Web Summit 2022: A Talk About the Future of Tech
Dubbed “the world’s premier tech conference” by Politico, Web Summit is a gathering place for the most influential players in the industry. CEOs and tech entrepreneurs share the stage and swap strategies with policymakers and heads of state, with the goal of dreaming up what’s next. So naturally, H&P had to be there.
Following the event, we sat down with H&P Creative Director, Rachel Leake (based in Barcelona, Spain), and CTO, Benoit Dutrevis (based in Lima, Peru), to discuss their experiences. Here is what they had to say.
Out of all the industry conferences you could attend, why did you choose Web Summit: Lisbon?
Rachel – We share an interest in the tech scene. I come from the in-house, startup side, having worked in SaaS and product alongside engineering teams, so I have a deep appreciation for the tech that builds creative solutions.
Benoit – I obviously love everything tech—Web 3.0, security, cloud computing, AI. And as H&P’s CTO, it’s crucial that I stay on top of changes in the industry.
Also, managing a diverse team, and having a multicultural background myself, I appreciate the emphasis Web Summit places on cultural topics like diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and global trends.
Rachel – I love that Web Summit tracks not only on the tech, but also on its ethical and societal implications. The talks often bluntly address the toughest challenges in the industry or ‘elephants’ in the room—from Meta’s failure to monitor Web 2.0 content while investing in the metaverse to corporate greenwashing to capitalize on climate change.
Was this H&P’s first-time attending Web Summit?
Rachel – This was Benoit’s and my third time. It is kind of like our annual reunion.
Benoit – Other H&P employees and I also attended the 2020 version, which was entirely online due to the pandemic.
From keynote speakers to round table discussions, it sounds like there is quite a lot of content to take in. How do you go about planning your daily schedule?
Benoit – Yes, there is definitely a lot to choose from, but every year I feel we improve the way we approach the conference. We both have a list of topic categories we favor and, based on these, we build up our personal schedules.
Rachel – We have quite a lot of topics in common that we try to attend together: DEI, Sustainability, Talent Retention, Privacy. And then we normally split up for more niche, department-specific topics.
Benoit – May I say, we also do a whole lot of walking and coffee drinking.
Rachel, what were some of your takeaways about the future of marketing?
Rachel – A few things stood out. First, although social media seems like a basic, the way younger generations are using it is driving consumer trends—like integrating video posts into search results.
In terms of advertising, search is the leading motivator to influencing a user’s decision. Although Google has been a dominating player, social media platforms like TikTok are where Gen Z is going for information. Google has taken notice and is making enhancements to prioritize organic posts in search results, like in Google Web Stories.1
Brands that want to capture the Gen Z audience should take notice. In tandem with your SEO strategy, creating a solid social strategy for your organic content and cohesive social presence across platforms is now more important than ever.
Secondly, is the metaverse. The biggest tech shift right now is the move from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0—a decentralized and open internet that allows for more immersive, virtual worlds. Connecting physical and virtual environments has the potential to transform a user’s experience and poses a huge opportunity for brands.
This is the future and brands are already experimenting. Lego is building safe, immersive experiences for kids to engage in,2 while Nike partnered with Roblox to create an immersive sport-game hybrid called Nikeland.
The metaverse enables brands to build customer loyalty and brand recognition through exclusivity, early access or special features. For smaller brands that can’t afford a full experience, there is opportunity to promote digital products, create collectibles, or host one-time events.3
Keep in mind that experiences need to connect to your brand. If you jump into new technologies and platforms without aligning with your brand’s core values, your strategy will fail. At the end of the day, marketing is still about building personalized relationships and emotional connections to your product or company.4
We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.
Craig Davis, former Chief Creative Officer, J. Walter Thompson
How To Make Terrible Branded Content
Ben, let’s talk productivity & development. What were some things that stood out to you?
Benoit – I learned a new word, “Guesstimate,” which I think is a great representation of what a lot of people in development do—at least at the beginning of a project when the scope is often unclear.
