Pivoting to Web3 Careers: A Guide for Professionals (Part 1)

 

Nako Mbelle is the founder of Fintech Recruiter. She works closely with web3 & crypto companies to find the best talent for their teams and also assists professionals pivot to full-time web3 & crypto roles. Book a career coaching or recruitment consultation session at www.web3careercoach.co.  

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Introduction

As the technology industry faces layoffs, many professionals are now considering web3 as
a promising career path. With the rise of blockchain technology and the growing
skepticism towards traditional financial and public institutions, job seekers
are open to exploring roles at web3 startups that are building parallel and
decentralized solutions to replace the current status quo. However, not all
web3 want to burn the current system down, many are choosing to seamlessly
integrate with forward-thinking fintechs and financial service providers who
recognize their imminent impact on the future of global finance and have chosen
to adapt or die. Simultaneously, there is an increasing demand for highly skilled individuals from web2 who can contribute to building products and services powered by web3, while maintaining the user-friendly interfaces of web2 that we’ve all grown accustomed to. So, if you’re currently working in web2 or traditional finance, this is an excellent time to explore and pivot to a web3 career that leverages your existing skills and experience.

In this multi-part series, we will delve into web3 careers by highlighting the job
requirements for the most popular web3 roles. We’ll also discuss the
transferable web2 skills that are in high demand, what founders are looking for in candidates, and the unique culture of the teams and communities within the web3 ecosystem. My perspective on these topics is based on my role as a headhunter who has been recruiting talent for crypto startups for over five years. Additionally, as a
long-term bitcoiner and token “hodler,” I have gained an understanding of the cultural nuances within the ecosystem that you can only get by active participation.

In web3, culture and community is everything

Furthermore, we will  aim to shed light on the distinct aspects of a web3 job search that you may not encounter in a typical web2 search. This is primarily due to the tribal nature of crypto and the bottom-up, decentralized, community-driven ethos of the space. When you join a web3 startup, you’re not merely building a product or service for users or
customers. Instead, you’re becoming part of a socio-political and economic movement that experiences highs, lows, and everything in between. It’s quite different from how the media portrays it. Joining a web3 company means you’ll be contributing to a revolution that aims to transform the way we work, live, and play. So, let’s dive in and start with one of the most crucial aspects of web3: values and cultural differences among ecosystems.

“Competition is for losers” and Network Effects

As blockchain protocols continue to iterate and advance, such as the recent Ethereum
Merge
, many web3 teams are increasingly committing all of their resources to a specific blockchain protocol and community. An example of this is the MakerDao protocol and its community’s commitment to Ethereum. In other words, some teams are doubling down and betting on the blockchain they are building upon. This choice to exclusively build on one chain is based on the “winner takes all” philosophy embraced by many web3 enthusiasts.  Consequently, this zealous attitude results in a community of passionate builders who may be in opposition to building on other protocols. So, if you find yourself in an interview with a hiring manager who is curious about your thoughts on the impact of network effects on the success of a crypto or bitcoin project, be prepared to answer it.

On the flip side, there are “picks and shovels” companies in the blockchain space that provide services and products that power and drive the web3 economy. These companies, such as exchanges, wallets, and validators, also seek candidates who are passionate about building in web3. However, they do not possess the same unwavering “line-in-the-sand” attitude as some web3 teams, who have staked their entire success and dominance on the particular blockchain they have chosen to build upon.

Now, what if you don’t currently own any cryptocurrency? Can you still join a web3 startup? The answer is yes, but you will need exceptional technical skills that are in high demand, such as Rust, Javascript, Golang or Python, to name a few. And if you’re applying to a web3 startup as an engineer, it’s also a good idea to check out the team’s code repository on GitHub; follow the Founder or their company page on Twitter and join the team’s Discord and Telegram channels to get a flavor of the culture of the team you would be joining and the community that you would be building for. Often, this research will help you determine if this company’s culture is in alignment with your personal goals and values. I cannot stress the importance of understanding the culture of the team and web3 community to which you are applying. This is because it is so crucial to understand who you’re building for and why, rather than just focusing on the specific tasks of the job you’re applying for at hand.

