Interview with Halyna Vasylevska, Technology Regulations Expert

We have started a series of interviews with Ukrainian tech professionals, which put a light on the specific fields of the tech sphere in Ukraine, share experience and advice to the startups, and explore the opportunities Ukraine has to offer in the global economy.

The second person we talk to is a technology lawyer and expert in innovations for regulated industries  Halyna Vasylevska. She worked with the Ukrainian Ministry of Health and the Canadian Parliament, Credit Karma, Willis Tower Watson, Pfizer, and TrustArc. Now Halyna is based in San Francisco, CA, and actively advises startup and invited as speaker and expert on the matters on innovations in regulated industries globally.


TechUkraine: Your path to the startup world went through international and government relations. Now you are working in Silicon Valley – what is your occupation and which competences by previous experience are the most relevant for your current position/project?

Halyna: I’ve started my career implementing projects in cooperation with major international organizations to support creative entrepreneurship in Ukraine. This unique experience showed me how technologies can be used to build changes. Due to the nature of my business, I’ve often been invited to multiple hackathons as an expert and on one of them, I’ve met my other co-founders. We started working on the idea of the platform that would connect all the medical records in one place and enable better healthcare access for patients. It’s been a challenging but great path from idea to one of the best systems in Ukraine that allowed the Ukrainian Ministry of Health to cover more than 27 million (out of 34 million of the total population) with universal primary care. In this role, I also represented the Ukrainian Association of Digital Health vendors in relation to the Ministry. In my professional capacity at Medics, I led government relations and business development as well as legal affairs and data privacy issues in the company. This entrepreneurial experience is extremely helpful now since my expertise building products in regulated industries serves well when I’m addressing global compliance issues. My regulatory-focused background is also instrumental in matters of product development strategies and risk mitigation strategies. So my international legal expertise and experience running a startup is a proper combination to build products in the field. In my current professional capacity, I’m working on privacy features for global technologies here in San Francisco. Products I’m working on aimed to automate privacy compliance and simplify navigation of regulatory landscape for global organizations. Privacy is a growing trend in the tech capital of the world and it’s great to have the opportunity to work among top world experts.

TechUkraine: Your education in Kyiv Mohyla Academy and Cornell Tech Tell is about Laws and legal. When and how have you started your first startup?

Halyna: During my studies in Kyiv Mohyla Academy, together with my friends from Law School we tried to start a document management startup – legal tech as they call it now, we abandoned this idea eventually since the product didn’t match the market needs at that point. This was a unique experience through and helped me to learn a lot about startups and failures in general. This first try also shown that any product should be demand-driven and request by the target audience, not vice versa. These lessons were particularly valuable when I joined Medics since I had a proper understanding of what innovations in regulatory industries are all about and how the product may be scaled effectively. Understanding of product life cycle, core issues while building high-growing ventures, and applicable legal frameworks is a great combination when it comes to startups.

TechUkraine: How is your previous experience (developing tools for Pfizer, Credit Karma,  and Willis Towers Watson) helps you to build a global business now?

Halyna: The core idea of working on innovations in the distinguished organizations is understanding of global landscape. When you see the issues from the inside and at the same time have experience implementing the same size-projects in other organizations it helps to build a better vision. When you’re working in the B2B segment it’s absolutely crucial to know what kind of problems are critical for large organizations, how they build/adopt innovations, and what are the roadblocks when you offering solutions to different stakeholders. Also, it’s important to understand the decision-making process and long-lasting value your product brings. Value is important to find a serviceable market and understanding of the decision-making process is crucial to execute sales operations. My experience of serving in essential capacity is now super helpful while building the products for global organizations.

TechUkraine: You’ve listed as one of very few experts in privacy and regulated industries innovations by multiple media? How do you build your unique expertise?

Halyna: I’ve started my career super early and focused on a particular practice area internationally. To enrich my expertise I’ve participated in programs and fellowships developed by Oxford University, Canadian Parliament, and hosted by the World Bank. The ability to be listed among top-tier professionals in your field is extremely valuable to develop professional skills and enrich your professional expertise. When you’re a part of unprecedented reform of national size or development of cutting edge technology, you need to learn as much as possible about the success stories and failures of similar projects internationally and be able to fit in your knowledge in the local context. When you’re working in so dynamically changing industry it’s critical to be on top of all the developments in the industry and be ready to address the issues that no one has worked on before.

