Blockchain Explained

Breaking into Blockchain: How to Get a Job in Crypto

How I got a job at ConsenSys and my advice to non-developers who are eager to start working full time in crypto.

By Mason Nystrom

November 25, 2019

This essay has three parts:

  1. My Story 
  2. Advice on how to break into blockchain/crypto
  3. Crafting your application and where to look for a job 

My Story

I’m not an OG. I haven’t been in crypto since B.E. (before Ethereum), and have never been a first mover or early adopter of technology. I first heard about bitcoin while I was in undergrad when a professor gave us a homework assignment to research and explain how blockchain works. In my infinite wisdom, I googled the answer before class, stumbled through an explanation during class, and subsequently forgot everything immediately. 

Damn, what a mistake. 

It wasn’t until I attended my buddy’s wedding a couple months later that I became enthralled with the concepts of blockchain technology. 

If you’ll humor me a limerick on the subject…

At the wedding, I met Dan. 

He criticized the system, the U.S. dollar, the man. 

An immutable ledger he proclaimed.

Blockchains are decentralized and trustless, he continued to explain.

Bitcoin and Ethereum prevent censorship

And will bring about true personal data ownership.

He stated blockchains eliminate the middleman.

Diligently listening, still, I didn’t understand.

Another whiskey-coke I asked the man behind the bar

Don’t worry, Dan said, you’ve already come very far. 

Okay, enough rhyming… 

Intrigued by the potential that blockchain technology could offer and pleasantly quenched by the open bar, we continued to chat for a couple of hours. Once I returned home, I began to dive deeper into Bitcoin and Ethereum. I read everything I could find, listened to podcasts, watched youtube videos, and tried to speak with anyone who had experience in blockchain. 

Luckily, I was in the process of completing my Master’s in Business Management when I became fascinated with crypto which provided me free time to pursue this interest. Not wanting school to get in the way of my education, I decided to take on an internship at a local cryptocurrency exchange. Keep in mind: my experience prior to working at the exchange was as a personal trainer and research assistant in a sports performance laboratory. My degree was in business management, although I possessed minimal business experience. 

Wow, talk about an uphill battle. 

But I learned a lot. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who shared a love for the disruptive potential of crypto networks. My job description was undefined and included creating content, helping with email marketing, aiding the customer support team, researching initial coin offerings, and performing due diligence of companies with aims of listing cryptoassets on our exchange. 

After interning for a few months, I noticed Ryan Selkis’ call for Messari analysts. Eagerly, I applied and was granted access to a valuable network of crypto enthusiasts. I assisted in writing a few asset profiles which were immensely beneficial to further my understanding of the crypto ecosystem. After graduating from my master’s program, I was committed to working in the crypto sphere. Instilled with a passion and some, now, relevant work experience, I faced the next part of the journey, applying to jobs. 

Thankfully, with a lot of hard work, I received several job opportunities within a couple months. My job search was arduous and required crafting various written pieces of work to showcase my abilities and knowledge – eventually landing me a job at ConsenSys on the marketing team. Now, having worked at ConsenSys for over a year, I can genuinely say I’ve loved every minute. It’s a vibrant company, filled with weird and wacky people who are all passionate about making the world a blockchain place (Ha, get it, I replaced better with blockchain). 

Now that you’ve heard my story, I’d like to share some advice that I believe can help you find a job in the weird world of crypto.

Advice For The Newcomers 

There are only two types of advice: the advice someone passes on because it worked for them, or the humbled and ever-present advice learned through regret. Both are valuable, but you should only replicate the former. 

My advice stems from both what worked for me and the things I didn’t do. While applicable to many people, my advice is directed towards individuals with little work experience, current university students, or those with a couple years under their belt looking to make a career change. In other words, if your name is Vitalik, you may not need this advice.

Think of this advice like a menu, pick and choose a couple of options that sound appetizing to you and commit to them. Consistency matters. 

Become an Intern

If you’re a student at any level and have the chance to become an intern I highly recommend it. This is perhaps the best option for students looking to learn more about this strange world and get some experience. As I stated earlier, interning for a local cryptocurrency exchange in Hong Kong was a great initial experience to get my feet wet and become immersed in the crypto space. 

Volunteer

Volunteering can be a great way to get some experience, build your resume, and create connections in the crypto world. I volunteer with Messari by writing cryptoasset profiles. Ryan Selkis’ initial call for analysts was exactly what I was looking for, a place to get started, to jump in and learn as much as possible. I learned directly about ERC20 tokens, layer 2 state channels,  and more by writing cryptoasset profiles, as well as indirectly through osmosis. When you’re around exceptional people, their knowledge and experience flows from them to everyone else. The closer you are to those people, the more you learn. Period. 

Personally speaking, Messari was a significant benefit to my career early on, not only in experience, but also in terms of stature. In the ‘real’ business world, people listen when your resume has an Ivy League school or reads McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, or [insert your favorite big name company]. It may be unfortunate, but humans have a desire to assign status. 

