Hi! I am 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 Jack McCarthy, Co-President of Boston College Blockchain and a DeFi Research Analyst at Polygon! Here is his story:
Sam: Hey Jack! Tell me about yourself and what you do in school.
Jack: Hey Sam! I just finished my sophomore year at Boston College. I am studying Finance and Business Analytics with a minor in Managing For Social Impact, specifically focusing on Digital Economy and Social Citizenship. Aside from the classroom, I am the Co-President of BC Blockchain and on the executive board of Start at Shea, our student-led entrepreneurship group.
Sam: That’s a super cool degree! I’d love to hear more about BC Blockchain.
Jack: I joined at the start of my sophomore year. There’s an analyst program for the club which at the time required us to write an article on the whitepaper of Compound to be accepted. The club’s president at the time was a great mentor and now works at Messari. More generally, as an organization, we host weekly guest speakers and student discussions in addition to frequent student presentations. For instance, I have presented on the differences between the Curve stable swap AMM and Uniswap’s AMM and another time on general tokenomics fundamentals. More than anything though, the club is discussion-oriented and not too engineering-heavy, although this upcoming semester we do have a Head of Tech coming on board who has coded loads of dApps. He’s worked at Polygon and Polychain Capital while also contributing to projects for ETHGlobal. So we’re super stoked to have him leading our education and coding expertise. The rest of us are much more focused on understanding the high-level applications and breaking down protocols.
For next year we also have adapted our analyst program. We made an accelerator, which will be a ten-week program that essentially allows someone with zero crypto knowledge to be knowledgeable up to a certain level that we think is acceptable to become an analyst and start writing articles. We want all the articles to be high-quality research which is why we think this program will be so important. The accelerator will introduce students to topics such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and NFTs, then cover DeFi and progressively more complex concepts.
Our leadership team is definitely unconventional but it’s honestly the best model for us right now since it allows us to all focus on our niches. One of the other co-presidents, Luke, is also working at Polygon on the Partnerships team. He is our Analyst Program Lead, meaning he oversees the accelerator program and research articles we publish. The other co-president is Hailey who is Head of Events. She is the co-founder of an NFT valuation software that’s in beta right now and last summer she worked at Seven Seven Six, Alexis Ohanian’s VC fund. I am the Head of Growth and Outreach and will be focusing largely on recruiting new analysts and building our club’s external relations.
Sam: Wow that’s super impressive in many ways, especially the way you structure the club with the accelerator program. That’s awesome how even if you know nothing you can be brought up to an analyst level. I haven’t heard of any other university blockchain or crypto club that is organized this way, so kudos to you guys.
Jack: You have to do it over the summer and then once we get feedback and edit it, we’re going to make the program public which we’re super stoked about. We have assignments for our analysts, but when we make the program public this same curriculum will be available on our website for anyone to use. We also provide our analysts with resources such as a compilation of readings, videos, and Twitter lists and then an assignment to kind of pass through that topic as you would.
Sam: Sign me up when it’s public!
Jack: For sure!
Sam: Your organization, and yourself included, are clearly super passionate about crypto and are even landing coveted Web3 internships and jobs. At a more bare-bones level, what drives this interest in crypto for you?
Jack: I think it was just that I found a niche that I genuinely enjoy whereas a lot of my peers doing TradFi internships are just not that excited about their work. So I felt like this was the best way to set myself up for success and differentiate myself from other students that are going to be looking for jobs. This is a bit of a tangent but a pretty funny story that cemented my passion for the industry. I was writing an article about Sarcophagus.io, which is a decentralized dead man’s switch and one of my favorite projects. I interviewed the founder and he mentioned that the team was working on developing a V2 and going to have a three-day brainstorming session on an island off the coast of Georgia. So he offered to fly me and a buddy from the club out for free and stay at a super nice hotel. It was sick! And this was when COVID was still a thing on our campus and most of our events were virtual, so I hadn’t met any of the analysts in person before. I asked Luke, the only other student in our club who had published an article by that time, if he wanted to go. We met for the first time at the airport and had a great trip. All the people in our club have gotten pretty close, especially from the small discussion groups that we hold every week. It’s basically half alpha and half banter which I think has been one of the best things for the club because we’re all learning, but it’s not such a formal setting that it feels super corporate or anything. So we try and keep that ‘crypto degen’ vibe at our club and embrace it as a term of endearment. I think it’s kind of similar to the tech world in the early 2000s, how you can have some fun with it before it becomes a mainstream corporate industry. Those have been the main reasons that have drawn me to it.
Sam: Definitely. On the Bankless podcast, David, Ryan, and many of the guests are always comparing this era to the Dotcom Bubble and make the point of how everyone’s freaking out about Bitcoin dropping 80%, yet Amazon was having these 90% swings in its early days. Those who are resilient now could be the Google and Apple equivalents of the crypto industry. So you have to embrace it and, you know, if you got the paper hands, it’s not meant for you.
Jack: Haha yes, I can relate to what you’re saying as someone who’s had some skin in the game and I think that’s a very good mindset.
Sam: For sure. So I know you do have internship experience in the industry. I would love to hear about that. To start, tell us first how you got the position and then what specifically you did in your role.
