My Blockchain Journey
An account of how I got involved and what I observed
“It’s always been like this”.
“How do we do something better?”.
“Let’s test this out”.
These highlight the progression that results in change, and as someone who has always been into finding new solutions to problems (I got my start in business by flipping used electronics on eBay in high school), it was clear how blockchain technology appealed to me.
Having figured out that this was not just some cryptocurrency to buy goods off the dark web à la Mount Gox and the Silk Road and being famililar with the longstanding, static industry of custody, I began reading up on blockchain. Twitter and then Medium became my go-to places to keep track of the latest developments, complemented by a watchful eye on the cryptocurrency markets in the fall of 2017.
With crypto all over the news and New York City being a place with a high concentration of enthusiasts from finance and tech backgrounds, a great deal of events went on and I went to a few; however, it felt to me like an insider’s game — as I wasn’t a trader, investor, developer, or founder, the engagements I had with the other attendees felt limited. Also, it looked like a good amount of the people there seemed to know each other.
It sure was a small world, which I discovered at Crypto NYC, a blockchain community organization and coworking space. A short series of events led me to help out the team, and the next few months proved to be the most interesting I’ve ever had so far.
Working as part of a small team of part-time volunteers, I got my fair share of exposure to early-stage startup life. Chaotic in some ways and full of last-minute scrambles but fluid in others, such as getting to work across various areas: event organization, online channel management, and partnership development. What stuck out to me most favorably was the feeling of freedom — as long as an undertaking aligned with the core mission of connecting and educating innovators using distributed ledger technology, there could be a potential discussion.
Some of these opportunities came out to be organizing a sort of demo session of our community companies to a VC firm, helping host two events during NYC Blockchain Week, and speaking on a panel at a conference. While those events have passed, the learnings I will take with me, particularly on community, expertise, and knowledge.
Prior to my involvement at Crypto NYC, I’d never heard of the term community management. This is a new field that will become increasingly important to facilitate adoption of new technology, helping users become evangelists for the product. I believe it will be necessary to bridge what I perceived a gap between technologists, who are product-centric sometimes at the expense of business sense, and the not-so-altruistic business types looking to make a quick buck off of the hype surrounding this new technology. (I will not name any companies on either side…lacking examples, yes, but more free from controversy).
This goes to say that there are plenty of ways to get involved in the space without a technical background. If I, a fairly recent college graduate of two years carried by a sense of curiosity and a willingness to work hard could do it, so can you! I’d recommend engaging with a project of interest be it making relevant comments via Telegram, Twitter, or Medium, attending events and speaking with the team in-person, or putting out content on the project.
But what about people who are in crypto full-time? The vast majority of the people I’ve seen playing such roles bring expertise in a specific field, whether they are an experienced investor, business development professional with a wide network, or marketer familiar with growth tactics. Technical professions include, but are not limited to, designers and engineers. And then there are the ones who broke in, starting out in perhaps a role in operations (some have even created their own roles) at the company in the early stages and gradually taking increased responsibility after demonstrated performance.
Regardless of type of role or expertise, those in the blockchain space are taking a risk in working on an early technology, often leaving cushy jobs earned through years of hard work. On the flip side, this is the time of opportunity — many compare 2018 in blockchain to the state of the internet in 1994. Trading experiencing the known with the unknown, many push the path forward in this nascent technology.
In the end, blockchain is a technology and with any tech, understanding can either be basic or fully-nuanced. An initial hurdle is cleared in cutting through the vast amount of noise to get to the signals in developing a high-level understanding of how this technology works. Yet, the granularity of the details confuse me with my inability to answer other’s questions on “what if __ happens?, which isn’t surprising when I’m trying to understand a field that combines cryptography, game theory, and computer science. Without the ability to grasp one side comes the inability to paint a complete picture, as although I comprehend some of the business concepts, I am unable to vet a project’s source code. Hence I remain cautious, for what’s written may be different in practice.
Currently about to start something new, I wrote this to reflect on the journey, how I got to where I am today. Everything could not have happened without following the practices of adopting an open mind, willingness to take risks, and helping others first. One thing leads to another, and you never know unless you try.
A huge shoutout to Crypto NYC for having me!