WE SHAPE TECH Role Model Anna Zeiter

Role Model:
Anna Zeiter

Role Model:
Anna Zeiter

Every month we ask one individual in our network a few questions about their way into tech, their motivation and their lessons learned.

Let’s start from the beginning. Tell us about where you’re from!

I am from the northern part of Germany, from Bremen. I actually never wanted to work in Privacy and also never in a big company. But life obviously had different plans… 😊 My dream was actually to become a lawyer in the field of media, press, copyright, and cultural law. This is why I pursued a PhD in free speech and media law and worked for the Elbphilharmonie and other cultural institutions in Hamburg.

But when I passed my bar exam in 2008, the impact of the economic and financial crisis was real, open jobs in the media and cultural space did not exist at that time, and I was very happy and lucky that I found a great job as a lawyer at a big international law firm, in the space of eCommerce, IT, and Privacy. With the first big data breaches in 2009 and 2010, and the Snowden revelations in 2013, Privacy began to become globally a hot topic and suddenly I loved being a pioneer working at the forefront of a new global subject.

In 2013, I went to Stanford for a Master’s program in Law, Science & Technology, and suddenly I was at Stanford “Mrs. European Privacy”, just because nobody else had that experience. One year later, eBay hired me to fill the role of their European Data Protection Officer in Bern (btw, I never wanted to work in Bern before!). I was very excited about this opportunity and felt it was the right thing to do. This is now 10 years ago, it was one of the best decisions in my life, and I am still very excited about my work and about eBay.

What valuable advice did you get from your parents?

Play with the cards you have at hand. Embrace the situation. Trust your gut feeling. Work hard, be in charge, take on ownership and responsibility, and be engaged in the community. And if you want something, do not be shy and ask for it. Worst case is that people say no. Everyone is equal and has equal opportunities. But in the end: It is just a job. Family, friends, and a happy life is way more important.

How did you become interested in tech?

My dad is an engineer and my mom worked in a pharmacy. My parents are both very passionate about repairing and fixing things. It happened quite often that my dad disassembled the motor of a washing machine (or even a car!) on our kitchen table, and explained to my sister and me in detail which part was actually broken.

My parents were also passionate sailors and we were sailing with the family every summer for a couple of weeks across Denmark and Sweden. You cannot imagine how many sails, water pumps, motors, oil filters, etc. were broken and got fixed during that time. This is why I literally grew up with a lot of practical technical exposure, and I learned: Most of the things are easy to understand, and not rocket science. You just need to take the things apart and ask questions.

As someone deeply involved in Privacy and AI, how do you think the rules about keeping our data safe are changing? And how can companies make sure they’re following these rules while still making new inventions?

Over the last years, Privacy laws and requirements have been evolving around the globe, almost on a weekly basis. This movement started with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018, followed by the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in 2020, the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), and U.S. President Biden’s Executive Order on AI in 2023. These are only a few examples. Global tech companies are taking those new and strict Privacy & AI requirements very seriously. The main reason is: New data-driven innovations will only be accepted by a broad user base if a company and its products are trustworthy. User trust is key, especially since users know their rights very well. Privacy and Responsible AI are key components and drivers for user trust in a data-driven world.

How do you think including diverse perspectives can help create innovative solutions in Privacy and AI?

Diverse perspectives are key. There have been recent examples where AI applications discriminated against users because the underlying training data sets have been biased. To build unbiased and non-discriminating AI, the underlying training data sets need to be as diverse as possible. Also, the so-called red teams, that are testing new AI tools on all kinds of potential risks before go-live, need to be as diverse as possible. The more perspectives you bring in to train AI, the better and all-encompassing will be the outcome Additionally,  …

... the more diverse the AI-generated output is, the more users feel included and appreciated. This will improve the overall user experience and eventually also the bottom line.
WE SHAPE TECH Role Model Anna Zeiter
Dr. Anna Zeiter

How do you recharge?

In my free time, I try to spend as much time as possible outside, for example, sailing, skiing, swimming, and mountain biking. When the weather is bad, I love action painting (I already have 125 followers on Insta!) and playing ukulele.

Have you ever had a role model that inspired you on your path?

At eBay, there are many women in leadership positions. This is very inspiring and reassuring at the same time. Because it is always easier to be what you can see! The best thing is that most of eBay’s female leaders also have kids and families. At eBay, it is actually pretty usual to have a family and an exciting and fulfilling career at the same time. Unfortunately, not all companies are so advanced yet. This is something I learned early on in my career.

