation.  I believe strongly in spreading the message that crises can happen here, and we need a plan for it.  We have to respond to unrest both domestically and internationally; for example office fires, the St Louis civil unrest, and Hong Kong student demonstrations.  During a crisis, someone needs to be calm and cool.

Thank you for volunteering as a member of the WBCM Charter Committee.  What are your hopes for how the WBCM group will impact people or the industry?
There aren’t as many women in business continuity, though it is growing. I hope to help women be taken more seriously, and get credit for the work they do.  I would like to provide mentorship and subject matter development to those who are just starting out in the field.