The BlockBeam Experience: Alyson Liu
Hi! I’m Sam Scribner, the Content Lead at BlockBeam. As our ecosystem grows, I have been having conversations with program graduates to showcase their Web3-related accomplishments. I recently spoke with Alyson Liu, a Master’s student at Northeastern University currently working as an Events Coordinator for Hedera Hashgraph. Alyson is a pioneer in making the blockchain industry more inclusive and is an active member of numerous Women in FinTech and Web3 organizations. Here is her story:
Sam: Hey Alyson! Tell me about yourself and what you do in school.
Alyson: Hey! So I am currently finishing my Master’s in Business Analytics at Northeastern. I’m also working at a DLT (distributed ledger technology) company called Hedera Hashgraph, which is a layer-one protocol that uses the hashgraph consensus algorithm. I work as an Events Coordinator where I am in charge of university programs and in-person meetups. I’m going into my third month working for this company. I also led the Gateway to DeFi program where I was teaching my lovely kids on the topic of DeFi which was really fun and kept me busy.
Before all of this, I did my undergraduate studies at Northeastern in marketing and finance. I graduated in COVID times and felt like I didn’t really learn enough. So I decided that instead of finding a job I wanted to go back to school. And on top of that, I was getting myself involved with blockchain. I joined the Northeastern Blockchain Organization at its inception in March of 2021. That’s part of the reason why I decided to extend my academic career and stay for another year. I just became super interested in exploring possibilities in the crypto and Web3 space.
I got into crypto a little over a year ago, and before that, I was part of the FinTech Club on campus for a year as the Events Director. The FinTech club prompted me to explore how tech can disrupt certain traditional industries like finance and payments. I came across blockchain as a solution to cross-border payments and was super intrigued. I had never really looked into it because it was intimidating but after a certain point felt like I had to learn about it to be able to run the Blockchain club properly. That quickly led to me becoming immersed in blockchain, and now I’m fortunate enough to be working in the industry.
Sam: You literally touched on almost every question I was going to ask so that’s impressive. That’s super impressive how you decided to take something you were intimidated by and approach it head-first. Now you even have a job in the industry. I would love for you to elaborate on a lot of the involvements you mentioned, but first, what has been your experience with NEU Blockchain?
Alyson: I was asked to join the club because I was on the Exec Board of the FinTech club. As the Events Director, I was essentially the face of the organization. Being a marketing major, I also brought a lot to the table. So I joined the first couple of meetings and noticed that they were really lacking diversity: it was pretty much all business kids who love crypto or super tech-heavy kids who just want to build dApps. They really needed someone with a marketing background that could actually advertise the club and make people aware that it exists on campus.
After pushing forward a marketing campaign in the club’s early days, the co-founders made me a VP and the following semester a co-president. It’s been really great seeing the growth of this organization, as we have built a passionate culture and community. Even people who are not part of the executive board are constantly talking on Discord, sharing news or updates, and just talking about their interests. The community itself serves as such a good resource because you can learn through exposure to what members are talking about which I think is pretty amazing. I would say that students in Web3-related organizations are much more passionate about this industry than those in a marketing or finance club. So it’s really great to see the enthusiasm that these students bring to the table. That gave me reassurance and made me feel accomplished because I worked so hard to push this club out to the rest of the Northeastern community.
Sam: That’s pretty big time! And I totally agree that the space is attracting the most talent. Even though we’re seeing this market downturn, the prices don’t tell the whole story because all the smartest people such as yourself and all these builders are flocking to crypto and Web3. So I think that makes it pretty resilient. You touched on marketing for the club and trying to bring in a lot of diversity. So for yourself, what has been your experience in Web3 as a female? I’d love to hear your perspective.
Alyson: The first semester we were official on campus, I remember looking at the demographics of the students coming to our in-person events and being disappointed. When there’s a crowd of, let’s say, 50 people, there would be only four or five females. In September, I pitched that we should do a Women In Blockchain event. So we were able to do that in October, and a lot more females did show up to that event. But most of the male members saw this event and didn’t show up because it was targeted towards women, so they thought that it wouldn’t be applicable. It turned out to be one of the best panel events that we had for the whole semester and many students, both male and female, said it was really inspiring. Next semester, when more and more people started hearing about the club, we got a few more female members. I was approaching graduation but thought to myself, ‘Okay, we really need to take the next step. We can’t expect something will change if we don’t do anything.’ So I started this “Women in Blockchain” initiative, where I sent out a meetup survey form around campus, asking if you’re a female and interested in fintech or Web3. Unfortunately, it was around exam week and we didn’t end up having an in-person meeting, however, I did create a private channel in discord with all of the female students who showed interest in the survey. I think there were about 25 female students who were not members of the organization but had an interest in Web3 and fintech, which is really good.
So from there, I knew there was a community here but it was difficult to take action since I was technically an alumnus at this point. When we were interviewing candidates for next semester’s exec board, a girl was applying for Director of Events, but I thought that we should create a new role for her as Director of Inclusion. She would get the Director of Events experience but also be able to focus on pushing forward inclusion initiatives.