If you feel that your employer is not embracing diversity, and you cannot change it on your own, you need to leave. After all, the most diverse companies will attract the best talents.
WE SHAPE TECH Role Model Anna Zeiter
Dr. Anna Zeiter

I also try to surround myself with inspiring friends. Most of my close CPO friends also have families and exciting hobbies.

What aspects of your work are you proudest of?

I am very happy that I had the opportunity to build at eBay over the last ten years a highly effective, fun, and diverse global team – with many new babies every year! Every maternity or paternity leave is properly celebrated, we support, cover, and care for each other.

What drives you at work?

I am generally very curious and always interested in new and exciting tech-related topics and trends. Even before Chat GPT and AI became a big thing in early 2023, I started a cross-functional task force for Digital Ethics at eBay. I gathered all relevant stakeholders, e.g. from Legal, Privacy, IP, Product, Information Security, Ethics, Compliance, Government Relations, etc., and together we defined and implemented a company-wide governance model for Responsible AI (RAI).

What has been your toughest challenge you faced while working in tech?

When I started to work at eBay 10 years ago, it was quite challenging to understand the tech-lingo and all eBay-internal acronyms. But also then, I was never shy to ask people for support. Interestingly, many colleagues said: Thank you for asking, I actually don’t know it either! Now eBay has a global glossary for acronyms, and I am regularly speaking at eBay new joiner events to share my learnings and help new colleagues grow and succeed at eBay.

Do you have a favorite book or podcast?

Usually, I spend at least one hour per day reading daily business and tech news, e.g., WSJ, TechCrunch, Forbes, Inc Magazine, Politico, mLex, etc. I can also recommend some very insightful Privacy & AI-related books:

Your face belongs to us
by Kashmir Hill

It explores the growing influence of facial recognition technology in our lives and the potential ramifications for privacy, civil liberties, and society as a whole. It offers insights into how facial recognition technology is reshaping our world and the challenges it presents for individuals, communities, and policymakers.

Guardrails Guiding Human Decisions in the Age of AI

Guardrails Guiding Human Decisions in the Age of AI
by Urs Gasser & Viktor Mayer-Schönberger

This book offers a fresh perspective on decision-making in the age of artificial intelligence, emphasizing the importance of societal norms and individual agency. It advocates for guardrails that empower individuals, promote flexibility, and consider the broader social good.

Why Privacy Matters
by Neil Richards

The book highlights the pervasive surveillance practices employed by companies and governments, emphasizing the importance of privacy in safeguarding fundamental human values. It asserts that privacy remains a vital aspect of shaping a fair and free society.

Why Privacy Matters

But I am most passionate about reading books that take a step back and give a broader view and context, either from a historical, political, or geographical point of view. For example, I love Yuval Noah Harari’s trilogy (Sapiens, Lessons for the 21st Century, and Homo Deus), or Tim Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography. And if you just want to chill, you need to read this:

Book How to do nothing by Jenny Odell

How to do nothing
by Jenny Odell
This book explores the concept of “doing nothing” not as a passive act, but as a deliberate choice. It advocates for reconnecting with our surroundings, fostering meaningful relationships, and engaging with our local communities as ways to counteract the pervasive culture of productivity and consumption.

What advice would you give other women in tech?

Invest time in authentic networking! I find it always very inspiring to meet new people with different cultural, ethnic, and professional backgrounds. However, I am not a fan of going to business events and randomly exchanging business cards. I rather focus on two or three people who really interest me, and build authentic connections, which hold (in some cases) already for decades.

And what advice would you give women not yet working in tech that want to enter the field?

Just start! Do not be shy, just upskill and re-skill yourself! For example, there are not many Responsible AI experts in the market yet. It is a perfect opportunity to enter that space now. I love the website edx.org. There you can find a lot of great online courses for tech-related topics.

Whatever you do, always follow your excitement and gut feeling. They bring you to the best places in life!


Like this article?

Spread the word and share this article on social media!

Imprint          Privacy Policy          © 2021 We Shape Tech





Our newsletter will keep you posted on featured openings. Sign-up now!

HSLU is looking for a "Python for Data Scientists" Lecturer

HSLU is looking for a "Big Data Tools" Lecturer

Crack the Confidence Gap | 28 June 2017

Get in touch to attract diverse talent!

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Please refer to our Privacy Policy for more information.

Join Your Fellow Shapers

Don't Miss a Thing

Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter and you’ll never miss an event or insightful article!

By signing-up you agree to our Privacy Policy.