A few stats caught my attention. 50% of the total project cost can be dedicated to rework and optimization post-launch. 62% of high-fidelity prototypes are not validated on customers, and 47% of the time, trends in analytics are diagnosed without insights from customers.5
We can’t just assume our solutions will be successful. Designs need to be tested on real customers before they go to development—because once in development, the cost to correct an issue greatly increases. The earlier we are able test on the customer, the less time we spend refining the work. In the long run, these measures will result in significant cost savings.
On a different note, during a talk about tech stack killing productivity, I learned another new term called the “Toggle Tax.” This is basically the time we spend each week toggling in between apps. A knowledge worker on average is spending 4 hours a week on the toggle tax.6 They discussed how workers are engaging in more multi-tasking & context-switching than ever before, and it affects our productivity in many ways. I know my team members will be the first to agree on this. So more than ever, team leaders like myself need to prioritize workload to maximize efficiency.
62% of high-fidelity prototypes are not validated on customers.
Louis Granger, Director of Solution Consulting, UserTesting.com
Taking the Guesswork Out of Product Development
Accessibility is a topic that is gaining traction. What can designers and developers do to ensure their products are accessible to all audiences?
Rachel – Design and accessibility are intertwined; we are at the point where accessibility can no longer be an afterthought. Around 1 billion people, roughly 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability. The majority of accessibility problems stem from designs that prioritize style and aesthetics over inclusivity.7
Benoit – The work doesn’t end at the visual design—it also affects code, UX and SEO. Descriptive alt text for images, accurate aria-label and logical site architecture for screen readers are crucial for creating an accessible experience.
Rachel – There is a real value, not just for people, but for businesses as well. Companies who embrace inclusivity are 35% more likely to see better business results.8
We cannot continue to unintentionally exclude 1 out of 15 people living on this planet.
Jane Geraghty, Global CEO, Landor & Fitch
Why Accessibility Must Be the Foundation of Design
Prioritizing the well-being of employees is good for morale, but do the benefits extend beyond productivity?
Rachel – We know mental well-being is directly tied to productivity and performance.9 Now, there is evidence that it also affects the bottom line. We learned that burned-out employees are 2x more likely to reuse passwords and 3x more likely to ignore security policies.10 The more people are stressed, the more security suffers.
Benoit – We’re used to hearing big news about colonial attacks—such as brute force login—but we forget the place of human error in security breaches. They can often be the result of a mistake—mistakes are more common than malicious intent. This is another reason to look after the mental health of employees.
To fix this problem we must start at the source. This means having not only policies in place to protect your employees, but also a culture that actively supports disconnecting from work. And finally, prepare your team with education and tools to help alleviate additional stressors that could impact security.
Burned out employees are 2x more likely to reuse passwords and 3x more likely to ignore security policies.
Jeff Shiner, CEO, 1Password
Human-Centric Security: Why Stressed Employees Are a Risk
Great points about safeguarding data, but what about safeguarding users’ identities? Are there any updates predicted for consumer privacy?
Rachel – Yes, and what’s interesting is that consumers are driving the trend of privacy in advertising. They want more transparency and control.
We can look at the growing, marketing-averse developer community to predict global trends, like adblocking and cookies; they are pushing the shift towards increased data privacy and consumer rights.11 Advertising needs to shift gears from creepy stalking to ethical, consent-based tracking—or just net-new strategies.
Benoit – The EU’s regulatory controls are also having an impact on consumer rights, with efforts like GDPR and Digital Services Act. We often hear complaints about following these regulations, but the reality is that this is where the web is headed.12
Rachel – Even Google took a step towards decentralizing personal data when they announced to stop the use of third-party cookies in Chrome by the end of 2024.13 Personal data should be owned by the individual and provided only by consent.
Benoit – …Only then can we truly have data interoperability and move to Web 3.0.
Personal data should be owned by the individual and provided only by consent.
Till Faida, from eyeo
The data revolution
What is data interoperability?
Benoit – Data interoperability is the concept that systems connect and exchange data information with one another without friction.
Currently, an individual has no insight into what is being tracked or stored. With data interoperability, data ownership would transfer from the hands of billionaires and third parties to the user. The user’s information would be contained within a personal data vault, giving them the power to choose if and how organizations access specific data.
