People told me that I was hurting my career joining the Bitcoin industry in 2014 - Linda Xie, Scalar CapitalFeatured

What's the biggest risk you've ever taken in your career and how did you build up the courage to do it?The biggest risk I have taken in my career has been leaving my finance role at AIG in New York to join Coinbase in 2014. At that point, most people had not heard about Bitcoin before and those that did often had a negative perception of it being used for black market activity. While I was grateful to have had the support of my manager and friends who encouraged me to follow my passion, numerous people had tried to talk me out of it saying that I was fortunate to be in a stable role at an established company right out of college and I should remain there longer to get promoted. Some people told me that I was potentially hurting my career joining the Bitcoin industry given there were associations with illicit activity.I had followed Bitcoin since 2011 but back then the reputation was similar in that it wasn’t viewed as very legitimate and not many people had heard about it. Once I became convinced that I wanted to work in the Bitcoin industry, I was just waiting for a legitimate company to help take it mainstream and reduce these negative associations. I ended up believing that company was Coinbase because of how actively they worked towards onboarding legitimate merchants like Overstock and promoted the importance of regulation. I applied online and told them I knew they weren’t looking for anyone in finance, so I was open to any role because I simply believed in Bitcoin and what they were trying to do. I joined Coinbase in June 2014 for the role they needed, which was a regulatory compliance investigator.I had to start over in a new industry and role, but I was excited to do this because I was passionate about Bitcoin and how it could help society. I was frustrated with the number of people who couldn’t have access to bank accounts, had to pay exorbitant fees for transferring their own money, or even had their money taken away from them by governments. I wanted to work on alleviating these issues and believed that I would regret it if I didn’t jump at the opportunity to join. My colleagues at Coinbase were critical in me feeling I had made the right decision when I joined them. They were passionate, sharp, kind, and humble. For the first time in my career I felt I was driven by genuine passion every time I walked into work because I believed in the mission of the company and how it could improve people’s lives. It’s been truly exciting to see the massive amount of interest in Coinbase, Bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies in general over the past few years.Linda Xie is co-founder & managing director of Scalar Capital, a cryptoasset investment firm, and is an advisor to 0x, a protocol for decentralized exchange of Ethereum tokens. Prior to that she worked as a product manager at Coinbase and before joining tech worked at AIG as a portfolio risk analyst.
Hi Elphas – as a reminder – this is part of our public posts series sharing conversations with women across tech on the topic of #careergrowth. Linda, thank you for sharing with us. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Congrats Linda! That's amazing! You are so inspiringI am so happy your colleagues were passionate and nice when you went into a new role! I switched roles last year and I immediately regret it after a month, I encountered a lot of mean colleagues and the team culture really sucked but it was such a huge lesson for me!
Thanks Jazz, I'm sorry to hear you had a negative experience with the transition and I hope things have improved since then! Going through those types of situations at least helps us learn and make the positive career moments feel even better.
Thanks for being here! As I was reading through your post, I got to thinking about our current moment with users needing to be aware and mindful when embracing new technology (such as how their data might be shared). To me this signifies a big shift in users of technology claiming more agency than we've had historically - new tech is less of a black box. All of that being said, where does this leave us in terms of educating the public about new technologies?You mention a few really valid parts about Bitcoin and the not-great public profile it first had. Do you think this (in part) has to do with people not understanding how it works?I would love to hear thoughts!
Yes, I think a large part of it had to do with people not understanding what the technology was, how it worked, and who it could benefit. There were and still are a lot of misconceptions about crypto (Katie Haun from a16z crypto does a great job covering this but over time more education has helped people become increasingly familiar and accepting of it (e.g. regulators, merchants, banks, developers, users, etc). I don’t expect the mainstream public to understand the intricate details about how bitcoin or any cryptocurrency works in the same way that most people don’t understand how the Internet works in order to use it. I think the public needs to be educated on what the technology is at a high level and the benefits and risks that come with it. For example the Internet, social media, email, etc can all be used for bad purposes but there’s many positive things that can come out of it was well. It’s important for people to be able to make informed decisions when using new tech.
Thanks for sharing your story Linda! I feel like with the bear market right now, there is still that reaction from people I know when talking about working in crypto. Because people don't really understand it yet and with the prices dropping so much in 2018, there is still a lot of skepticism about the space. It's great to hear how certain you felt about finally being in the right space and that's how I feel as well. It's amazing to be able to work in a space where you actually get to shape and mold it because it's so new.
Hi Linda - fabulous story! I’ve been asked to write a book on blockchain regulation and best practices. (I’m a securities lawyer, former SEC, and a subject matter expert in blockchain). Would you be able to chat about this? Would love to get your take on current compliance issues.Thanks so much!Kind regards,Alexandra