TechUkraine: Data protection was one of the most discussed topics overseas last year. After global lockdown, remote work, health, and move tracking, leaking millions of ZOOM accounts, all of us feel the fragile tension of this point. What’s your position on it, and how could we be protected? 

Halyna: Data protection is the biggest issue for the industry and recently hyped security vulnerabilities are the great support of this point. The regulation is developing pretty actively right now all over the world, GDPR and CCPA are the greatest examples. At the same time, proper privacy controls and security mechanisms in organizations becoming industry standard and this market push plays an equal role in the formation of privacy culture. I also believe that lockdown has shown our personal dependency from technologies and the importance of technology hygiene. Good practices for everyone are: 

  • work only with systems whose security is supported by certifications and proper privacy controls, 
  • set up two-factor authentication, 
  • never store sensitive records and access keys in one place,
  • don’t download or insert your data to unknown applications, and 
  • read privacy policies. 

These simple steps can prevent a significant number of privacy incidents and mitigate potential damage in case of their occurrence. Website operators are required to provide a privacy policy in plain language and an opt-out button in every interface. If you think that anything in the companies activities is infringing your data subject rights, please submit the claim to the company immediately and if no actions taken move forward with the complaint to the regulator.

TechUkraine: What could you advise for Ukrainian entrepreneurs to become globally recognized with their tech projects?

Halyna: Learn the culture and market that you’re planning to serve. Be prepared that business in any specific country is completely different from what you’ve been doing before and include this in your expansion strategy. 

Make market research, it’s a high probability that competition landscape and customer acquisition strategies will vary too. 

Navigating industry standards and best practices is also important. I had a couple of cases in my experience when companies lost major deals due to the inability to meet industry standards in foreign markets. 

It’s also important to communicate a lot, seek feedback from those who have a better understanding of the market, and be ready to start over many times. 

I’d also suggest building partnerships and business relations globally, this is the most reliable way to move your organization forward. Someone who is well-integrated in the target market can be 10 times more effective than 10 people working from your original country of doing business.

TechUkraine: California Consumer Privacy Act is discussed to be a major development in the privacy world impacting the tech impacting tech field. You’re often referred to as referred as an expert on the matter, can you please comment why the act is so important? 

Halyna: I strongly believe that CCPA will significantly impact the tech industry moving forward for the following reasons:

  1. It’s the first comprehensive privacy act in the US jurisdiction. Historically, the US had a sectoral privacy regulation system covering specific types of data like protected health information under HIPAA and financial data under GLBA. With CCPA that came into force as of January 1st, 2020 we have a statewide comprehensive privacy act covering consumer privacy in general. 
  2. The majority of tech companies have a strong California connection and, therefore, directly fall in the scope of the CCPA threshold.
  3. CCPA enforcement that is just about to begin on July 1st, 2020 provides the regulator with the opportunity to impose fines for non-compliant organizations and grants the private right of action that itself is a significant risk for theof the companies to be aware of.

Consequently, consumer privacy is getting more and more important for companies of all sizes with practical and complicated compliance requirements and a significant impact on technology development moving forward.

TechUkraine: You are passionate about social entrepreneurship – how could tech help to battle the global challenges? Have you any own cases?

Halyna: I do believe that you need to work on something you genuinely passionate for otherwise, it won’t work in the maximum potential. All the projects I’ve been working on had a strong social mission. In the case of Medics, we helped patients to receive better healthcare with less bureaucracy in Ukraine. It’s absolutely fascinating to see how small remote healthcare providers with paper-based record-keeping evolved to organizations with an established business process that leverages predictive analytics to measure patient flow. In my current role, I’m making sure that privacy is a priority for major global businesses, and for a tech-driven world it’s a major priority currently. I’m also aware of many socially-oriented startups in Ukraine and hope to see their progress in the future.

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