Messari, ConsenSys, Multicoin Capital, Ikigai, Pantera Capital, Binance, and Coinbase are some of the most well-known firms in crypto. More anecdotally, I’ve seen many volunteers from Messari move full time into crypto all because when given a more substantial platform – the Messari community – they used it as leverage to get themselves noticed by the right people. 

Long story short, I was able to use the experience and knowledge from my internship and Messari volunteer position to land myself a job at ConsenSys. I also received interviews and job offers from other well-known firms within the crypto ecosystem. Doing so took my career in blockchain from 0 to 1, which is always the toughest step in any development. 

Write

Derek Hsue, Myles Snider, Chris Burniske, Phil Bonello, Tony Sheng, and Kyle Samani all became names in crypto because they started writing blogs about blockchain topics, mostly related to investment or research. One of the highest skills you can leverage is your ability to write. It’s hard not only to write good content, but to have the guts to put your opinions out there. That being said, anyone can be a writer—never tell yourself otherwise. I never thought of myself as a writer either. Now, I’m a writer and marketer at ConsenSys and I author the ConsenSys Market Intel newsletter (like I said, leverage). 

Some easy pieces or forms of writing:

  • If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your thoughts, get over it! If you really want to ease into it, start by summarizing great, long, or complex pieces. You’d be surprised by how little time people spend reading. Curated content is important. 
  • Domain expertise pieces: examine concepts in a specific domain. Ethereum and privacy. Blockchain projects in supply chain. Stablecoins. Lending protocols.
  • Walkthroughs. You did something, now show others how to do it!   
Tweet

If you don’t like writing long form, Twitter is your savior. While I’m not much of a tweeter, CryptoTwitter values those who participate or ask relevant questions. Some of the brightest people in crypto use Twitter to build their brands like Ryan Sean Adams, Meltem Dimirros, Nic Carter, Ari David Paul, Hasu, Tom Shaughnessy. Just don’t be a troll or fearmonger. 

Use other social media

While Twitter has a strong crypto community, you can find your prefered medium using Instagram, Reddit, Telegram, or other social media forms. Most people can only be successful at a few mediums like Twitter and Linkedin or Instagram and Tik Tok so use whichever feels most authentic. 

Answer questions on Quora, it’ll help you understand crypto and garner views or increase your brand. If you answer enough questions, well then you have a written piece. 

Join meetups, events, and clubs

If you’re in a locale teeming with blockchain activity, I recommend going to meetups or community events, most of which are free. Some common places to find events include Meetup and Eventbrite. For university students, check out your school’s blockchain club or start your own! I don’t recommend conferences if you’re looking for a job, as conference tickets don’t give a good ROI unless you’re incredible at networking (let’s face it you’d probably be employed if you were). 

Move to a crypto city 

By nature, we are all products of our environment. It’s no secret that if you want to be successful in tech, you should probably live where innovation is happening. I’m not saying you need to move to a major tech city like New York or San Francisco, but you should take advantage of it if you live there. Other up-and-coming tech cities in the U.S include Los Angeles, Denver, Austin, Dallas, and Seattle. If you’re willing to venture abroad, you have even more options. Asian, particularly China, Hong Kong, or Singapore would all be great places to move to and give you an edge. Also, I hear Berlin’s beautiful in the summer.

I will caveat this by saying where you live is becoming less important. There are many blockchain companies that have remote-first work cultures such as ConsenSys. As remote work becomes more popular with tools like Zoom and Slack, I expect remote to become the norm. If you’re remote or in a city that isn’t a tech hub you should still join your local crypto community! 

Leverage your strengths (wizard abilities) 

Those with some working experience should utilize it. If you have any skills including: 

    • Analyst (excel wizard)
    • CPA (accounting wizard)
    • CFA (“I do not give investment advice” wizard)
    • Lawyer (never get bored of case law wizard)
    • Fearless public speaker (sound or podcast wizard)
    • Write like Dickens (keyboard wizard) 
    • People Wizard (companies literally pay for networks, it’s called Business Development)
    • Process (detail-oriented and operational wizard)
      • Design (Photoshop and graphic wizard)
    • Economics knowledge (crypto is underpinned by incentive mechanisms and game theory) 

If you have any of these skills, then you possess an advantage over many others currently in crypto. For the students and youngsters out there, leverage your time to learn new skills or gain experience. 

Offer Your Help and Assistance

This doesn’t mean telling someone “please let me know how I can be helpful” as if you’re a VC or parody VC account. The crypto world is small compared to any other industry. You can reach out to people on Twitter and to a lesser extent Linkedin. Don’t reach out to the manager of a VC firm or CEO of your favorite crypto company. They likely won’t respond. Find someone newer to the firm as they likely have more time and will relate to you as a young professional. There are a bunch of articles about how to reach out to people, so I won’t say much, other than you should find a way to offer value. 

