“It’s always been like this”.
“How do we do something better?”.
“Let’s test this out”.
The sentences above highlight the process of change.
You start out with old way, question how to make it better, and then experiment. Through many iterations, you eventually come up with something new.
This is the hacker mindset appealed to me since high school, when I flipped electronics on eBay Drawn by the same ethos, I spent a few months on the side of my day job helping out Crypto NYC, a blockchain coworking space and community organization in early 2018.
Along the way, I learned a ton about this technology, played my part as a non-technical person in a technical field, and developed skills I use to this day in my job in corporate venture.
Diving Into The World Of Blockchain
Blockchain is a lot more than just some cryptocurrency used to buy goods off the dark web à la Mount Gox and the Silk Road.
One day in the fall of 2017, I came across an event discussing the intersection of blockchain and the federal government. Interested to hear more, I went to the event and one thing led to another – I went to more events, and started using Twitter and Medium to keep up with the latest content.
Eventually, I began conducting my own analysis of different projects, posting articles on Medium. However, I still felt removed from the action – while New York City was a center for blockchain and there were many events, it felt like an insider’s game as I wasn’t a trader, investor, developer, nor founder.
Thus sparked my decision to get involved with an organization.
Getting Involved With Crypto NYC
I first came across Crypto NYC on AngelList, and noticed that they had an opening for a community intern.
Though I didn’t have any previous experience in community management, I did have experience organizing events and forming partnership. Curious about the organization, I went to one of their weekly meetups and engaged with the team, approaching them after the event on the open position – after several conversations, I joined the team.
Working as part of a small, volunteer team, I got my fair share of exposure to life at an early-stage startup.
Chaotic in some ways but fluid in others, I gained significant exposure working on event organization, online channel management, and partnership development. I was propelled by the sense of freedom, able to work on any project that aligned with the core mission of connecting and educating innovators in the distributed ledger space.
Some of these opportunities included:
- organizing a community showcase session for a venture capital firm
- hosting two events during NYC Blockchain Week
- speaking as a panelist for a blockchain conference
On top of all of this, I was working my full-time job in custody banking. Using my 9-5 to pay the bills and my 5-9 as a risk-free way to explore and gain experience – an application of side projects.
Ways of getting involved in blockchain
As my story shows, you don’t have to have a technical background to get involved in the blockchain space.
If I, a fairly recent college graduate of two years could do it, so can you!
I’d recommend engaging with a project of interest by commenting on their posts via Telegram, Twitter, or Medium. Attending events and speaking with the team in-person, Putting out content on the project, even making relevant intro’s to the team members.
But what about people who work 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.
My Reflections and Conclusion
In the end, as with any new technology, it’s important to cut through the noise and focus on the basics.
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.
A huge shoutout to Crypto NYC for having me!