Hence, in this multi-part web3 series, we will cover the culture of the community
behind the protocols that I am most familiar with: Ethereum, Cosmos, Polkadot,
Avalanche, Bitcoin, and Stacks. You can always look up the technical differences and origin story of each community, but I will attempt to give you a glimpse of the cultural nuances that may take some time to decipher by joining the team’s Discord or Telegram channel’s a few days before your interview. So, let’s begin with the community that currently boasts the largest number of developers building within it: Ethereum!

Milady, Rainbows, and Unicorns

The Ethereum community places great value on innovation, collaboration, and the
pursuit of a more decentralized and inclusive financial system. After its unexpected and controversial ICO use case, Ethereum enthusiasts emerged from the rubble of the ICO crash and quickly initiated a movement known as Decentralized Finance (DeFi). The DeFi movement is significant enough to deserve its own dedicated series, and it’s important to note that it has expanded beyond the confines of the Ethereum ecosystem. It has found its way into various other protocols, including Bitcoin through the Lightning Network, which we will explore in detail later in this series. However, for now, let’s delve into the distinctive qualities that define Ethereum as the first real challenger to Bitcoin’s dominance. 

A culture of innovation, scalability, and PoS

The widespread use of smart contracts as the driving force of innovation on Ethereum is what primarily sets it apart from Bitcoin (which also has smart contracts, but we will discuss this in a later article). However, most founders who chose to build on Ethereum will tell you that they were willing to sacrifice the “security” and immutability of Bitcoin early on in Ethereum’s development; to build smart contracts within a more flexible and experimental framework provided by Ethereum.

A notable differentiation between builders on Bitcoin and Ethereum can be
summarized as follows: Early Ethereum founders primarily consisted of experimenters who embraced a culture of building, iterating, and valuing flexibility over the more security-focused and slower-moving approach of their Bitcoin counterparts. And in response to environmental concerns, they made a commitment to transition Ethereum’s proof-of-work (PoW) consensus protocol to a proof-of-stake (PoS) solution.

On April 12, 2023, Ethereum successfully transitioned to a proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism to improve its scalability and energy efficiency. This transition from proof-of-work (PoW) to PoS took years of planning and reflects Ethereum’s commitment to reducing the perceived negative environmental impact of PoW. (This stance is controversial to many bitcoiner which we will discuss in a later article) Most importantly, the adoption of PoS is a cultural badge of honor for Ethereans and it is one of the key features that distinguishes them from Bitcoin maximalists.

Another cultural marker commonly heard among Ethereum enthusiasts is the concept of
becoming “bankless.” This idea gained traction thanks to a popular web podcast
with the same name, “Bankless,” hosted by David Hoffman and Ryan Sean Adams. It represents a larger movement in the DeFi space, advocating for a shift towards self-sovereign finance, where individuals can manage their assets and interact with the global financial system without relying on traditional banks.

Ethereum is also known for its inclusive and vibrant community, characterized by
rainbow-filled, unicorn-loving, quirky sing-alongs and dance-offs led by its
community leaders. It’s no surprise that this ecosystem kick-started the
artistically driven NFT craze that took off in early 2021. Ethereum not only
boasts the most engineering talent but also has the largest artistic community
building within its NFT ecosystem. While some may argue that the Doge community
holds the crown for memes in web3, the Ethereum community has produced its fair
share of obscure and viral memes, such as Milady. Ethereum’s quirky and unique community and culture continue to thrive despite its growing web3 dominance.

In the next installment of this series, we will delve into the Bitcoin ecosystem,
which encompasses a wide range of individuals, including bitcoin maximalists, moderates, and allies. Being the original cryptocurrency, Bitcoin has a particularly polarized ecosystem. I will explain the concept of bitcoin maximalism and provide insights into what to expect if you decide to join a Bitcoin-only startup. Additionally, we will explore the teams that fall under the categories of bitcoin moderates and allies within the web3 landscape. While it may appear overwhelming at first, it’s important to remember that there is ample room for everyone, and the space is in need of talented individuals like yourself.

Nako Mbelle is the founder of Fintech Recruiter. With extensive experience in web3 since late 2016, she works closely with web3 startups to find the best talent for their teams and assist web2 professionals in pivoting to full-time web3 roles through her career
coaching services. You can find her on 
LinkedIn, Twitter , web3careercoach or Fintech
Recruiters
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