Person using their mobile phone with overlay of graphs and skycrapers
#G+D World

Spreading the word: meet the chief evangelist

6 Mins.

How can you prepare yourself for being the voice of a global company in a cutting-edge field? Find something you can believe in, break it down to its core message, and network like you mean it, says Dr. Lars Hupel, Munich-based chief evangelist at G+D.

Welcome, Dr. Lars Hupel, Chief Evangelist for CBDC at G+D. Tell us, Lars: what exactly does a “chief evangelist” do?

Picture of Lars Hupel
Dr. Lars Hupel, Chief Evangelist for CBDC at G+D

I explain things. When I introduce myself to customers, I explain CBDC; I explain our solution Filia®; I explain the context. Sometimes I have to start by explaining what a digital wallet is. I cover every level, so many different audiences understand what we’re talking about. So, one big part of what I do is tailoring the message to the audience. Create, and then tell them that story.

If I speak to an economist at a central bank, I might exclude a bit of the technology, and keep it more high-level. If I’m talking to an engineer, they might not care quite so much about monetary policy – we’re discussing the tech.

That’s the core job description. I also do some other things, of course. I engage with standards bodies, for example the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). I also work a lot with our intellectual property (IP) team. And there is fluidity. Sometimes I support with requests for proposals (RPFs) from customers, tenders, that sort of thing. Imagine if a customer wants to implement a CBDC, then I’m also trying to answer some of the technical questions. You could say I’m G+D’s ambassador for CBDC, and a brand ambassador for Filia®.

How would you describe what a CBDC is, for the benefit of those who aren’t experts?

At G+D, we like to say that CBDC is a digital counterpart to physical cash. Let’s use an analogy, because I love them. Think of cash as a letter, and CBDC as an email. With a CBDC, you can do the things you can with cash, like pay the person standing next to you, at a grocer’s, buying a bus ticket; all of that. But you can also use it online.

How do you introduce yourself? Have there ever been raised eyebrows when people hear “chief evangelist”?

Initially, I was a bit reluctant to use the term. And I still get quizzical looks, sometimes. But I introduce myself, say, “OK, this is my job title. This is what I do. I explain stuff.” People understand that. If you look at the US, most of the big tech corporations have evangelists. Big companies need to promote their products, use innovative marketing techniques. Evangelism is a well-understood role there.

But there are occasionally situations where it’s not so easy to explain. In a country or region where there a lot of people of faith, for instance: when I hand out my business card, they might ask if I’m a preacher. [Laughs.] In Europe, we can joke about it. But in other places, you may have to be a bit more careful. And that’s fine, too.

But you are, in a sense, spreading the word? In this instance, about a new technology.

I see my role more in the sense that I give explanations that I can live with, that I think are objective, are neutral. I give some statements that could also come from a competitor, that are not biased in any way. I always want to have this scientific part, hard facts, hard evidence, something I can prove. That is important to me.

An evangelist has to believe, right?

Exactly! When I’m writing longer, more explanatory articles, for example, I always ask myself whether five years down the line, could I still defend what I’ve written? That it isn’t just a collection of claims, it is factually correct.

“I give explanations that I can live with, that I think are objective, are neutral. I always want to have this scientific part, hard facts, hard evidence, something I can prove. That is important to me.“
Dr. Lars Hupel
Chief Evangelist (CBDC) at G+D

What does a chief evangelist’s day look like? What are the sorts of things you might work on?

Every day is different. But to give some concrete examples, we had a workshop together with our technology office here at G+D in Munich some time ago. It was on post-quantum technology. We gathered for the workshop with different divisions from G+D. We talked about what the different divisions are already doing in terms of post-quantum cryptography, post-quantum computing.

This meeting actually illustrates the different hats I wear. First of all, the exchange with other G+D entities. It is a big group, so things can get lost in translation. We need to always be in communication.
Another aspect is standardization. We are helping to write some standards, as are other people in the larger group. We need to be in communication with them. We also talked about some of the scientific publications we have done recently. We are in research projects that are funded by the government, for instance; we have to write our research up. As I mentioned earlier, IP is also part of it. Because when you do new research, you need to protect it using patents.

Of course, a lot of time goes into responding to tenders, and building brand awareness.

You communicate with stakeholders in markets around the world. How do you prepare yourself for communicating to these specific markets?

Honestly, not always well enough, but I try. [Laughs.] I also rely on our colleagues who are active in those countries already. We have so much expertise and knowledge on the ground. When we’re talking to other continents for example, we align with our colleagues and ask what is it that you’re doing there. 

It can also be quite simple and direct. I was in Hong Kong for a conference last year. Since CBDC is about payment, whenever I paid with a credit card, I just timed how long it took for the payment to complete. 

It is part of my routine. Every time I meet colleagues from a different country, I asked them about their payment habits. How do you typically pay? Do you often use mobile payment? Do you use credit cards? It’s about relying on our colleagues, both from our team and from the larger G+D network, to tell me more.