For example, let’s say a user wants to share their CV and professional certificates with a future employer, but not their health history. The individual would set their preferences and the data vault would seamlessly field third-party requests. That is data interoperability. And it will only work when users become true owners of their digital assets.14
Rachel – The vision of greater utility for users on an open, decentralized web is the vision for Web 3.0, free from the control of corporate monoliths and surveillant social media organizations.
Meredith Whittaker, president of the popular encrypted messaging app, Signal, discussed social surveillance in her talk. This surveillance business model, free products that collect your data and track your every move, is the most profitable business model in the tech world.15 It’s frightening because we have never been able to track so many facets of human behaviors before. Hence the backlash and why we’re in the middle of this personal data revolution that we opened this question with.16
The tech industry is based on the surveillance business model. Data created about so-called users is monetized for one or another purpose: whether its selling ads, or training a military AI model, or making inferences and predictions about whether someone gets a loan or someone gets medical care.
Meredith Whittaker, President, Signal
Signal, Privacy and a Different Tech Business Model
AI has been described as the next big disruptor in the workplace, but this comes at a time where marginalized groups are already struggling to gain a seat at the table. How was this topic discussed?
Rachel – There was a lot of talk about AI in the creative process. It’s getting incredibly smart and is capable of high-quality output. There are fears in the industry that in the future we’ll no longer need designers. Speaker Fabian Birgfeld reassured us that’s not the case. Designers are still needed to bring that human element back into design. AI is responding to inputs and prompts; it’s not going to generate that ‘AHA’ next big idea.17
Benoit – Speaking of prompts, any AI algorithm is only as good as the data it is trained on. There are multiple cases of biases in data that result in AI-generated outcomes discriminating against marginalized groups. Which is why it’s so important to understand our individual biases and ensure we have diversity across our organizations.
Rachel – Diversity in the tech sector is awful right now. In Europe, white men make up 75% of the industry, women make up about another 25% and only about 5% of those women are Black. And while half of university students identify as women, only 25% make it into the entire tech sector.18 Which leads us to ask, “why?”
Well, you need to research the source of the problem to create solutions, and we heard from researcher Stela Suils Cuesta who is gathering funding to answer just that: Why are women dropping out of the workforce? Why aren’t women of color being promoted? Why are we still dealing with a gender pay gap?19
Benoit – The answers may be linked to inclusion. While diversity involves getting marginalized groups in the room, inclusion is making them feel welcome. An analogy that Stela gave was having a room full of people with different backgrounds, gender, and ethnicity but not enough chairs for all of them to be seated. That is diversity without inclusion.20
Diversity is getting marginalized groups in the room. But inclusion is making them feel welcome.
Stela Suils Cuesta from Diversitude
Allyship: Beyond DEI
So what can organizations do to ensure fair and equal representation?
Benoit – First, you need to understand your privilege to then be an ally. Allyship is an active effort to use your privilege and power to advocate for people with less privilege. Feeling like an ally is different than acting as an ally. If you do not take action to right wrongful situations encountered by marginalized identities, then you’re not an ally.21
Rachel – Ben brings up a great point about inaction and silence. In my point of view, it hasn’t been sweeping, grand gestures. It’s small moments: pointing out someone’s joke about another’s accent isn’t appropriate, correcting someone when they misuse another’s pronouns, creating space for introverts to contribute in meetings, speaking up if someone is left off a call…
Benoit – And it moves into organizational processes as well: Are we tracking diversity data? Have we set recruitment quotas? Are we transparent about our salary structures? Do we have diversity in our C-Suite? Do we have a fully dedicated DEI position or is it something employees do on top of their main job?
Rachel – The results back it up. Diverse companies perform better, female leadership is found to be more effective, and female founders generate more revenue than male.22 But this isn’t an overnight change.
Fighting Racism is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. System change takes time and is really cumbersome!
Kim Smouter, Director General, European Network Against Racism
Building Structures for Racial Equality
Rachel, as a woman in a leadership position in a male-dominated field, what is something you took away from the Web Summit?
Rachel – One of my favorite talks was #IAmRemarkable—an initiative by Google to empower women and other underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements in the workplace and beyond.24 Self-promotion matters: being able to speak about our value is critical to our personal confidence, professional success and career advancement.
