How leaders can motivate people lessons from MeToo and ethical hackers

It’s been over four years since the New York Times investigation into the sexual misdeeds of Harvey Weinstein unleashed the #MeToo movement and a global fury over sexual harassment. The event marked the radical shift in our cultural outlook regarding sexual misconduct and the strength of women’s words. Almost a million women marched in protest across the globe. 

This global movement—which resulted in CEOs being ousted and a plethora of public figures being disgraced—encouraged me to kickstart its manifestation in Sweden. It all started with me posting a Facebook update about my experience, which was followed by a deluge of demeaning comments from angry men. After I’d had enough, on a Tuesday morning in October 2017, I organized a meet-up to connect with more women who had similar experiences with gender discrimination and sexual harassment. I didn’t realize that the event, which I anticipated to be a coffee meeting with four or five women, would blow up to include about 2,000 protestors in Stockholm alone. The rally was organized in 14 cities across Sweden with thousands of people attending and millions watching it live on TV. 

Becoming the “poster girl” for a massive movement

However, organizing the event came with a slew of challenges. Being at the forefront of an event as significant as this was intimidating and meant dealing with haters and putting out constant fires. I was continuously surrounded by the media and needed to look like I knew what I was doing and have answers to everything I was asked. The pressure kept growing as I was assumed to be the poster girl for the movement in Sweden. The only incentive driving me was that I wanted to create change, and with #MeToo, I had to prove that this was serious and not just another event. 

The #MeToo movement as a whole was a testament to the power of bringing people together. I realized that it was important to enable those driven by the same goal to take action to show their support or involvement in the movement. As a result, it led me to delegate and manage a diverse group.

I learned that the core elements of creating a movement such as this involves shared values, shared experiences, and shared purpose. If you can understand what someone’s motivation is, you can use that to make the experience better for them and improve their focus. The key takeaway was that seeing real change is what motivates people to keep going. And that ultimately drives innovation and creates value. 

While these learnings can be applicable in many situations, little did I know that leading this event would help me in my future endeavors in the tech industry. Fast forward four years, and I am now responsible for heading web security company Detectify’s Crowdsource community of 350 ethical hackers. 

Working toward the same goal with ethical hackers

After I took the reins of Detectify Crowdsource, about a year and a half ago, the goal was clear—to engage, understand and help hackers become a part of a community where the purpose of cybersecurity is aligned. In addition, I aimed to continually expand the community and get more hackers on board. 

Keeping hackers motivated has been a continuous process of learning their driving force and making sure they use their knowledge and skill to the best of their abilities. 

I learned that for many hackers, the power of purpose is more of a priority compared to profit. For them, a company’s online safety, security, and privacy weigh much more than money. Specifically, on our platform, hackers enjoy the gamification of the bug bounty program, where they must hunt for points and get new hits. Indeed, when investor legend Ray Dalio said, “The only purpose of money is to get you what you want, so think hard about what you value and put it above money,” he was spot on. 

The real challenge came as I attempted to do something novel and revolutionary. The Crowdsource community of ethical hackers is quite unique, so there is no best practice and no obvious next step—a challenge I encountered even with the #MeToo movement. I followed the same plan of action in both events. I persisted and pushed through multiple glass ceilings. 

Growing the hacker community

Despite the uphill climb, managing the Crowdsource network continues to energize me as I get to connect with hackers across the world hailing from a vast spectrum. In the past year, we’ve seen a 43% growth in the number of ethical hackers becoming an active part of the community. The diversity needs to widen, and I aim to rope in more women in the hacking community through a new initiative that we call Hacker School. It’s the first step to creating lasting change in the tech industry.

Looking ahead, I aim to scale up the community with the hackers where it’s a win-win for them and us. It’s about being a part of a platform that is making a difference to the world by helping companies be safe in the digital world that is plagued by criminals. The key focus is on knowledge growth, how hackers can learn more from each other, and how we can help them become even better at what they do best. It’s important to ensure that the time and effort invested by hackers is worth it and that they gain more from the Crowdsource community than just cash. 


Carolin Solskär is the community manager of Detectify Crowdsource.

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