How Twitter keeps up with the rapid pace of change in the Middle East

More people are now using Twitter in MENA to converse and discover information than ever before and managing director Benjamin Ampen is at the heart of the platform's drive to connect audiences
How Twitter keeps up with the rapid pace of change in the Middle East
Voice of change Ampen believes a leader is about creating change, often by empowering others
By Shayan Shakeel
Thu 23 Aug 2018 09:22 AM

Is there a moonshot idea that you are currently intrigued by? Are there any you are pursuing in your organisation?

One of the reasons I joined Twitter six years ago was to be part of an organisation that believes every voice has the power to impact the world. The idea is based on values that have shaped our service for years, but it’s now more relevant than ever due to our recent endeavour to build a platform that “serves public conversation” for all. By this we mean encouraging healthier debate, conversations and critical thinking.

At the moment, the indicators that we’ve identified for measuring conversational health are: identifying an overlap in the discussion of important topics, exposing participants to differing viewpoints, maintaining a degree of civility that allows for respectful dialogue and exchange, and measuring patterns of rumours being discussed by bots and automated accounts. We’ve introduced new measures to fight abuse and trolls, new policies on hateful conduct and violent extremism, are bringing in new technology and staff to fight spam and abuse and ensuring that everyone can have confidence in their followers.

We will continue to communicate our commitment around serving the public conversation and will hold ourselves publicly accountable towards the progress.

What does diversity mean to you? How are you pursuing this? Are there results/numbers that you can share?

Diversity is key to the long-term success of a team and a necessary element for personal growth. It enables people to constantly gain different perspectives and to question their decisions and thoughts constructively.

I truly believe that if diversity is ubiquitous in an organisation, its workforce will more likely display humility, make informed and better decisions, and grow as individuals. Diversity is not only about gender or ethnicity; profiles, personality traits, background, age and personal interests also play an important role. Once an organisation has reached diversity on paper, it’s crucial to ensure that it leverages it by making sure everyone has a voice in the workplace. This takes place by encouraging equal airtime during meetings, creating what’s referred to as ‘psychological safety’ during ideation, and enabling teammates to share their unique qualities with their peers (professionally and/or personally).

At Twitter in MENA we know that diversity starts with hiring. Our team in Dubai comprises more than 10 different nationalities, slightly more women than men, consists of fresh graduates to industry experts, those who possess multiple diplomas to those who don’t, and those who’ve spent most of their careers in multinationals, as well as entrepreneurs who have thrived in a niche environment.

With talk of trade wars, tariffs, exchange rates in constant flux, oil price uncertainty, geopolitical turbulence, and a new emerging demographic entering the workplace, how different do you think the world will be in the next few years than it is today? And how do you keep up with the rapid pace of change?

I obviously cannot predict the future, so I focus on what’s within our control and what we’re observing today in order to make considerations for the future. In our region in particular, youth outnumber most other age groups. We are sure to see the youth hold important positions as peers or entrepreneurs to better the economy in the future.

They are a catalyst for change in the digital era and are constantly looking to challenge the status quo either through a new innovation or idea.

Another current trend worth reinforcing is related to interconnectivity and new technological innovations. In fact, there is a distinct disparity between people who live with (or at least understand) technology and others who don’t recognise the impact it’ll have, not only on business in general but on everyone’s lives and how people engage with one another.

As far as I’m concerned, in order to try to keep up with the rapid pace of change, I make an effort to have ‘millenials’ in my network to help me keep up with the pulse of the new generation. I also use a great platform on a daily basis that enables you to see what’s happening in the world from many different perspectives and often reveals upcoming trends.

What do you enjoy the most about working at your company?

The people. Two of our company values include: ‘Recognise that passion and personality matter’ and ‘Seek diverse perspectives’. I feel grateful everyday to be able to go to work thinking that I will learn something new from a colleague or, at least, have a laugh. The diversity of people we have at Twitter and the overall energy thanks to the purpose of our company are extremely motivating.

What are three characteristics that you believe every leader should possess?

Being a genuine listener, finding and communicating purpose, and being able to create a fun working environment.

What advice would you give to someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

Being a leader is about creating change, often by empowering others.

It is necessary to let go and accept that the success of your teams is your own success, and the success of the whole organisation. And this, I believe, will make a difference.

There is no reason to feel insecure or threatened if a teammate is better than you in some areas. It is actually proof of self-confidence, business acumen and leadership to rely on someone that is better suited for certain tasks.

Quote to live your life by?

“Dum differtur, vita transcurrit”, Seneca (While we postpone, life passes us by). I strongly recommend the book ‘Moral letters to Lucilius’ by Seneca – this changed my way of looking at life when I discovered it at the age of 16.

How do you relax and switch off from the office?

Once I get out of the office I switch off work email notifications from my phone and don’t check them until the next morning. I’m completely off emails during the weekends. I train a lot as well – Thai boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu take up most of my time at the gym.

Do you have any daily rituals that help prepare you for the day?

The very first thing I do when I wake up  in  the morning  is to smile back at my wife (she’s always smiling!). Right after, I sit down somewhere to meditate silently for 15 minutes, usually focusing on my breathing. I have been meditating for six years, everyday.

Finish this sentence, “the world would be a better place if only….”

...People would smile more.

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