When I arrived at Google as a software engineer in June 2016, I was ecstatic.
I believed Google to be a company that prioritized innovation and encouraged personal creativity, so I was thrilled to be working somewhere that I could start flexing those mental muscles. I joined the Cloud Resource Hierarchy Team, and although I found the work interesting, I imagined I’d be making an impact outside of my team right away. That’s the kind of value I thought that Google placed upon creative thinking and good ideas.
But I quickly realized I was wrong. Within six months, I felt stifled.
Google is a huge company, which meant it had a lot of bureaucratic hoops to jump through. I found that even though my opinion was valued inside the confines of my small team, I was limited in my capacity to contribute beyond that. The work I was doing was important, but it became clear that it would be the only work I would ever be able to do in my particular role.
I was happy, sure, but fulfilled? Not particularly. I worked hard, but something was missing.
I knew I needed a change.
Then, in January of 2017, I became interested in blockchain.
The first blockchain platform I really started investigating was Ethereum. I researched the data structures underlying it. Then, mostly for fun, I wrote my first smart contract. (Smart contracts run on Ethereum.)
The blockchain technology powering Ethereum made sense to me almost immediately. I’d spent my career up to that point working on distributed systems and cloud-based infrastructure for centralized companies like Google, IBM, and Amazon. Each of those companies harbored and controlled all of the data they collected.
But blockchain technology is not limited by the governance of a central authority. It removes these gatekeepers from the equation, and in turn emancipates that data.
I saw blockchain as almost a form of data-democratization, an important social innovation.
In addition to optimizing distributed systems, allowing for bigger throughputs and lower latency, the technology enables consumers to see what is happening with their personal information. And it protects that data with more powerful forms of encryption.
Blockchain felt like an exciting and worthwhile innovation, and I wanted to be part of it.
It was around that time that Jon Chou, one of my co-founders at Bee Token, reached out. He had a vision. What he described was a decentralized home-sharing network built on open Ethereum protocols that was powered by Bee Token’s own utility token — it would be like an Airbnb on the blockchain.
It was clear that this network offered distinct advantages over the predominant, centralized home-sharing model, and I was excited by that prospect. But I was also, by that time, very ready to start working on something new — something without bureaucratic limitations or defined creative boundaries. Something exciting, something different — something important.
Given my burgeoning interest in blockchain, along with my previous experience working with distributed systems, this felt like the perfect opportunity — a real and valuable application of the technology I’d become so intrigued by.
After a few more final conversations with Jon, I gave Google my two weeks notice.
The differences between working for a company like Google and a company like Bee Token are stark.
At Bee Token, I have the ability to build things from scratch. I have the ability to be creative and to innovate. Change happens quickly, and decisions are made even quicker. There’s no red tape to dance around.
I’m asked sometimes now if I was nervous at all about leaving Google. Google was safe. Google was a sure thing. Each time my answer is a resounding, “No.”
I believe that you cannot truly learn the ins and outs of something new — or truly experience or benefit from a new opportunity — unless you put everything on the line for it.
No longer do I feel limited or boxed in. Now, I feel like I’m making an impact. Now, I am more in control of my creative output.
This intellectual freedom is fulfilling, but perhaps even more fulfilling is the challenge we’re taking on at Bee Token to set an example around how to successfully and properly harness blockchain technology. We’re defining best practices as we’re creating them. We are, in this sense, trailblazers — harbingers of a revolution. That’s an exciting camp to be in.
But just like any new and rapidly growing space, blockchain has its own unique challenges.
Given that it’s uncharted territory, there are a lot of newcomers who are only interacting with the technology in an effort to quickly monetize it. At the same time, there are a lot of scammers and hackers lurking in these open waters, looking to take advantage of the new, less experienced sailors.
At some point, however, I do believe that the technology will be more robust and more widespread, allowing us to more easily fight those with nefarious intent. Those starting bad projects will become overshadowed by the better projects that utilize the technology correctly and with good intentions.
But even right now, in our blooming present, I’m more excited about what I’m doing than I have been in a long time. In my previous, more definitively corporate positions, I played a minor, prefixed role in operating a much larger machine.
But here, in this new world, I have the chance to be a trailblazer — to lead a revolution.
It’s a chance I’d encourage anyone with stifled creativity to consider taking.