Cloudflare TV

Web Summit 2021: Heard in the Halls

Presented by João Tomé, David Kiron, Yusuf Sherwani
Originally aired on 

Join Cloudflare’s João Tomé for a series of conversations at Web Summit 2021, featuring an array of technology experts, entrepreneurs, government officials, and more.

Hosted in Lisbon, Portugal, the event drew 42,000 attendees from 128 countries — and it was an amazing opportunity to get a sense for what many of the world’s leaders are thinking about the Internet and beyond.

This episode features:

  • David Kiron, Editorial director of MIT Sloan Management Review — on the future of work and how AI (and philosophy) can help
  • Yusuf Sherwani, Co-founder & CEO, Quit Genius — on treating addition online

For more, don’t miss the blog post: Heard in the halls of Web Summit 2021

Web Summit 2021

Transcript (Beta)

So it turns out people like to be seen and it's hard to be seen when you're not in the office and so companies are wrestling with this challenge and what we've seen is that there's a lot of different technologies that exist for making people seen but there's just being visible but truly being seen there's a gap and this is one of the main leadership challenges that we're finding today.

In terms of seen, in person seen, right?

So in terms of respect, in terms of like people want to be seen not as I think there are lots of people who will be happy not to be seen on a Zoom call but they still want to be respected and kind of seen for the contributions that they make.

It's that kind of visibility and it's harder to have that kind of visibility to your boss when you physically cannot be seen by them and it's all about the work and so there's this transition that's happening that leaders are still trying to sort of wrap their arms around sort of what what the proper expectations are around really seeing and respecting and valuing employees when you can't actually see them a lot or and you know and from the from the from the employees side how do you actually get your employer to see you for who you are and the contributions that you're making especially in a hybrid work environment where there's in some cases the people there are some people who are actually at work they're more physically visible and so their work gets more recognized because they're more physically visible and so there are these inequities that are emerging in within the workspace.

Of course and the workspace changed so much because of the pandemic we've seen that many people that didn't work from home now are working and and that changes the relationship between in terms of the company.

Do you think in terms of the tools that AI tools but every tool collaborative tool that there are there can be better tools to to cope with this being remote?

Yeah there are a lot of tools in the world I'm not going to go through like any any of them but there's a real opportunity to use these communication tools to more effectively communicate with your people it's not just here's you know a bunch of people on a on a zoom call there are ways these tools can be configured like new features can be added that haven't that haven't really come into existence yet where you can display things in a way that or and or show work there's a way there's another level of engagement with the video communication tools that we currently have that is going to get us closer to real live interactions but isn't kind of where we're at with the with the flat zoom calls.

For example our company has a policy now when someone is in a meeting in the office and there's another person in the office but there's a zoom call with another person everyone has to be in zoom in equal terms what do you think of these types of measure to to put the the field equal?

Yeah so our own organization has that MIT SMR has has that same kind of approach the the problem is if you're an employee you come to the office to you once a week or twice a week and one of the reasons you're there is so that you can see the people in the office you wear the mask you it's about the interactions that happen there but if you have a lot of zoom calls with people who are like outside the organization you have to mask up again you have to you know treat everybody with equal respect and sort of equal you know equal treatment it's like why did you why did I come in I mean it might why didn't I just sort of stay home and be on the zoom call if everybody's gonna be on a zoom so there's that kind of thing that's happening so I believe it's completely appropriate to have to try to have this equal treatment so that everybody feels respected and included but I think people are still organizations are still finding their way about what the what the right middle ground is.

But we also see the great resignation not only in the US all over the world people that don't get flexibility in their work are leaving their work for example so people like this path but there are challenges in this path.

Do you agree? I do agree I do agree but what the thing is people resign and then they get hired someplace else so it's not exactly a zero-sum because some people actually are leaving the workforce entirely there's a whole issue in the US and globally around working mothers and other kinds of caregivers who just find there's there's no balance to be had in work and life so they opt out especially if they are in a family situation where somebody else is providing income that's a that's a huge problem but ask me more about that.

In terms of the future what do you think companies are advices for companies to be aware you said some trends there but from what you study what are the main trends that company really should focus on for this to go to a good port let's say like that.

