I’m working in crypto, I love it, and I want to tell you why.
I recently reflected on leaving jobs. After doing so, I realized I’ve never written and shared my reasons for joining jobs. That’s odd, I think. I’m changing that with this post.
I’m happy to share that I’ve joined Kraken. No, not the professional hockey team, the digital asset exchange. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
What I wrote about in that previous post was my realization that I like to change jobs to create new life experiences. In this case, I had started to get signals on what that life experience might be like a year or so ago. It has to do with a cultural and technical shift that’s underway: the rise of cryptocurrency, adoption and application of blockchain technology, and new possibilities they’re enabling.
I’m not a crypto OG. Bitcoin was started in 2009. I bought my first bitcoin in 2017. Not exactly early. I didn’t pile in my life-savings. I bought because I was interested in learning about the technology, and a lot of emerging technology knowledge is tacit – you’ve gotta use it and live it to understand it. I remained interested, mostly for learning for a number of years. Buy a little here, a little there. Just before the turn of the decade, I started to view Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other coins as opportunities to save and later earn. Baby steps.
Then, a number of perspective-changing things happened in 2020 and 2021.
Thanks to the pandemic, I was isolated from friends and family, and I craved community. Personal calls across continents became more frequent. A few casual friendships became more intense, not out of proximity, but frequency. We talked about technology. We talked about art. We talked about the books we read and wanted to read.
I started reconnecting with hobbies both past and new. I began writing more music than I’d written in 20 years. I put time into learning new tools. I started developing visual art that had for years lived in sketch books and text docs. With plenty of time between the four walls of home, and a need for escape, I started to imagine an all-encompassing world for my work.
I created digital drawings based on some of these ideas, minted them as NFTs, and listed them on the NFT marketplace Foundation. Some friends and contacts bought a few. That was great. Then, some people I didn’t know bought them too. I felt the feeling I know many artists feel. The surprise and pride that someone is interested in what I’d done on the merits of the thing itself, and they’d confirm that by collecting my work. I was over the moon.
So, what’s all that have to do with crypto? Through re-connecting with friends and former colleagues around the world, I found that a handful of them were also having similar experiences. In Discords for NFT projects and DAOs, we were each finding like-minded people, trying and experimenting out in the open. I was learning from other people, sharing what I had learned, and it was happening fast. It reminded me of what it felt like to be building on the web in 2002. I was having SO MUCH FUN.
I was creating more. I was better self-expressed. I was less cranky, less anxious, less stressed.
I thought, “what if I could work in this space, in this way, most of the time?”
But isn’t crypto bad?
Let me pause the linear narrative here, and address a few things about crypto and the broader dialogue around it. This isn’t comprehensive by any means, but I’m sharing to be open about my perspective. I’ve found that as I talk to a number of people in my professional and non-professional life, they share similar thoughts.
There are skeptics, critics, and downright haters of cryptocurrencies (and web3, and NFTs, and…and…). They might be right. Sometimes, I agree. Sometimes, not.
Energy consumption is a common concern. Some blockchain technology is very energy-intensive. I’m of the opinion that as we see increased utility and application of the technology – which we will see, I’m certain – three things will come to pass:
One: More utility will justify the energy expenditure (a future topic to explore!)
Two: The energy expenditure itself will decrease, thanks to new chains and the evolution of existing chains like ethereum moving to proof-of-stake (more energy-efficient) from proof-of-work (less energy-efficient)
Three: We’ll see overall more efficient and sustainable sources of electrical energy increase in adoption and availability (more solar, please)
I hope I’m right.
Another common concern is the trustworthiness of the platforms, tools and participants. There is a key principle, perhaps more relevant than all others, that is critical to trust in crypto: “Don’t Trust, Verify.” 21 Lessons explains this better than I can do service to here. 21 Lessons is a great resource in general for some introductory learning. I mean, look at the subtitle “What I've Learned from Falling Down the Bitcoin Rabbit Hole.” Who doesn’t like lots of Alice in Wonderland references?
We see through the actions and behaviors of participants in the ecosystem the extent to which they embody this principle. An example:
Kraken recently launched a tool that allows any user to self-verify that the funds represented in their account are backed up by real assets. When it comes to creating top-quality products and brands people hold dear, building trust is both critical and difficult. To offer this tool, Kraken recently completed a cryptographically verifiable Proof of Reserves audit. This means every one of Kraken’s clients can now independently verify that the bitcoin and ether balances they hold with Kraken are backed by real assets secured by the global exchange. It shows a commitment to security, trust, and transparency. It's beyond what is available in traditional finance.
Which leads me to…
I’d received a call about Kraken, just like I had about several dozen other businesses looking for design leaders, including ones in the crypto/Web3 space. They never connected with me. Kraken felt different. It’s got an indie spirit that reminds me of some of the best teams and best working experiences I’ve had.
I may not be an OG, but Kraken is. The team’s been building tools and serving the crypto community since the early days of Bitcoin. It’s got street cred, trust, and it’s a healthy business.
Every single person I met, from the CEO and rest of the executive team, to the designers…left me with a sense that they were truly excited about and connected to their work. Mike Davidson and I, after years of knowing each other, would have the chance to build something together. It felt like an opportunity to do the best work of our lives, with people we’d enjoy doing it with.
The shape of what’s to come
I have a high degree of confidence that blockchain technology will continue to be transformative and revolutionary in a number of ways. When data moves “on chain” all sorts of new things are possible, some good, some bad, a lot we’re not sure of yet. I’m certain that I’ll learn more about it, more quickly, and with more agency in shaping it when I’m nearer rather than farther. So, I’m getting really close.
Kraken’s given me the opportunity to shape how I show up and add value. After nearly 15 years running design departments and growing massive teams, I’m excited to focus on strategy and the quality of products.
I’ve been obsessed with trying to realize large scale, wholly-designed experiences for two decades now. It’s fun work. It’s rewarding work. When placed in the right context, it’s needed for a movement, valuable for a business, and meaningful to other people. By my assessment, Kraken has all of the above.
We aim to grow crypto adoption as a means to financial independence. To pull that off we need to make it understandable, make its utility wide-reaching and clear, and we need to ensure safety and trust. I think there’s no better company than Kraken to lead the way.
We’re growing our design and research team…a lot. We’re hiring designers, writers, researchers, and engineers. If we’ve worked together, and you’re curious, I’d love to chat. If we’ve never worked together, and you’re curious, I’d love to chat. Maybe you know someone. Send me a DM on Twitter or LinkedIn. We’re a fully-remote, distributed team, working from locations around the globe with a shared passion for crypto.
We’re building a legendary team and having a blast doing it.
March 2, 2022Back to Writing