Building transparent tech with digital ethics and curiosity

Nina Müller

This episode dives into leading resilient teams and successful businesses based on privacy-enhancing technology.

Who’s our Ethical Ally Guest?

Will Hayes is an entrepreneur and engineer who leads with great empathy and a curious mind. He’s the former CEO of the search company Lucidworks. Since stepping down from this role, Will jumped into the next adventure and started building a new company: Bestomer. They create a privacy-enhancing technology that offers value to both customers and businesses.

I met Will for the first time in 2016 at Berlin Buzzwords, the big data conference for open-source software projects. We kept in touch over the years, and I am delighted he agreed to share his story with us on the Ethical Allies podcast. 

Pushing for industry change, privacy-minding & transparent tech 

Our conversation illuminates topics from business practices and leadership to the state of privacy and his experience in the tech world. 

To kick off, Will reflects on his time at Lucidworks and how it has shaped his career. Leaving after nearly ten years certainly was no decision taken lightly, but for Will, it was time to return to his roots and shift from management to more hands-on work again. 

His new venture is Bestomer, and Will explains the idea comes from an issue that has been puzzling him for a while. When we buy online, we shop for ourselves and others. Today’s models collect more and more customer data (without taking nuances like this into context) and exploit it.

This lack of transparency erodes our trust in those brands and makes us question the companies we buy from. The industry must adopt better ways for shoppers and businesses to coexist and meet both needs. Consumers want to see valuable ads, and companies don’t want to push products out that nobody cares about. Yet the current CRM systems and marketing automation are not built like that — they are made to exploit consumer data.

With growing consumer concerns about their privacy, it is time to rethink those systems and acknowledge this concern. People need to regain control over their data and life as consumers online. With Bestomer, Will is striving to level the playing field for customers and businesses together with Erik Swan, co-founder of Splunk. The two met in 2007 when Will joined Splunk. At Bestomer, Erik acts as CEO, while Will focuses on the platform's development. 

Guiding teams with curiosity & empathy

When the conversation moves to leadership, Will shares inspiring insights. Curiosity is one of our most powerful tools: a driver and motivator to constantly look for answers and how things work. It also helps teams spark new ideas and tap into the wisdom of a diverse group to drive a business forward.

But it takes more than that to lead. A deep understanding of what helps people succeed is needed. Standout leaders can empathise with people and strive to learn what motivates and inspires teams. 

‘Everybody is a top performer; everybody has the potential to do great work,’ as Will explains. Harnessing this potential means understanding that people thrive in different working environments. 

‘So part of our job as leaders is understanding that reality and sort of recast (it) into a reality where that individual can be wildly successful,’ he concludes. 

A firm believer in lifelong learning, Will soaks up everything he sees. This open-mindedness allows him to reflect on his experiences frequently, taking it as an opportunity to change perspectives and consider what can be done better or differently. 

‘Life to me is just one big lesson. I look at everything as being applicable to the next opportunity or the next venture.’

Will’s advice for leaders

  1. Show integrity. People have to trust you. When you tell the truth and be transparent about your actions, you act in the best interest of your business. This is reassuring for people, and they’ll follow your lead with confidence. 
  2. Know your domain. As many leaders get increasingly pulled into management tasks, they move further from the problem space. So it becomes essential to reinforce learning and understanding, plus demonstrate it to display competence.
  3. Have a plan! As simple as it sounds, if you don’t know what you’re aiming for, you’ll have a hard time explaining it to others. And people will be unlikely to follow you.

Regaining consumer trust, beyond baseline data protection

Will sees a ‘privacy revolution on the horizon’ and notes that people are already behaving differently online, facing an ever-growing concern to protect their private data. So what will he and his colleagues at Bestomer be doing about it? Their plans go above and beyond CCPA or GDPR regulations…

So invite in your curiosity, crank up the volume, and enjoy the show!

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