The insecurity of feeling underqualified for a position hinders women from even applying for promotions. One of the studies mentioned that men tend to apply when they feel they meet 60% of the criteria for a position, whereas women tend to apply only if they feel they meet 100% of the criteria.
Why don’t we self-promote? One reason is women are often afraid to be seen as bragging. As Shirley stated, “It’s not bragging if it’s based on facts.” Let’s stop deflecting compliments and using “we” statements when it should be “I.” Start small with a success journal, practicing in the mirror or role-playing with a trusted colleague. And start talking openly about your achievements.
And this isn’t restricted to women. Anyone who feels different, like those from marginalized groups, are less likely to self-promote. Places where people don’t feel comfortable to self-promote are the same where they feel like they don’t fit in. All the more reason to work on inclusion alongside diversity.
Accomplishments do not speak for themselves.
Shirley Dloomy, Senior Legal Counsel, Google
Talent retention is always a topic of debate. Where did the speakers stand regarding the right to work remotely?
Benoit – To quote Taso Du Val, CEO of Toptal: “Without a doubt, remote work is the future of the “Top Talent” of the world. People are ready to take pay cuts or lose benefits simply to work in a remote environment. Guess what? Now, you can go to Argentina and make 6 figures from a US company, tripling your spending power by just moving! Old mindset companies will struggle to retain top talent for that reason.”25
However, as someone that has been working remotely for more than 15 years, working remote is no longer a privilege or a benefit, it is the default status. Pre-pandemic it was—but that ship has sailed.
Flexibility and trust are more important than ever to retain employees. Investments that made sense 6 months ago may not make sense now and companies are aware of this. Companies must embrace the idea of a career path and development will thrive.26
We trust you to get your work done, you know what works for you and your team.
Dan Shapero, COO, LinkedIn
The impacts of the war in Ukraine have been far-reaching. How was this topic addressed?
Benoit – The war in Ukraine was very much top of mind. There were multiple talks dedicated to the topic, along with 2000 Ukrainian attendees and 70 Ukrainian startups. The Web Summit opened with special guest speaker, Olena Zelenska, the First Lady of Ukraine, calling on the tech community to help against Russia’s invasion of her country.27
Mykhailo Fedorov, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital transformation of Ukraine, took the center stage to reiterate that “the war in Ukraine is really a technological war”—from drone surveillance to sophisticated missiles and jamming front-line communications.28
Rachel – Our last talk shared how Ukrainian teams are using open-source platforms to gather intelligence to document war crimes. Evidence documentation is imperative to conduct third-party investigations. There is no peace without justice, and tech can make it more effective.29
Technologies should be used to create, save and help people—not to destroy.
Olena Zelenska, First Lady of Ukraine
Anything else you learned a bit out of the ordinary?
Benoit – This is timely as the World Cup just ended and H&P has a lot of sports fans. I learned a new term, Sportwashing, which is when countries try to improve their reputation and public image through hosting or funding sports. It is often used to direct attention away from a poor human rights record.30
Rachel – Yuhki Yamashita, the Chief Product Officer at Figma, shared his team’s scale for prioritizing feedback by how willing you are to die on the hill for it. Brilliant. 100% stealing it.31
Benoit – I also learned what a ZEO is: a CEO who is Gen-Z.32
Rachel – I went to a talk, “How graphs are changing the world” thinking it was about infographics or data visualization. It was about graph databases! Not quite the same. But I learned how graph technology reveals valuable connections in data that you can’t get with a basic, tabular database. And those connections have real-life implications—whether it’s fraud detection by banks or chasing down oligarch wealth in the Panama Papers finding.33
Last but not least, let’s talk about Portugal, and Lisbon in particular.
Rachel – Lisbon is one of my favorite cities! I love Portuguese culture, architecture, food… Speaking of food, we are both obsessed with their pastéis de nata. It’s our go-to breakfast for the week.
Benoit – As much as I like the pastry, there are two things that I try to bring back home every year: the Portuguese cheese, Queijo Serra da Estrela, and their national drink, Ginjinha.
Another thing we both love is Lisbon’s public transportation system as it’s well-designed and efficient. They’re also planning on making it free for the young and elderly in the future. Carlos Moedas, the Mayor of Lisbon, also has goals to have a free healthcare plan for people 65+ and for the city to be carbon neutral by 2030.
