By Milena Milićević
TeleSign was founded in 2005 and pioneered phone-based two-factor authentication, holding numerous key patents on technology developed during the company’s early stages. TeleSign has grown in recent years, expanding its data-intelligence and communications solutions to serve a global customer base that includes 20 of the world’s top 25 online brands, and four of the top five technology companies. Since joining TeleSign as CEO in 2016, Aled Miles has led the company through acquisition by Belgian telecom giant BICS, while today he continues to drive the company’s growth and innovation throughout the globe.
Since joining TeleSign as CEO in 2016, Aled Miles has led the company through acquisition by Belgian telecom giant BICS, while today he continues to drive the company’s growth and innovation throughout the globe.
Thank you for taking the time to share your experience as CEO and your wisdom with our readers. To start, we’d like to ask what are some of your best prioritisation techniques for CEO time management?
– Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today for the Innovation Attitude Summit. It’s an honour to represent TeleSign. I am both very proud of our team in Belgrade and so grateful to Serbia for the incredible talent and work environment this country provides. Some time management techniques that I want to share with you are not only specific to CEOs – they are actually useful to everyone. I read an article four months ago that made me realise that I do some parts of time management well, but some not so well! The first rule of time management in the article I read called for a focus on minutes and not hours. The article talked about mastering minutes, which is a little bit like managing small amounts of money to ensure that you manage larger amounts of money equally well. This compelled me to focus more on how I spend every minute and every second of my time. I am a great believer in there only being one thing in our lives that we can actually control, and that is our time. We are the only people that, as individuals, can say “No!” to things. In this case, as a CEO, I actually try to say no to as many meetings as possible; I try to process emails only once or twice a day, and to delegate as much as possible in order to have full control over my time. This also helps with something else which the article emphasised that I loved: make it home for dinner; and prioritise your family.
The next rule in the article is to follow the 80/20 rule. This means focusing on doing 20% of the things you need to do extremely well, thus influencing the other 80% almost exponentially. Finally, the last rule was: “Energy is everything”. How you generate your energy and where you use it can have a profound impact on the company. To me, that starts first thing in the morning. That’s why I recommend that everyone practise a consistent morning routine. I like to get up at between 6am and 6:30am. I deal with urgent overnight emails very quickly, read FlipBoard for global news, then go for a 30-minute run, lift and stretch – I ensure my energy is right before I spend time with my family. The point is that I try to do that consistently every single morning, to give me the energy I need throughout the day to thrive even when I’m travelling internationally.
How did you preserve the TeleSign culture from the previous CEO and transfer it to all divisions and teams of the company: from the president to the associate level?
TeleSign has been doing business for 12 years. It is hardly a start-up, but it did have a small company feel that I liked and that was great for the organisation, allowing us to be agile in our efforts. We were about to surpass the $100-million revenue mark, and that is a very difficult mark to cross. You need to bring in some of the scalability that is needed to sail beyond the hundredmillion- dollar threshold and engage some of the benefits of a larger company environment in your culture, without losing the agility of a smaller company. Balancing that was incredibly important to me – retaining some of the old and innovating with some of the new.
My personal belief is that culture is behaviour and behaviour is culture. Cultural innovations need to become part of what a company does and what a company wants to develop, not what is dictated to the company by senior leadership. As such, allowing all members of our team be responsible for, and to nurture, our culture has always been critical to me. If you wish to drive a culture, there is a risk that you will make a mistake, because cultures cannot be driven. They must be nurtured; TeleSign has been doing business for 12 years. It is hardly a start-up, but it did have a small company feel that I liked and that was great for the organisation, allowing us to be agile in our efforts ALED MILES speaking at ASFA conference in Australia 20 | 164 | J U N E they must be helped; they must be enabled; they must be coached. To succeed in instilling an irreplaceable culture, you need to find cultural ambassadors in every part of the organisation. For me, hierarchy is a thing of the past; it is not part of modern business. Culture is defined by the behaviour of anybody in the company: from the person greeting guests at the reception desk to a member of the executive team.