Do you mean in terms of the workplace? Yeah one of the things in terms of the great resignation if you're combining if you're seeing a great resignation in your organization and you're also actively going about the great unbundling where you're trying to decompose jobs into different tasks you need to connect skills to the tasks and you may not even be hiring a lot more employees but you're hiring still a lot of contingent laborers you still need to find those people and staffing agencies may not be able to sort of find you everybody in a timely way as you need so you need to create systems and processes and use AI to create an infrastructure to help you identify the talent that exists outside of your organization's walls so that they can be matched to the skills that you have and also you want to be able to anticipate what skills you're going to need in the future and develop you for that you need an infrastructure as well and if you think that management intuition is going to solve that problem you're you may be surprised normally they say that the human touch is important in the final stage but AI can help in the more automatic stages right in the first part of the stages of hiring yeah just in terms of hiring yeah AI can play a role in different places humans can play a role like all along the lines there's there's no place where things need to be completely automated but their AI tools and their companies now that exist for connecting people with skills to the to the tasks that companies have and making those connections is not a straightforward activity at all and most companies need a little help to do that and by making sure that you have the right people like putting those organizations together to get to make those connections the better in terms you you also research a lot of AI what are the trends on AI that excites you most of what's coming so the most recent research report that we did with BCG that we were just talking about is like I'm totally thrilled with the outcome because when people talk about culture and AI oftentimes it's about how what kind of cultural changes do you need in order to adopt AI effectively well we found in this artist that's all that question only addresses like half the really important question and that half is yeah how do you how do you get AI going but what this report shows is that once you get effective AI AI that actually works in your organization that it helps you with efficiency it helps you with decision quality across teams you actually get a big bump in a big improvement in morale in collaboration in learning and in people's sense of what they should be doing these are like important employee engagement metrics or measures and we're seeing effective AI hit all of those so there's a whole cultural dimension that managers need to recognize and it's not like account for it's like how can we better leverage the kinds of employee engagement benefits that we see from AI in the enterprise so that it's not just about changing the culture to absorb and adopt AI which is important absolutely but that's only part of the culture story around AI and it's it used to be that people when they talked about AI changing the enterprise they used an analogy with what it was like to introduce electricity to the factory floor the factory floor long ago you had everybody had their little lanterns that was set up well if you thought about introducing electricity in a way that just substituted for those like better lighting for where you're at with your lantern you'd have like little day globes little lamps you wouldn't have fluorescent lighting with and what we're seeing in the enterprise now is that we're having fluorescent lighting that drips off like a vitamin D element that kind of helps with people's like their morale and their their sense of confidence and their ability to do the job it's not just changing structurally what the organization is like there's a qualitative dimension to what it feels like to be in the enterprise that's AI is affecting and that was a that was a kind of a cool thing that we found there's a lot of talk of course about gamification everywhere in inside workspace also and AI and data can help probably do that put data and achieve goals through AI right well what we found also in this in this report is that AI can help with performance but it can also help redefine what performance means in your organization we talked to a senior manager at CBS who's in charge of TV shows and she gave her she actually gave three AI teams like 50 years of consumer data and 50 years of outcome data in terms of TV performance and she asked her AI teams here are the KPIs that we have you know what these are the way this is the way we measure success of a TV show are there other metrics that we should be looking at based on all of this data and the AI teams came back and they said here are two new ones CBS didn't tell us which which were the two new ones but there's like they changed the set of KPIs that they had for what performance meant on a TV show that gets directly into what like operationally your organization is about but it also changes assumptions about what performance means these are like significant cultural dimensions that AI is affecting or can affect but you need to ask the right questions and if you don't know to ask your AI teams like should there be other performance drivers I should be looking at you're going to be behind other companies that are asking that question so the human element the ideas element the open-minded element is crucial true to to put AI to good in a good place right yeah we so we talked to a bunch of executives who described the need not that they had it but the need for having a culture of AI where they there was a there's a common language around using data and artificial intelligence to help solve problems help look for new opportunities help identify new performance drivers and if so these are like it's like a mental orientation to using AI for those kinds of problems and a lot of companies like aren't there yet but there's a bright future you see through this new ideas new forms of acting look I'm a very dark I can be I can go very dark sometimes so there is a lot of good that can be done with AI I don't know if we're in a honeymoon period where the next you know AI has kind of finally for various reasons the cost of data storage and processing all that kind of stuff chips like all those price have come down that have that has enabled AI to flourish after all these years it's been in development for 50 years and now that's getting used in business using society we can see a lot of potential a lot of but there's also a lot of potential for you know problematic things there's you know Terminator talk is not completely frivolous there was a there's a talk at MIT today that I missed unfortunately that was just about like automation of AI and its implications and like how do you manage the risks that come with that so there's definitely some good that we're seeing but there's definitely risks that we need to continue to watch out for in terms of risk a lot of talk about the metaverse now nowadays do you do you see what do you think should be a practice of a company working on AI in terms of care of having the proper people thinking about these issues from the base down all right so here's my thing about the metaverse is I have a philosophy background and long time ago probably see the 90s were 30 years ago probably like 50 years ago there's a philosopher by the name of David Lewis who came up with this he was a logician and he talked about modal logic and a lot of philosophers talk about logic and different possibilities and counterfactuals and all those kinds of things and but they said like if if the world weren't like this like