Some examples:

    • People are always searching for things, help them find the information they need. 
    • Curation of content, news, information, data, people, educational materials, etc. 
      • Start a local network in your community
    • Think outside the box – people aren’t always able to tell you what they want/need. What can your unique set of skills and traits offer? 
YouTube or Podcast

Perhaps you’re not a wordsmith, but you excel at making videos, especially live content which is becoming increasingly popular. Start your own channel or make some intro videos. At least, watch live videos of your favorite YouTubers (CryptoBobby, Ivan on Tech, and The Crypto Bubble) and ask questions or make comments during their live streams. You’ll learn and will become more comfortable reaching out. 

Podcasting is primed for crypto discussion. Ariana Simpson and Meltem Demirors have a great podcast. Tony Sheng experimented with a fun podcast (still waiting for the next season). What Bitcoin Did by Peter McCormack. Nathaniel Whittemore started Long Reads Sunday which curated content and now hosts a successful podcast/livestream. Hint: shorter podcasts are usually better. Make your podcasts a story(Crazy Genius), educational (Gimlet), or different. Don’t just think that a podcast means interview with x person. See Robinhood Snack’s Podcast or Naval and Nivi’s podcast from Spearhead or How to Get Rich

Reddit

If you don’t feel comfortable tweeting, writing medium posts, or reaching out – get comfortable with it, seriously. However, if you’re new to crypto and afraid of Cunningham’s Law, ask questions on Reddit and participate in discussions. This will help you learn, realize that you’re smarter than you think, and that internet people are nothing to fear. 

Find a blockchain buddy

Find a friend that is just as passionate as you are and work with each other on any of the above topics. Nobody makes it to the top alone, except Chuck Norris –– Chuck Norris gets to the bottom of it and makes the top feel alone. 

Crafting Your Application

There are two ways to find a job. The easy way and the hard way. 

The Easy Way

Be a human and go network. In all sincerity, networking is one of the best ways to find a job. Putting in the effort to reach out, go to networking events, or communicate online will help you more than you know. At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to make friends and people want to work with friends.  

The Hard Way

The best piece of advice I can offer: you need to stand out and target your audience. The quality of your application is more important than the quantity of applications you send. Sending the same cover letter or application to 100 jobs may get you a job, but if there are only a handful of companies you really want to work at, you need to put in the effort to get that job. 

Multicoin Capital created one of the best job applications I have ever seen. Here’s an excerpt:

You should read all of our research, you should probe Kyle Twitter, and you should spend a lot of time crafting your thesis. We say all of this to scare away most candidates because we get far too many applicants who spend 1-3 hours and produce mediocre applications. We are looking for exceptional level of analysis and commitment of time and energy.

Do not optimize for speed. Optimize for quality. If you’re concerned that we’re close to issuing an offer to someone else, just ask via email or Twitter. After you’ve submitted your application, expect Kyle to push back on every claim you make. That’s the point of the exercise.”

Applying for a job will not be easy and you need to know your audience. For people like Multicoin founders Kyle and Tushar, it’s easy to find their viewpoints on Twitter and avoid writing about how great your resume is or why they should pick you because of your Ivy League education (hint: they don’t care). 

My last piece of advice for crafting your application – badass people are different, so think differently. 

    • Create a graphic, chart, or video to express something visually. 
      • Make a website or newsletter that provides something valuable, such as a list of meeting times for every open source crypto project.
      • Research a super niche topic that relates to blockchain and write/tweet about your findings. It shouldn’t be superficial, but it doesn’t have to be completely revolutionary, just tweet/write/speak your version and opinions. 
    • Employers value people who act on their own and produce cool shit. 

If you’re still a student or only a year or two out of school, consider yourself lucky. You most likely have fewer commitments and plenty of time on your hands – or time you can spend more efficiently – to build your brand and follow the above guide. 

A Note About Your Resume

Again, make your resume specific. If you’re totally lost on how to craft your resume or want to start from scratch, Harvard offers a lot of free material. Also, there’s no reason you can’t get creative on your resume or at least add some aesthetically pleasing template. Remember, you’re dealing with humans (with lizard brains) who are naturally drawn to bright colors, graphics, and pictures. Lastly, use data and metrics when possible, even if it’s just showing your month-over-month social media growth, reddit karma points, or views to your blog posts. 

Where to look

    • Linkedin – finding crypto and blockchain jobs on LinkedIn is becoming more normal.
    • Newsletters – follow the newsletters of your favorite companies and they’ll often announce new positions or opportunities. 

Final Thoughts

Work hard, stay humble, and live happily. 

Lastly, I’d like to thank ConsenSys for giving me the opportunity to work in a field I love, surrounded by incredible individuals. Also, thank you Crypto Twitter, most of you are awesome. 

Feel free to reach out to me on twitter (@masonnystrom) or email me at [email protected] if you have any questions or feedback. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author above do not necessarily represent the views of Consensys AG. ConsenSys is a decentralized community with the ConsenSys Blog being a platform for members to freely express their diverse ideas and perspectives.