So if you think about five to ten years ago, there was a student finance club at Northeastern. And now, there are women in finance, women in tech, women in business. So my thinking is that right now, there’s a blockchain club, but five or ten years down the line when blockchain becomes more mainstream we could have a woman in blockchain club which could all start from this initiative. So that’s the vision that I want her to have and also the club to have. I’m personally a member of Boston’s Women in FinTech, Women in Web3, and Blockchain Girls. I want to bring these types of communities over to Northeastern and be the pioneer of Women in Blockchain initiatives at Northeastern and eventually roll it out on a larger scale.
Sam: That’s quite the answer and super impressive! Change takes time. For example, my school didn’t even really have a blockchain club and we just had our first crypto class last semester. It’s pretty cool to see that even though most schools don’t even have a blockchain club you’re already focused on, how can we make this more inclusive? You mentioned earlier in the interview that you got exposed to crypto and blockchain a little over a year ago. Could you maybe dive a little deeper into what inspired this interest and how you made the transition from a marketing and finance person to now being a Web3 goddess?
Alyson: Haha I love that term. I am from Hong Kong, so when I need money, say, to pay for tuition, I need it wire transferred from my parents back home. This takes three to five business days and complicates things since the money does not settle instantly. So I was interested in finding innovation within the payments space when I heard about blockchain and how fast and decentralized it can be. It essentially can allow us to get rid of the SWIFT network and just rely on a more efficient transfer of currency. I thought that was a great use case, especially for me when my family’s trying to send me money from overseas. Ultimately I was intrigued because of my fintech background but quickly learned that blockchain’s use-case for payments is only scratching the surface, as it can be applied to ESG, agriculture, supply chain, pure tech, and more.
Sam: Super good point. I always hear about blockchain being used as a solution to remittance and wire transfer so it’s cool to actually see that play out and spark your interest. I definitely agree with your explanation of the difference between fintech and Web3 because I feel like there’s this huge focus on crypto for payments, but that’s just such a small fraction of the use cases. I would love for you to elaborate more on the BlockBeam DeFi Bootcamp that you’ve taught and just your general experience doing it.
Alyson: Sure. There are a lot of learning experiences from the DeFi Bootcamp that I led. To preface, it’s a funny story about how I got involved with BlockBeam. So before Bennett and Drew started BlockBeam, they created the Gateway to Blockchain program a year ago which I participated in. They were planning to do the same program this summer, but then came out with all of the Algorand and DeFi bootcamps instead. And so they asked me and another participant from the original blockchain cohort, Youssef, to be coordinators for Gateway to DeFi.
I didn’t really know what to expect because I had never taught anything before. And second, I don’t consider myself an expert in DeFi. So I was a little intimidated and reluctant but there was so much support from the BlockBeam leadership team that made the process way more manageable. I led the morning session, which would have about 15 to 20 people, and I got to know a few of them very well because I hosted an in-person meet-up with the students based in Boston. These students ended up becoming the most active participants and I had a really good time teaching them. From a coordinator’s perspective, those who turned on their cameras, actively participated, and became immersed in the content were those who enjoyed and learned the most from the program.
Sam: For prospective students, what about the program do you think is most beneficial from a career standpoint?
Alyson: The fundamentals that are taught are super helpful. It is one thing to understand the concept and it is another to be able to convey it and educate others on it, which is required through the final project. It really prepares you well for technical interview questions. Additionally, for students without blockchain clubs on campus, this is the greatest way to prepare for a Web3-related career. And even for those with clubs, most do not have such an intensive, hands-on final project and presentation. For example, with the DeFi program, students dove into a specific protocol, analyzed tokenomics, used Coin Metrics’ API which the industry loves, and had to present all of this to a panel of judges. This is a truly unique experience and puts students at an advantage in the hiring process.
Sam: Definitely, and it’s such a quid pro quo. Everyone benefits: the students, employers, the bootcamp sponsors, and BlockBeam. To cap this interview off, I’m going to open the floor for you to share any wisdom you have for those just beginning their crypto and Web3 journeys.
Alyson: Wow. I hope this is not cliché but networking is just so important. I got my job at Hedera off Twitter, which is not something you see much in traditional web2. Most of the knowledge I have gained from the industry has been from attending conferences and networking events which leads to speaking with professionals. The crypto circle is so tight-knit and everyone knows each other. Networking will help you find someone who can jumpstart your own projects or put you in touch with someone who can help you achieve your goals. I was introverted and scared before attending these networking events, but now I am so much more confident after taking that first leap of faith. Repetition and practice are key and will position you well for getting a job in the industry. Lastly, I cannot express the importance of doing your own research. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but it’s how you learn.
BlockBeam is a Web3 Upskilling & Talent Network. Our community’s shared mission is to accelerate the adoption of high-impact technologies and launch standout talent into Web3.
BlockBeam’s platform, Launch, provides employers an efficient solution for sourcing talent from leading Web3 bootcamps. Launch is only accessible to BlockBeam partner bootcamp graduates and effectively visualizes talent’s completed Web3 work product. The platform will debut in Q3 2022.
Join our community: https://discord.gg/4AvP4QRDSd
Social Media: https://linktr.ee/blockbeam
Discover Programs: https://www.blockbeam.io/#programs
Join BlockBeam Launch As An Employer
Are you interested in tapping into a Web3 technical and non-technical talent pool? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time to chat.