On growth mindsets, learning curves, and making privacy accessible with Cape PrivacyFeatured
I spoke with @Keely, lead marketing manager at Cape Privacy, and @kjam, head of product at Cape Privacy. Cape Privacy helps teams share data and make decisions for safer and more powerful data science. How do you exercise and cultivate crucial soft skills like creativity? KC: Cultivating soft skills and exercising them is extremely important from a marketing and branding perspective. If your message or your look feels out of touch, it won’t resonate with audiences -- no matter how good the product is! There’s no singular way to build creative skill sets, but to keep myself current and engaged, I like to make sure that I am evaluating where branding is trending across many industries. It’s important to look outside of your own industry because it can spark creative approaches that can keep you ahead of competitors. Some of the ways I do this is by using social media platforms, tools like Dribbble, and reading articles from AdAge.KJ: I take some whiteboard away from screen time at least once a week to get drawing and thinking about the product in a more creative way. We also regularly have design thinking ideation sessions (with support of tools like Mural) to encourage crazy ideas and suggestions that we hope will both make the product better but also help improve how we communicate with one another and share ideas and knowledge.What is the most surprising lesson you have learned about leadership? KC: For me, the most surprising aspect that I’ve learned about leadership is how transparency has the power to transform work relationships positively. The world around us is changing, and part of that change is the cruciality of having open and empathetic conversations as a leader and as an individual contributor. While professionalism should be the root of our conversations, there’s an opportunity now to say “I am burnt out” from both ends of the spectrum. There’s a demand to address what have often been referred to as “uncomfortable” conversations around diversity and inclusion. There is a lot of work to be done in the tech space, but as a leader, I am looking forward to encouraging open dialogue with employees because when your team feels heard and respected, the work produced exceeds expectations.KJ: I completely second Keely’s thoughts! I think we are entering an era of hopefully more accountable leadership - accountability from an ethical, equitable and human- and society-centered point of view. This is part of why I love working on our mission - to make privacy more accessible and available to all!What drew you to Cape Privacy? KC: It’s an interesting story of how I was introduced to Cape Privacy! One of the hardest parts about job changes is knowing how to get your foot in the door. With any position I've had, I’ve been able to leverage the relationships I’ve made from past vendors, past coworkers, or mentors. I highly recommend keeping up relationships after moving positions, or joining groups that relate to where you’d like your career to go. These types of relationships make warm introductions possible. From that warm introduction, I was able to learn that Cape Privacy had the people and the technology I wanted to work with. Coming from security into data privacy, there were some parallels to be drawn, but there is a lot of excitement around learning a new field. I’m always down for a challenge and felt that building Cape Privacy’s marketing efforts fit my passions and skill sets. The people on the team are the real drawing force to me, though. Once I had my first conversation with Katharine, I knew I wanted in. Everyone is bright, eager, and adaptable. KJ: Aw yay! Keely is such a huge step up for us, I’m so glad you joined! I have been involved in data privacy and machine learning for the past 3-4 years, and when I had the opportunity to join the team, I jumped on it. I had stepped down from my startup (KIProtect) in June and took the summer to figure out what was next for me. When Gavin Uhma (co-founder and now CTO) reached out, I was so excited because I had heard of the team and their work. We do have a great mix of experts - but no one who is an expert in all things - so I love the fact that we can ALWAYS learn from one another, as well as new team members. If you would like to join us or get to know the team, I encourage you to reach out to Keely or I on Elpha! :)What was the learning curve when joining/ramping up at Cape Privacy? KC: Definitely learning about data science, data privacy, and machine learning. Many people will recommend reading up on technologies to learn them. While I absolutely agree that online resources are a powerful tool, they are often overwhelming unless you know how to organize the content. I recommend combining online research with personal conversations with subject matter experts on your team. Schedule meetings with engineers, with researchers, and ask questions. Additionally, I love the process of learning through osmosis. I push myself to join in on conversations, during meetings or on Slack. The more you do this, the more you start to pick up the technology naturally. Like security, there’s always a new technology or a new area of interest that is around the corner. What makes this industry different is you never master it in its entirety. You have to be someone who loves continued learning to be in this space. KJ: Ditto!! I didn’t realize this was the next question 😂 and yes, I completely agree that this is a continual space to learn. Definitely for curious problem solvers and folks who like to think, read, discuss, reflect, repeat! We also have a new initiative called Continuous Education Wednesdays where we form either individual or small group study sessions - so learning is definitely part of our culture!What unique attributes does Cape Privacy look for in candidates? KC: The unique attributes that Cape Privacy looks for in candidates relates to how unique we are in our field. We’re looking for professionals who value the same