TeleSign has been doing business for 12 years. It is hardly a start-up, but it did have a small company feel that I liked and that was great for the organisation, allowing us to be agile in our efforts
Could you tell us about some of TeleSign’s cultural insights?
We had a breakthrough in the early part of last year, when one of our team members spoke about the concept of finding joy in the happiness of other people.
We thought about that from an internal perspective and also towards all our clients. We are a B2B2C company, and when we are able to find as much joy in our clients’ happiness as in our own, and when those clients are able to celebrate the ways they find joy in their customers’ happiness, then we can deliver tremendous value both internally and externally.
I would also add that you cannot communicate enough. Over-communication is not even possible in my opinion; explaining and communicating across functions throughout the organisation is a must if you want to embed and nurture culture.
Culture is ultimately a promise, both internally and externally. It should be the very core of your brand promise.
TeleSign has established its brand as a reliable and secure partner to 20 of the world’s 25 largest digital web companies and millions of satisfied end-users. What will be the next breakthroughs in the mobile solutions domain?
As my colleagues will tell you, I talk a lot about the concept of the third wave. The first wave was the desktop computer revolution and connecting to the internet; the second wave was the rise of mobility: laptops, mobile phones etc. The third wave number is the explosion of mobility and the cloud, enabling capability and opportunity the likes of which the world has never seen.
So, what are the next breakthroughs in mobility? Well, obviously, we are seeing wearable devices, “mobile with you” all the time, highly capable of providing data between sources: You and something else.
The next breakthrough comes in our ability to ‘provide more frictionless experiences’ in the way we can verify and authenticate who we are as we interact with people, brands and things. For example, in getting in and out of a car, Uber has shown us that payment can be frictionless. Hotel chains have shown us that exiting and entering your hotel room can now be frictionless. This type of frictionless experience will continue to expand across industries.
The third area in which we see a lot of talk is contextual communications. For example, when you are in a specific environment like a restaurant, that restaurant can understand that you are physically present. And now, if you have given them consent, the restaurant can access your history of visiting that restaurant and confirm what you like to eat, thus enabling them to provide you with a seamless dining experience, topped with frictionless payment. The key is that you are being communicated to within a context that you and the business can understand, again enabled by the rise of mobility and cloud tech.
Lastly, there is a shift in power between who owns consent and who has the power over data. We are increasingly seeing that power needs to shift towards the consumer; towards the consumer having control over their identity and privacy. This is a fascinating and unusual world that we are now living in, and there is no doubt that consent-based identity will play a huge role in unlocking new magic in the digital world.
What advice would you offer those born around the year 2000, who are now turning 18 and making their first career decisions?
It’s so easy for somebody from my generation to be out of touch. Perhaps the best advice I would give them is: Give us advice. Help us understand what is going on in the world. What your desires, needs and wants are in the workplace.
My fear is that those born in the 2000s are growing up in a world of instancy. Everything is available (snaps fingers) instantaneously. You want a cab, there’s an app for that. You want new friends, there’s an app for that. You want a date, there’s an app for that. You want food, there’s an app for that. And I want to suggest, humbly, that some things don’t happen instantly. Careers take time; they take focus; they take work and time to develop.
My fear is that those born in the 2000s are growing up in a world of instancy. Everything is available instantaneously
As you grow your career, always think about how you are developing your own brand. Think of yourself as a product, as a brand – what you promise the world and your workplace. How do you differentiate your brand, which marks your unique career path?
Just as crucial is that you outdo your colleagues. There is something to be said for an extraordinary work ethic, hand-in-hand with your promise as a brand. I still see that as the ultimate differentiator in today’s workplace.
However, and perhaps most importantly, love what you do; enjoy what you do. The world you are growing up in is, in my opinion, the most fascinating time in history.