a philosopher might say and it were like that what would follow David Lewis was the first one I recall to actually say when you talk about if it were like that and it hadn't like that's a real world and he was at the time considered like there was the guy read too much science fiction I mean this was the way he was treated I mean there's a brilliant philosopher recognizes one of the like top philosophers of the 20th century but that particular view like wasn't very well embraced now talking about possible worlds is like real real worlds as part of like a universe of universes it's a common thing it's not weird and it's so I bring this up to say that if leaders spent more time reading philosophy they might have a better sense of where the world is going and they asked their philosophers have a lot of like very useful things to talk about ethics as well makes perfect sense as social sciences are important even in technology right absolutely the social sciences are absolutely critical to repair hair the social sciences with some humanities and there we're seeing so many more sociologists Tom Davenport who a lot of people know for his work with data and like competing on data he was a sociologist there are companies that are hiring chief anthropologists their chief economists the organization are oftentimes being led by people who are relying more on people who are experts in the social sciences not just business and that's all for the good that's the kind of diversity that has been missing an organization that I've certainly been glad to see I'm just thinking that more and more more and more leaders of companies are taking on a philosophers role and it's been amazing to me over the past five years to watch more leaders just I won't say spout but you know express things that they feel like they need to say to their employees you know from a from almost like a life advice like coaching point of view they are they are taking on certain elements of a philosophers mantle and might serve them some good actually like read some philosophy to support that we're a digital clinic for substance addictions focusing on the US market so we help individuals conquer their substance addictions whether it's alcohol tobacco or opioid addictions and in doing so help pay as recoup some of the health care costs associated with treating addictions over time my company is all about improving access to evidence-based treatment for addiction so addiction has long been a problem particularly in the US over the last decade what we actually saw was the combination of the fear and anxiety and isolation actually led to a sudden increase in substance use disorders over the last 18 months what we do at quick genius is we use a combination of telehealth connected devices access to medication and digital CBT to ensure that people can get access to addiction treatment almost instantaneously within 24 hours and that's something that never existed before in the past and the challenge that you know people had was the vast majority of people would never get access to treatment so I think that's a great example of something that technology can solve which is a deep societal issue and you know really does affect an individual and their family it's really nice actually to be able to be here and connect and network with people in person I think you know that there's something that's lost by just keeping relationships entirely digital I think the the scale and size of web summit this year just underpins the fact that technology has seen so much growth over the last 18 months and so it's really a great time to be in technology which you know whichever part in which you're operating so it's really exciting to be here in many ways and it's very industry specific even within the different sectors of the Internet but we have seen a rapid acceleration you know probably a decade of progress compressed within 18 months I work in the healthcare world which has been particularly affected you know by the rapid acceleration of digital health in particular so you know if you think about sort of pre-pandemic very few people have ever interfaced with digital health before in the past but almost overnight digital health from change from being a convenience to a necessity and I think those trends are only really here to stay we've seen you know rapid progression towards people using technology in more and more parts of their lives and I think they've started to unlock actually some of the sort of significant improvements that can bring to their lives in terms of improving access and equity within healthcare at least we've seen a lot of really potential around some of the positive changes that can actually happen when people get connected they get online and you improve access to your things that fundamentally are just you know part of human society today so you know healthcare is always example I lean back on but the fact that people you know now realize that actually I don't need to take an entire day off work I don't need to travel across town I don't need to wait weeks for an appointment I can see a doctor or a therapist you know just through my smartphone by using sort of video conferencing I think that's incredibly powerful because access has long been a really big issue particularly in highly stigmatized issues such as you know what quick genius works in within the substance use disorder world so I do think that these trends are definitely positive in the long term I think some of the things to watch out for is things that you know relate to technology equity and equity and access so you know you don't want people potentially missing out because they can't really navigate how to get online or perhaps they don't have you know the tools that will enable them to do so so I think that's important to watch I think like a secondary point over there as well is in many ways technology has become a lot more powerful and a lot more cemented and central to people's lives and naturally there's going to be a lot of scrutiny on tech companies and that's generally a shift that we've sort of seen over the last decade but particularly over the last 18 months it's become even more marked so people are holding tech companies to account from everything such as how they use their data to how they interface to sort of what overall benefit they bring to society I think that's an important conversation to be having I think tech companies should be held to the highest of standards and I do think there have been practices in the past that probably haven't been good and set a good example of what you know the positive impact that technology can have on people's lives so I think that scrutiny is good it should continue to exist but also my kind of overwhelming sentiment is that technology is really sort of a way to drive progress and help improve some of the challenges that we face as a society one thing about technology and the Internet is you can't really predict it so you know we see lots of trends around everything from you know the metaverse to really bringing the Internet back into our physical space I think there's lots to be excited about I just think that you know as long as we think about sort of mission driven like technology with you know beneficial impact on society and also being mission driven to an extent that's the really important thing so I'm not going to pretend to speculate on what the next decade will bring but I'm generally very optimistic about the next decade based on the progress we've seen so far we're betting on the technology for the future not the technology for the past so having a broad network having global companies now running at full enterprise scale gives us great comfort it's dead clear that no one is innovating in this space as fast as Cloudflare is.