transparency, collaboration, and commitment to data privacy that our company values. For any one in the tech industry, one of the most important aspects you can bring to the table is the grace to admit you don’t know it all, and the hunger to learn. The industry lingo will come, but the passion needs to be inherent. KJ: Yes! Agree with Keely that collaboration is a huge part of our work. Not only is it embedded in what we are trying to achieve (how can privacy experts and data scientists work together to solve big data issues?) but it is also one of the core pillars to how we work. For anyone that’s worked in a remote team - you likely know EXACTLY what we are referring to. And, for better or worse, I think we’ve all had a taste of remote work in the past year. Collaboration, working together, listening and building on others’ ideas are key parts of how we (and any functioning remote team) build products and keep improving.What is the most impactful project you have worked on at Cape Privacy and what did you learn from it? KC: The most impactful project that I worked on during my time at Cape Privacy is the same project I worked on in my first week! We released our GitHub project, Cape Privacy Python, and I quickly jumped in to provide support, promotion, and guidance. It was an awesome experience to be able to so quickly add value to an already strong team and project. I felt immediately connected to the work, and that feeling has continued. KJ: Keely, it honestly felt like you were with us for a month in what you accomplished in a week - it was amazing! I think our launch was pretty fantastic and we have another one coming on July 31 - so stay tuned! From our initial launch, and from the one we are working on now, I learned that when you get a group of passionate and intelligent people together executing on an idea, you can make huge progress in a short period of time. Our engineering and research squads have had lots of wins, even before I joined; and being a part of that momentum has taught me a lot about what is possible when you have a supportive and open culture. For our initial launch I had to kill a big feature that the team had spent time on. It was a difficult decision, but it just didn’t fit the needs of our users. Tough product choices are always a part of early-stage products, and I hope to face more challenges as our product grows (but also sometimes secretly hope we only ever make the right decisions 😂).What are you most excited for in the world of privacy and data science? KC: What I am the most excited for in the world of privacy and data science is the contributions the field can make to social issues and social good, like what collaborative data can offer to challenges in public health, racial prejudices, and gender prejudices. Data is a powerful tool that we have yet to tap into the full potential of. As our world changes, we should look to data privacy and data science to help us creatively problem solve, to inform decision-making and to drive a better future for our kids. KJ: Agreed. If we don’t address the privacy challenges, we likely won’t be able to address much larger issues that face us. I strongly believe that privacy acts as a parallel for privilege in our society. As we have conversations about racial and gender privilege, we should too question who has access to privacy and who does not? When we build tools based on data from others, are we respecting their trust in us? At Cape Privacy, we want to make it extremely easy for data science and machine learning projects to use the most sensitive data in a responsible and equitable way by leveraging the best privacy technologies available.What is the biggest challenge you face daily on the job? KC: The biggest challenge that I face daily is up to speed on the technology. It can sometimes be frustrating when I immediately don’t pick up on the terminology, the architecture -- and that can intimidate a lot of people out of reaching for goals. I’ve been lucky that at Cape Privacy, there’s no “gate-keeping” to learning. Everyone is happy to help me understand, or offer extra support so I can do my best job in our storytelling. No job will be without its challenges, and I think what sets Cape apart -- and ahead -- is the level of conversation and collaboration we offer each other.KJ: That’s great to hear - I know sometimes we dip into technical jargon and it’s good to be reminded - oh, I’m doing that again! One of our product pillars is to ensure that we make advanced privacy and security more accessible. If we can’t explain things to a 5-year-old and an 95-year-old (and everyone in between) then we aren’t doing a good job at that. We’ve been talking also about creating some collaborative onboarding content so that terms we use often (like PPML: Privacy-Preserving Machine Learning) are introduced in fun and understandable ways. I would say that my main challenge is ensuring that we are all touching the right parts of the product at the right times (or close enough). I try to keep folks aligned but also leave space for wiggle room! We want to spark creativity, have more ideas from more voices about what we are building, but also have clarity on what we need to deliver in the shorter time frame. Some processes I have seen work well is that we have regular design thinking meetings using Mural for online collaboration. I facilitate and try to challenge the team to think creatively and empathetically. For product planning, we use a mixture of ProductBoard and GitHub, so that user problems are centric and that we can link feature ideas with user research and customer input. Finally, we have several processes for defining requirements and handoff, including a process to enable the engineering team to make quick tactical decisions as they build and ask for feedback later. Building these systems and learning what works (and what doesn’t!) has been a blast - and taught me a lot more about how to facilitate conversation and listen. I look forward to continuing to learn. Check out open roles at https://elpha.com/companies/cape-privacy!