Jack: Absolutely. So flashback to when I got the internship, it was Christmas break of my sophomore year. I was looking for an internship for this summer and I’d been involved in our blockchain club on campus. My mindset was, ‘this is something I wanna take forward, I’m going to try my best to work in the crypto industry this summer and see where it’ll take me’. As a finance major, I knew I would focus on something finance related since I’m certainly no Solidity dev. By December, I was just reaching out to people, cold emailing and reaching out on LinkedIn. I sent a message to Hamzah Khan, the Head of DeFi at Polygon, and was just like, ‘Hey, these are some articles I’ve written for my blockchain club on campus. I really wanna get into DeFi. Do you have any internship opportunities?’ At that time it was 40 or 50 people at the company and they didn’t have any formal internship positions but we hopped on the phone and he quizzed me a bit on DeFi and crypto. He asked questions such as: “What’s your favorite DEX to use and why?” “What are some of your favorite protocols?” “What is the top DEX on Polygon?” Albeit back at this point, I was buying and selling Ethereum, Bitcoin, and some altcoins on centralized exchanges and genuinely did not know what DeFi was. I just knew that I was a finance major and that I liked crypto so I kind of freeballed my answers. I was told by him recently that if I had tried to get the internship now with as much as I knew back then I wouldn’t get it. It was the right place at the right time and someone taking a chance on me.
Anyways, it was super informal at the time but he said I could start by working for free as a DeFi Research Analyst. I faced a super steep learning curve because I was coming in literally not realizing this whole DeFi ecosystem existed. I was aware of it, but I wasn’t in it. And then I think the first or second article I wrote was about breaking down the Curve wars, and explaining how veTokens and Convex flywheels work. Learning all of that was a massive challenge, but slowly but surely I started to learn more and become familiarized. Now I’m pumping out research articles every two to three weeks, helping onboard dApps, and giving tokenonmics advice for some protocols.
So my role now is kind of similar. It’s expanded a lot over the summer, so instead of just research, it’s also business development and marketing for some dApps that are launching. I’ll write Medium articles explaining what they do and try to break it down for people so they can understand it more easily.
Sam: That’s amazing and I think that speaks volumes about the power of doing your due diligence and then showcasing it through cold networking. That’s how I got my job too, just from cold messaging a university alumnus over LinkedIn and then impressing him over the phone. Even though you said you didn’t know much at all about DeFi, you were passionate about it and eager to learn which is intrinsically something that employers look for. Just because of that, now look at yourself six months later. You’re essentially a crypto and DeFi expert for your age and level of experience.
Jack: It’s been crazy because I’ve been able to learn so much on the job. My boss likes to say that he’s paying me to learn. Getting an internship, even if you have to work for free, is still worth it. Being in the industry and getting that mentorship where someone can give you advice you wouldn’t get elsewhere is super valuable.
Sam: This has been a massive opportunity for you and you’re somehow only coming up on your junior year. You’re positioning yourself super well and should be proud. This naturally leads me to the next question, how did you find out about BlockBeam?
Jack: I believe I found out about BlockBeam from our club president sharing it in our Discord. I was interested in joining the Gateway to Algorand program because I am super passionate about sustainability. Especially at BC, a Jesuit school, we have a large focus on caring for the public good and the Earth. This interest, combined with my passion for crypto, made the program an ideal fit for me. Additionally, in DeFi it can be difficult to find applications or projects that solve tangible real-world problems. Because of this, I was especially intrigued by the practical use-cases covered in the BlockBeam program, such as using blockchain to solve sustainability-related problems. To have blockchain become mainstream so that DeFi can proliferate into financial systems, there has to be widespread adoption. This adoption is contingent on there being external use-case systems. This is why I thought BlockBeam’s Gateway to Algorand program was super cool because it focused on these practical elements of blockchain through a sustainability-focused lens.
Sam: Awesome, and it seems like you answered my next question of what you enjoyed most from the program, which for you was the exposure to real-world blockchain-based use cases for sustainability issues. Who was your favorite speaker and what was your experience with the final project?
Jack: I really enjoyed listening to Ollie from Cudos. Their business idea is something I never would have even fathomed and I love the idea of creating value from an idle asset. For the final project, my group focused on putting carbon capture data onto the blockchain. While our idea would have required millions in funding I think it was still super cool. Currently, there is a major rollout of climate capture devices, however, it is impossible to have 100% trust in the issuer’s data. Especially in scenarios with multiple stakeholders, there needs to be a single verifiable, immutable, source of data. We believed our idea would solve many of the issues in the environmental data market as well as reduce the cost of carbon credits. Overall, the final project was a lot of fun and honestly less stressful than expected due to the group layout which allows teams to divide work and make everything more manageable.
Sam: The problem that your group was intending to solve is a serious one as there is tons of double-spending and a major lack of data transparency and verification in the carbon credit market. What about the program do you think is most beneficial from a career standpoint?
Jack: The connections. I still keep in touch with members of my group and the BlockBeam team. Similar to a university blockchain club, BlockBeam serves as a great way to get in touch with other students passionate about crypto.
Sam: What advice would you give to people just starting out in crypto?
Jack: For those just beginning their crypto journey, start up a Twitter account and follow the right people. Familiarize yourself with the lingo and the types of projects being developed and make sure to listen to Bankless. Go on DeFi Llama and find the top 10 DApps by TVL for specific blockchains and read their whitepaper and explore their website. Once you get a sense of how DeFi protocols work you will begin to see patterns and how they develop. Learn what a DEX and money market like Aave is as well as an overcollateralized stablecoin like DAI. Once you have a grasp of these three concepts and a general familiarity with the crypto markets you are pretty much set to start diving in deeper. Read ‘The Defiant’, read any article that pops up on crypto Twitter, and most importantly just constantly read whitepapers and research articles. It may be intimidating at first but you’ll get up to speed in no time.
Start an account with $100 on an L2 blockchain so you can avoid fees and play around with crazy strategies just to get a feel for everything. You can read all you want but it is essential to actually approve transactions, manually increase the gas fees you will pay, and experiment with different protocols. Trial and error is a ‘must’ to take your learning to the next level. Be a degen for a month…throwing $100 into an account to learn is well worth it.
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