Rachel – And Portugal recently created the Green Energy Corridor alongside Spain and France to speed up the energy transition of the three nations. It’s inspiring to see a country so dedicated to innovation, accessibility and sustainability.
Benoit – Plus, with their Unicorn Factory and Digital Nomad VISA, it is obvious that Lisbon is aiming to be one of the major tech hubs of Europe.
1 “Marketing outside the box” with Khalid El Khatib from Stack Overflow and Olivia Morley: from Adweek
2 “Brick by brick: Building Lego love and relevance after 90 years” with Julia Goldin from The Lego Group
3 “The Sandbox: A metaverse in the making” with Sebastien Borget from The Sandbox
4 “Branding my unicorn” with Mohamad Ballout from Kitopi
5 “Taking the guesswork out of product development” with Louis Granger from UserTesting.com
6 “Is your tech stack killing your productivity?” with Yuhki Yamashita from Figma, Arvind Jain from Glean and Ryan Browne from CNBC
7 “Why accessibility must be the foundation of design” with Jane Geraghty from Landor & Fitch
8 “Diversity wins: How inclusion matters” by McKinsey
9 “Future-minded leadership, mental fitness and the future of work” with Alexi Robichaux from BetterUp and Natashya Gutierrez from Vice
10 “Human-centric security: Why stressed employees are a risk” with Jeff Shiner of 1password & Mary-Ann Russon from NBC News
11 “Marketing outside the box” with Khalid El Khatib from Stack Overflow and Olivia Morley: from Adweek
12 “The Data Revolution” with Till Faida from eyeo and Julia Angwin from the The MarkUp
13 “Helping people stay safe online: How Google tackles abuse at scale” with Amanda Storey from Trust & Safety Google and Ali Ihsan Aydin from Euronews.
14 “Why content creators need Web3” with Timmu Tõke from Ready Player Me, Pierina Merino from FlickPlay, and Bradley Miles from Roll
15 “Signal, privacy, and a different tech business model” with Meredith Whittaker from Signal
16 “The Data Revolution” with Till Faida from eyeo and Julia Angwin from the The MarkUp
17 “Designing for real-time experiences” with Fabian Birgfeld from W12 Studios
18 “Allyship: Beyond DEI” with Stela Suils Cuesta from Diversitude and Lia Raquel Neves from EITIC
19 “Building structures for racial equality” with Kim Smouter from European Network Against Racism and Vanessa Sanches from Bantumen & IDE Social Hub
20 “Retention and Attrition in Women in tech” with Stela Suils Cuesta from Diversitude
21 “Allyship: Beyond DEI” with Stela Suils Cuesta from Diversitude and Lia Raquel Neves from EITIC
22 “Closing the gender gap” with Amanda Maiwald from Codary
23 “Building structures for racial equality” with Kim Smouter from European Network Against Racism and Vanessa Sanches from Bantumen & IDE Social Hub
24 “#IAmRemarkable Workshop” with Shirley Dloomy from Google
25 “Borderless hiring to drive innovation in challenging times” with Taso Du Val from Toptal & Rani Molla from Recode
26 “Making sense of the future of work” with Dan Shapero from LinkedIn and Dan Milmo from The Guardian
27 “Opening Night” with Olena Zelenska, First Lady of Ukraine
28 “Building a better Ukraine” with Mykhailo Fedorov from Government of Ukraine
29 “Tech for peace: How tech can protect civilians during war” with Nadia Volkova from Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group, Dmytro Zolotukhin from Kyiv Mohyla Academy, and Ashley Jordana from Hala Systems
30 “2022: The year of sportswashing?” with Miguel Delaney from The Independent, Joey D’Urso, from The Athletic UK and Rob Harris from Sky News
31 “Confessions of modern design: How design is changing, and how we need to change with it” with Yuhki Yamashita from Figma
32 “Here come the ZEOs: What happens when gen Z enters the C-suite?” with Harris Reed, ZEO & Jackie Cooper, Chief Brand Officer from Edelman
33 “How’s graphs are changing the world” with Emil Eifrem from Neo4j and Patrick Pichette from Inovia Capital
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