How I started a career in web3
If you haven't seen my post on why I gave up my cushy web2 job for web3, check out my last post.
There's never been a better time to get a job in web3, it's also never been easier. There are massive amounts of companies that can't hire fast enough, with endless amounts of opportunities for people with many diverse backgrounds. Don't believe me? Check out sites like Crypto.jobs, and Pomp Jobs, and Crypto Jobs List, and especially Alchemy's open roles. If you want to work in web3, you have a lot of great places to choose from! However, this is a recent phenomenon that only started to emerge in 2021. Before this year it wasn't so easy to find the right job for your skillset, and competition was tough. Everyone seems to have their own unique story about how they discovered and broke into web3, here's how I broke into the space as a non-developer.
I didn’t wake up one day and decide to join a blockchain startup, it was a gradual process that started in 2012. I was designing websites on my free time in my apartment. There was a very cool Wordpress theme available for purchase that would help me quickly create great looking websites. Before purchasing the theme, the seller advertised a special offer "sign up for Coinbase, use my referral code, and the theme is free." To me this sounded like a great deal, sign up for some spammy site, use my second email created specifically for spam, and save $5 - easy. I also happened to receive a bonus for signing up with Coinbase, $10 worth of bitcoin. I had no idea what this was at the time, but read about it months later and it sounded pretty interesting. When I checked my account later in 2013, my $10 had turned into $200. This is my red pill point in which I became hooked on learning about crypto and began my journey down the rabbit hole.
Bitcoin was endlessly exciting to me, and I became 'that guy' who wouldn't stop talking about it to everyone. My real-estate agent (now close friend) and I even helped kickstart one of the first bars in NYC that accepted Bitcoin as payment. We were interviewed by a Korean TV show (sadly can't find a link) eating hot dogs in Central Park hoping for the day to come where we could pay for our food with Bitcoin.
During this time I was employed at IBM and stumbled upon the IBM ‘blockchain club’ where participants joined bi-weekly calls made up of Bitcoin and decentralized computing enthusiasts from around the world. We discussed Bitcoin payments, blockchain news, using Mainframes for mining Bitcoin, and what the consequences of a decentralized ‘world computer’ would be. Several members from this group went on to start or join blockchain companies as the space evolved. Back then developers were the only ones moving into blockchain professionally, and since I wasn’t planning on being one, I decided to just keep learning by reading the news and listening to podcasts.
In 2016, I joined AWS. On my first day, I logged into ‘the wiki’ (a giant Wikipedia-like internal site where Amazonians could post content, usually technical documentation or educational resources), and searched for blockchain. Shockingly, nothing came up. It was 2016 and out of the tens of thousands of developers within Amazon, there was no information about blockchain. I started the first blockchain-focused page on the wiki titled 'Blockchain', which kickstarted my journey into the web3 world. The blockchain wiki page led to the development of an internal community (topic-based communities are called 'Samurai' at Amazon) of over 2,000 members, a bi-weekly newsletter, and a podcast featuring technical leaders from AWS. Some other passionate blockchain Amazonians rose out of this community, and together we got to work writing proposals for an AWS blockchain partner network and later on, blockchain services. Eventually, these were approved and launched on stage at AWS re:Invent.
During this time, I had what I can best describe as a second job within Amazon (a job I wasn’t paid for). A flood of incoming requests came from thousands of customers. I was given the green light to set up a blockchain internship program with the goal of supporting inbound inquiries. We also set up AWS-specific partnerships with companies like R3 and Kaleido. Proposals for decentralized services were shot down by AWS leadership, citing that AWS doesn’t “build technology because we think it is cool.” Eventually, the blockchain Samurai grew and more proposals were submitted to the very upper echelon of Amazon, and were finally approved. Soon after I was invited to present on AWS’s blockchain offerings, Amazon Managed Blockchain (AMB) and Amazon Quantum Ledger Database (QLDB) at customer events, our executive briefing center, and the Cornell Blockchain Conference.
My interest in blockchain and my enterprise sales skillset were finally starting to merge, and the thought crossed my mind on how to enter the space full-time. The term ‘enterprise blockchain’ was everywhere: Microsoft announced a managed Ethereum offering, IBM launched a blockchain division, JPMC posted job openings for crypto developers, Walmart publicized their exploration of blockchain for supply chain, and Long Island Iced Tea changed its name to Long Island Blockchain causing the stock to quadruple in a day. There were even blockchain-native companies hiring, many of which were looking only for developers, sometimes with 3+ years of experience in blockchain required.
It was the peak of the hype cycle. Every company was looking to ‘do blockchain’ but unsurprisingly, most didn’t even know what that meant. Boards and CEO’s were requisitioning their technical leaders to investigate what they could do to tell investors that they too were working on blockchain.
There was an endless amount of communication set up with companies to review what AWS had to offer for blockchain builders, but the same topics came up over and over again:
- What is a blockchain and how do we set one up?
- Who else is building blockchains?
- Quickly coming to the conclusion that they didn’t actually need a blockchain for their proposed project.
It turned out enterprise blockchain wasn’t living up to the hype, there was no simple way for thousands of companies to push a button and have decentralized consensus within their ecosystem, because it was in large part a community effort - not just a technological one. Many exciting projects and initiatives were announced, but 99% turned out to be vaporware. While supply chain and cross-border payments are interesting use cases, they are mainly skeuomorphic applications of the technology much like digital knobs coded into the UI of early media players. The more pioneering use cases weren't so obvious yet.
I was really interested in working in web3 and had tried to 'career-craft' a position at Amazon, but the pieces just weren't connecting. It felt like Amazon wasn't taking web3 seriously enough to move into a new role, and if Amazon wasn't ready, I naively thought that I wasn't either. As the four-year crypto-winter set in, opportunities faded and I gave up finding the right job. However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel: the business of blockchain wasn't dead, it was just getting started.
In 2020 'DeFi-summer' began, and people were beginning to find new ways to employ crypto. During these few months, a Cambrian explosion of financial instruments powered by blockchain came out. DeFi uses smart contracts to enable financial transactions like interest, lending, trading, and insurance. So many innovations popped up, and it began to feel like the old days when there was no limit to web3.
Over the next few years, blockchain companies matured, and the need for people with my skill set grew. I found a niche that combined my skills and passion: web infrastructure sales + blockchain. Once I learned about the web3 infrastructure space, there was no turning back. I dove as deep as I could into every podcast, article, tutorial, and tweet available. It was immediately obvious to me that joining Alchemy was what I needed to do.
This time I was ready and had built my version of a blockchain resume made up of product development, partnerships, building blockchain-focused teams, public speaking, community development, podcasting, blogging, and real-world experience talking to multiple companies about blockchain. I even used this experience to help justify two promotions within Amazon.
Today I am at Alchemy and couldn't be happier. During those years at Amazon working nights and weekends on something I never got paid a dime for, I often thought to myself 'why am I wasting my time on this?' I think in the back of my mind I knew that one day it would make sense, and it most definitely has. Having the privilege to work at one of the top web3 companies and meet with so many dynamic web3 innovators every day is quite literally my dream job.
You might be thinking that it's too late to be early, but that is simply not true. If you are one of those people who enjoys explaining why web3 matters to your friends and family during Thanksgiving, why not make a career out of it?
If you are considering a move into web3 or want to chat more, please DM me on LinkedIn or Twitter (@glennmon). I’ll be sharing my journey at grach.net, and on Twitter/LinkedIn. Also, Alchemy is hiring: https://jobs.lever.co/alchemy, join us!