Getting to Know Topl: Alex Bruns, Blockchain Engineer
I’m Alex Bruns. I’m a Blockchain Engineer at Topl and a sophomore at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, majoring in Product Design and Computer Science. I was born just outside Boston Massachusetts in a small town called Pepperell but can hardly call myself a Bostonian. I’ve lived 5 different places over the course of my life and hope to grow that number in the future.
Getting Started at Topl
So how’d I get to Topl? Come the end of my first semester at college, I decided I wanted a jump on my post-college career. I thought that getting a ‘real’ job would be the best way to do that, so when I applied to Topl and got an interview, I felt lucky.
I promptly crashed and burned — it was bad. I messed up git commands, tried to convince Chris that I knew Scala (although I clearly did not), and just generally did not do well. When the interview was over, I walked into my kitchen where my sister and father were waiting. I told them about it, and the consensus was something along the lines of ‘you learn from your failures and you’ll do better next time’. I really wanted this job, though; I knew Topl would be a dream come true for me. I’d get to work in an industry that has the potential to revolutionize the world, with a team that has more PhDs than I can name, and all to help people that have systematically been excluded from the world’s economy. So, I decided to throw a Hail Mary.
A week later, Chris asked me if I’d gotten the idea out of a book. He also offered me the internship.
My Role at Topl
Why I Love My Job
One of my favorite things about what I do is the amount of responsibility I’m given. For instance, I was recently given Heimdallr, our sidechaining project. Like the whole thing! It’s overwhelming, but the ability to both architect and build full products is something that allows for an amazing level of personal investment. Ask any one of my friends or family — I’m incredibly proud of the work I get to do at Topl.
One of the things I often get asked is, “how does it feel to work in a non-creative field?”. Many people view software developers as a resource consumed by companies to make software products; the perception is that the people writing the code don’t matter. Some developers may be faster, smarter, or better at commenting than others, but in much the same way that someone might view metal, of which there are many different kinds with different melting points and strengths, the characteristics of these developers are just dimensions of the same faceless and replaceable resource.
Firstly, I don’t subscribe to this thread of reasoning. Secondly, my job at Topl isn’t limited to just writing code. Sure, if I asked 1,000 developers to write a Python program that prints out “Hello World” that would be one thing. But that’s not software development. That’s programming.
I like that I am trusted with these responsibilities, the challenges they present, and the team I have at my back to help me tackle them.
Software development is the marriage of architecture and programming. I’m creative because, before I declare a single variable, I have to imagine something new. I have to think about what our blockchian Bifrost, or our sidechain Heimdallr , or our blockchain client Freya need to be able to do, and I have to come up with a completely novel idea that allows me to provide users with that functionality. I like that I am trusted with these responsibilities, the challenges they present, and the team I have at my back to help me tackle them.
Why I Believe in Topl
Another common question I get is, “aren’t you worried about job security working for a startup?”. This one’s easy: nope. Sure, statistically startups are incredibly risky companies to work for, but I’m not looking at the macro-economics of startups. I’m looking at Topl.
Topl is going to be successful for three reasons: we’ve found a problem, we’ve found a solution to that problem, and we’re implementing this solution. In my opinion, these are the three fundamental reasons that cause startups fail. Some have a solution in search of a problem, some — even worse — have a problem that they can’t solve, and, of course, there are those that have a great problem and solution but are either too cash strapped or bad at hiring to pull together a team capable of executing.
Topl’s found a multi trillion dollar problem, systemic risk in frontier markets, we’ve designed a technical solution, and we’re executing as I type this.
Topl’s found a multi trillion dollar problem, systemic risk in frontier markets, we’ve designed a technical solution, the Topl blockchain, and we’re executing as I type this. Obviously, no one can tell the future, but as a developer, I’m very confident in Topl’s future.
Our Greatest Strength: Our Team
My favorite thing about Topl is how meritocratic it is. Ideas are evaluated based on an even playing field and promotions, raises, and projects are dolled out based on performance rather than time at the company, or any other arbitrary metrics.
As an intern, I remember having countless technical conversations with Chris, the CEO of Topl, and not only feeling comfortable enough to disagree with him out loud, but also sometimes convincing him why his initial instinct was wrong. It’s rare to find a single person willing to disregard social status when evaluating an idea. Topl’s found an entire team of these people, and that’s possibly our single largest strength.