With the help of Cloudflare we were able to add an extra layer of network security controlled by Alliance including WAF, DDoS.

Cloudflare uses CDN and so allows us to keep cost under control and caching and improves speed.

Cloudflare has been an amazing partner in the privacy front. They've been willing to be extremely transparent about the data that they are collecting and why they're using it and they've also been willing to throw those logs away.

I think one of our favorite features of Cloudflare has been the worker technology.

Our origins can go down and things will continue to operate perfectly. I think having that kind of a safety net you know provided by Cloudflare goes a long ways.

We were able to leverage Cloudflare to save about $250,000 within about a day.

The cost savings across the board is measurable it's dramatic and it's something that actually dwarfs the the yearly cost of our service with Cloudflare.

It's really amazing to partner with a vendor who's not just providing a great enterprise service but also helping to move forward the security on the Internet.

One of the things we didn't expect to happen is that the majority of traffic coming into our infrastructure would get faster response times which is incredible like Zendesk just got 50% faster for all of today's customers around the world because we migrated to Cloudflare.

We chose Cloudflare over other existing technology vendors so we could provide a single standard for our global footprint ensuring world-class capabilities in bot management and web application firewall to protect our large public facing digital presence.

We ended up building our own fleet of HAProxy servers such that we could easily lose one and then it wouldn't have a massive effect but it was very hard to manage because we kept adding more and more machines as we grew.

With Cloudflare we were able to just scrap all of that because Cloudflare now sits in front and does all the work for us.

Cloudflare helped us to improve the customer satisfaction. It removed the friction with our customer engagement.

It's very low maintenance and very cost -effective and very easy to deploy and and it improves the customer experiences big time.

Cloudflare is amazing. Cloudflare is such a relief. Cloudflare is very easy to use.

It's worst. Cloudflare really plays the first level of defense for us. Cloudflare has given us peace of mind.

They've got our backs. Cloudflare has been fantastic.

I would definitely recommend Cloudflare. Cloudflare is providing an incredible service to the world right now.

Cloudflare has helped save lives through Project Fairshot.

We will forever be grateful for your participation in getting the vaccine to those who need it most in an elegant efficient and ethical manner.

Thank you.

We have seen malicious foreign actors attempt to subvert democracy.

What we saw was a sophisticated attack on our electoral system.

The Athenian project is our little contribution as a company to say how can we help ensure that the political process has integrity, that people can trust it, and that people can rely on it.

It's like a small family or community here and I think elections around the nation is the same way.

We're not a big agency. We don't have thousands of employees. We have tens of employees.

We have less than a hundred here in North Carolina. So what's on my mind when I get up and go to work every morning is what's next.

What did we not think of and what are the bad actors thinking of?

The Athenian project, we use that to protect our voter information center site and allow it to be securely accessed by the citizens of Rhode Island.

It's extremely important to protect that and to be able to keep it available.

There are many bad actors out there that are trying to bring that down and others trying to penetrate our perimeter defenses from the Internet to access our voter registration and or tabulation data.

So it's very important to have a elections website that is safe, secure, and foremost accurate.

The Athenian project for anyone who is trying to run election anywhere in the United States is provided by us for free.

We think of it as a community service.

I stay optimistic by reminding myself there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

It's not a train. Having this protection gives us some peace of mind that we know if if for some reason we were to come under attack we wouldn't have to scramble or worry about trying to keep our site up that Cloudflare has our back.


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Web Summit
Join us for conversations at Web Summit, the annual marquee tech conference held in Lisbon, Portugal.
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