A man logging into LinkedIn on his smartphone

Is travel part of the job description?

Quite a bit, yes. Conferences and on-site visits. Normally you get to know your customers a lot faster if you see them face-to-face once. You can then do a lot of stuff remotely afterwards, once you have a personal connection. 

We had one project in 2020 – there were very strict lockdowns, there were very strict rules, you could not even think about flying there. We had to do everything remotely, getting to know each other, all of that. Perhaps there was a bit of a language issue as well; an interpreter was required. We’ve completed the project, it went well, but it was challenging without that personal connection.  

Normally, the first contact could be remote. But once things are getting more serious, we go there. A small team, two or three people, maybe the sales unit. It isn’t always me! We had a visit to Brazil, so a colleague who speaks Portuguese traveled there. That just makes sense. Once you have the personal connection, we carry on from there.

But I definitely do not have the monopoly of traveling. At advanced52 – the entity where we bundle G+D’s CBDC activities – our sales colleagues travel a lot more than I do. Then they rope me in when it gets technical. By the way, I work in such a great team: it is young and very diverse. I feel like we have a lot of freedom and flexibility to explore and innovate.

Tell us a bit about your personal journey to G+D? Was it planned, or otherwise?

I was employed by a technology consulting company. I used to do a lot of front-end development as well – JavaScript, websites and so on. I consulted with G+D as an engineer for protocol topics, because my academic background is in mathematical methods. My first project, I contributed to a substantial improvement of the core payment protocol of our CBDC solution. We made it faster, more reliable. I also helped in analyzing it from a security perspective, together with a cryptography expert from G+D.

I often briefed colleagues on technical topics when they went to finance or payment conferences, or visited customers. I thought, Innovative technology, new topics to learn, conferences in exotic places: sign me up!

It was never my plan to become chief evangelist, however. Originally, I was going to design protocols. I was going to make the best mathematical protocol that you’ve ever seen in your life, and it was going to be great. That was my plan. 

Was there something in your educational journey that prepared you for what you do now?

My doctorate is officially computer science, but it’s very mathematically inclined. I guess if you ask a mathematician, they would recognize it as a mathematical topic.

I’ve always had an inclination to teach. I did that as a second-year student teaching first-years. I started doing that quite early on because it just seemed to be interesting and quite rewarding. You explain to people, then suddenly they understand, and then you refine your way of explaining things.

When I started my PhD, of course I had teaching obligations, but now it wasn’t just taking care of 10 first-year students – I was in charge of the entire class. Designing the exercises, trying to make the content accessible, and so on. I just felt like that was something that I’d like to do. Being able to take complex subject matter and make it accessible.

That’s when I realized that I love analogies. I always used them in my teaching. I use them now when I’m talking about CBDC, and specifically Filia®, to economists. They know their subject really well, of course. But there’s no reason for them to be experts in the technology behind digital payments. So, I go with an analogy.

OK, let’s have another one of your go-to analogies.

Absolutely! Filia® is what we call a token-based CBDC. A token is an object that has a value in and of itself. In the physical world, it would be a banknote. A banknote has a clear value; you have it in your wallet; you can make a payment by giving it to someone else. In the digital realm, you have a digital token. It has some keys attached to it, some technical data. You make a payment by transferring that data from A to B.

I guess being exposed to hundreds and hundreds of students, having to explain computer science concepts to them, it prepared me to explain CBDC concepts to the general public. 

What tips do you have for young people looking at a role like yours, at a global SecurityTech company like G+D?

I think you need to find a technology or a topic that you really believe in. If someone is only talking about something because they’re being paid to do it, the audience will notice. I believe that CBDC is the future. I believe that G+D has a good position in CBDC, otherwise I would not have joined. This is very, very important to me. I need to be convinced of what I’m doing, otherwise I cannot project this confidence to the customer or to my audience.

Then, something I’ve learned is that audiences reward short and steady, much more than long and infrequent. Find the core message. Keep it brief. Obviously you can add context if you have to, but brief is good.

Finally, network. Plain and simple. Even if you find it hard. It’s something I had to learn because I used to be a lot more introverted. But being introverted doesn’t work in this position. But I have a tip: if you go on stage, if you write stuff and post it online, if you produce content for social media, people will actually seek you out. You don’t have to do the work!

Key takeaways

  1. You must believe in what you’re representing. People will notice that.
  2. If you’re an introvert, produce content online. Then people will come to you.
  3. Actively seek information from every interaction, especially when researching new markets.

Published: 13/05/2024

Share this article

Subscribe to our newsletter

Don’t miss out on the latest articles in G+D SPOTLIGHT: by subscribing to our newsletter, you’ll be kept up to date on latest trends, ideas, and technical innovations – straight to your inbox every month.

Please supply your details: