by Linda Xie

How to join the digital currency industry

One of the questions that I get asked most often is how to get a start in the blockchain industry. It’s a fun and exciting space to be in. After spending 3 years with Coinbase here are my recommendations and resources:

Some of my awesome coworkers at Coinbase

Recommendations

  1. Join because you believe in the technology. You might be interested in digital currencies because the price of bitcoin and ether have been skyrocketing. However remember that it is natural for new technologies to go through hype cycles. I joined Coinbase in June 2014 when the bitcoin price dropped from $650 and stayed in the $250 range for over a year. While it is exciting to see the price continually climbing recently, my internal motivations for working in the digital currency space are based upon a passion for the technology and its implications. Otherwise it would have been enticing to leave during the stagnant periods. Consider if you were to join an organization in this space, would you stay if digital currency prices crashed 80%?
  2. Do your research. This seems obvious and applies to all industries, however many people who have approached me to discuss a position at Coinbase have lacked a basic understanding of the company. In the past, I have received inquiries from applicants in which people thought that Coinbase developed and owned the Bitcoin blockchain directly. Spend time researching the technology first, then research what each company does with the technology. At the same time, there are a number of projects in this space that lack technical merit and that are capitalizing on the large amounts of easy funding in this space. It is important to do your own research in understanding the project’s technology and team.
  3. Be specific about what type of organization you want to join. I am usually skeptical about people who just tell me they want to work on blockchain. The word ‘blockchain’ is vague and from my experience, people often don’t have an understanding of what it means. For example do you want to work on a permissioned ledger, develop on Ethereum, join a startup like Coinbase, or join a major company like IBM? Each one has a vastly different culture, mission, and team so make sure you are mindful of which one fits you the best.
  4. Be open to different roles. If you are not a developer there may be less available roles for you at the organization that you are interested in applying to. Consider leveraging your skill set to different roles. For example my background was in economics and finance but I wanted to join Coinbase so I was open to filling any role they needed. I first started in compliance and later switched to product management — both of which are unrelated to my initial background but I still learned from and enjoyed each role significantly. Update: please also see my colleague John Yi’s advice on this in the responses below.
  5. Build experience by contributing to projects. If you are passionate about a project or digital currency, in many cases you can directly contribute without securing a full-time position if the project is open source. For example Monero is an interesting cryptocurrency that could use your contribution in both technical and non-technical areas. This helps boost your experience in the industry and potentially leads to great connections.

Resources

  1. Ethereum Subreddit. It sounds strange that you could find a job through Reddit but Ethereum has a strong Reddit community. You can find out about emerging projects and people’s perceptions of them, posts for open positions, and do your basic research on the technology.
  2. Smith + Crown provides detailed and high quality reports about digital currency projects. You can take a look at the reports to get a better understanding for which ones interest you the most.
  3. ICO Alert lists past, active, and upcoming project crowdsales. Projects that raised money already or that plan to often will ramp up their hiring with the new funds. You can go directly to the project’s website to see if there are any open positions. If not, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to the team directly if you are super passionate about what they are doing.
  4. Ethlance has job postings for people looking to get paid in ether. They don’t take a cut of your earnings and it’s running on the Ethereum blockchain so you’re already supporting the space.
  5. Your local digital currency meetup. I frequent the Silicon Valley Ethereum Meetup and I am an organizer at the SF Ethereum Developers Meetup. There are many developers at the meetups who need help on their projects. It’s a great place to meet others in the industry. You can also try getting more involved by becoming an organizer. You’ll get more time to interact with the developers and get to know what they are working on.

Organizations that are hiring

Below are some organizations I closely follow that are hiring.

  • 0x — a protocol for decentralized exchange of Ethereum tokens (Disclaimer: I am an advisor at 0x)
  • Aragon — a platform for creating and managing decentralized organizations
  • Augur — a prediction market platform
  • Coinbase — a platform to easily buy and sell digital currencies (Disclaimer: I am a product manager at Coinbase)
  • ConsenSys — a venture production studio building decentralized applications on Ethereum
  • Dharma — a protocol for decentralized peer to peer lending
  • Golem — a project creating a decentralized supercomputer
  • uPort — a self-sovereign identity platform built using Ethereum

I hope this guide was helpful in learning how to join the digital currency industry. Good luck in your search!

Thanks to Will Warren for reviewing this post.