Women of Bitcoin
Today, we’re excited to kick off our “Women of BTC” blog series. In this series, we’ll hear from members of Square’s Cash App team about the incredible work they are doing to expand access to Bitcoin for our customers.
In the first edition of our “Women of BTC” series, we’ll talk with two influential Cash App team members: Liang Shi on the Marketing team and Rebecca Corcillo on Engineering.
Liang has been at Square just about a year and is already making a massive impact on the experiential marketing front. Before she came to Square, Liang was organizing design and experiential events, including a dessert festival in NYC and LA.
With two years under her belt at Square, Rebecca has been on the Cash team for half that time, previously supporting traffic engineering efforts. As a software engineer, Rebecca now works on everything from engineering the management and movement of bitcoin to and from Cash’s wallets to the blockchain, to managing customer balances and Cash App’s internal ledger. When someone buys Bitcoin, her code makes it happen.
Tell me about the work you did and are doing on Bitcoin.
LS: Our team launched a beautifully illustrated online explainer called “My First Bitcoin.” We wanted to make Bitcoin easily approachable and easy to understand for a wide audience. Since it launched, the website has received a ton of positive feedback.
What was your favorite part of the work?
LS: Getting to do new and different things all the time, like working to design Cash App apparel — for example, the gold foil Bitcoin sweatshirts. The unpredictable nature of the business pushes me to learn and grow.
RC: When I first joined Cash there was actually no dedicated crypto team, so I became the first full-time engineer on the project. I built a lot of the functionality, which was a great learning experience. There was a lot to do without much of a guidebook; for example, figuring out scalability, bitcoin wallet management, how to securely store our bitcoin, how we manage our risk.
Once we made the decision to ship the Bitcoin buy and sell feature to the entire Cash App customer base, it was an intense few weeks. At this point, I was the engineer actively working on the code with the most context, and was the one who had to get all of the engineers up to speed and trained in both our existing bitcoin code base and the projects that needed to be done. I had never been in a position where I was effectively managing a group of engineers, and I’m so thankful for the experience and such an amazing and enthusiastic group of engineers. It was pretty surreal giving all of these code architecture walk throughs to different groups of engineers, especially as a young woman. The SF cash engineering team actually all flew to Australia to work with our team of engineers there in person. It was basically 20 engineers in a room for a few weeks in December to get this shipped.. That sprint and the role I played in coordinating it all was one of my favorite times on Cash.
What got you interested in Bitcoin/crypto?
RC: I’ve been interested in it for a long time. I first learned about the topic at MIT but really started getting into it in earnest in 2013. I like the fact that it’s a decentralized, censorship-proof form of currency. The ability for Bitcoin to provide a global solution that encourages greater financial access to all is also pretty powerful.
What’s the most exciting thing about working on this new aspect of the financial system?
LS: One thing that’s stood out is that nowadays, even my mom knows what Bitcoin is. She’ll be the one calling me to say prices dropped and I’m like, “Where are you even hearing this?”
In particular, when [Bitcoin] hit its peak last December, I was in awe of how widespread and how common it became as a topic of conversation; even my mom was talking about wanting to invest!
I think Cash App is doing something really special by making Bitcoin easier to understand and access. Now you don’t have to wait weeks to buy, it’s instant, and you can sell it just as quickly. It’s democratizing Bitcoin by making it accessible to anyone.
RC: Square is uniquely positioned because we both help anyone to accept a payment and make a sale, and help anyone make a payment using Cash App. Working in Bitcoin, which is really a borderless, global currency, means we actually have the ability to drive global change in a huge way, which is exhilarating. The work we do on cash has the power to drastically change the global economy, hopefully for the benefit of those currently being left out of it.
What are the most interesting things you’re seeing happening across crypto or tech more broadly?
RC: Honestly, the development of anonymous currencies in general is pretty interesting. I’m very interested in digital privacy, so I like to follow the technology behind anonymous currencies.
I also love watching the lightning network develop, which will hopefully allow for cheaper and faster bitcoin payments and allow the network to scale even more.
What makes you passionate about the work you do?
RC: The Cash team is amazing. I love being a part of it. It was really amazing to be able to choose exactly what I wanted to work on and become part of the crypto work stream. When I joined, I was immediately given a lot of responsibility and control; everyone trusted me to deliver and that really helped me step up with full faith in myself as well. It’s pretty easy to be passionate when you’re given the ability to grow your skill set in a space that you love.
Cash is an amazing team to be on as a female engineer. I feel valued and like my colleagues are confident in the work I’m able to do. We’ve made significant strides in continuing to hire women engineers.
What advice would you give to other women interested in entering the crypto space?
LS: Have a good network and support group where you feel comfortable. For example, I’m part of a Facebook group that’s for women in crypto and sometimes just talking to other women about the problems you’re trying to solve can make you feel more relaxed.
RC: In crypto specifically, be knowledgeable and prepared. Passion and interest are the most important things — the rest will follow. (While I rarely deal with this at Square, in the larger world the crypto space is not the most inviting community. As a woman, you sometimes need to know twice as much as a man to be taken seriously.) But, don’t be discouraged, it’s important to get more women and underrepresented communities interested and involved because diverse backgrounds will yield the creative ideas needed to uncover new, groundbreaking blockchain applications.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten?
LS: Have fun!