Morne Olivier

Freelance Writer Specializing in Blockchain Technology

Women in Blockchain #6 | Thinking 'Out of The Box

I’m a huge fan of entrepreneurship, well maybe because I am an entrepreneur it’s easier to recognize the value in being able to think, ‘yes I’m going to say it,
“Out of the Box”
That tired old cliche no one seems to understand.

But really, ¿what does it mean and does everyone have it? I will have to say, Resoundingly YES, of course, but we stumble when our brains start to think and by the time we reach “what if?” the box concept had left the building.
 How do we teach our kids to conceptualize the idea of thinking beyond what they see, I mean they are overexposed with mobile content streaming at them from all corners.
The concept of acceptance in “following” something or someone for the sake of being accepted vs the one who stands out that is “being followed”, funny if I think of it now when we are kids we want to be older — when we are older we want to be kids / when we are following, a sense of security, (in numbers) - when we are being followed, a sense of respect, (in yourself).
When we flip the equilibrium to being followed, we start setting a standard, one that allows the leader to create and think “Out of the Box”. It is difficult for most to turn around their patterns of behavior as the power of our brains hold us hostage against most of our “out of the ordinary ideas”.
Really, Think Out of the Box
I believe the Women in Blockchain is an entrepreneurial concept that has allowed women in a Technology industry to have a voice on how their lives could influence decisions for children, students and parents, by thinking out of the box, taking an infant industry, looking at the landscape, taking ownership of the concept and making it count for the next generation.
Our children need to understand that following is just that, judging by my next two guests they certainly don’t follow, but rather lead by example. From how they started in the industry to new ideas they conceptualize for others to follow, they certainly set high standards.
Let’s welcome Veronica Mihai Das
Veronica is the Founding Partner and Head of Investor Relations at Bloomwater Capital
Q&A
 #1 Give us a summary of your background and how you got into Blockchain & Digital Currency / Cryptocurrency?
My background is IT Management Consulting across a variety of industries in government and private institutions. I developed an interest in Blockchain and cryptocurrency, more specifically Bitcoin, back in late 2013 when I read Satoshi’s whitepaper. I liked the concept and the idealistic approach to managing and owning our personal wealth and the impact this can have on propagating equality and financial inclusion.
From that moment, I decided to give it a go and invested a small amount in Bitcoin. This led to investing in blockchain start-ups, early-stage ICO’s and angel investing in few other tech start-ups.
A time came when my partner and I took the plunge and started a mining operation here in the UK. I took this as a learning curve and immersing myself in the world of cryptocurrency from a different perspective, understanding how mining works, how consensus is achieved, how tough is it to actually get involved. My conclusion: it’s not as complicated as it may sound.
#2 Tell us about your current position, responsibilities and some day to day activities that you look forward to?
At this moment I am involved in a variety of initiatives in blockchain and cryptocurrency space.
I am one of the founding partners of Bloomwater Capital, a regulated cryptocurrency hedge fund established in early 2018. The company’s mission is to bring diversity to accredited investors portfolios, through systematic trading of digital assets. Our core business model is high frequency trading in futures and spot market and market making, with in-house built algorithmic strategies.
My role is Head of Investor Relations, but I wear many hats in this young fund, as you usually do in any start-up.
I am part of a women in blockchain community, which has proved to create the right atmosphere for education and collaboration. And since we are talking about education, I have recently partnered with Dr. Maria Vigliotti in designing and offering a free cryptocurrency and blockchain introductory course. We both strongly believe that there is a great need for education in this space so that people find how they can get involved and how they can adapt their existing skills.
#3 If you had to be critical about yourself, which part of your career would you like to improve on?
I’d say I want to find new challenges. I would love to have more time to explore trading. I find it fascinating and whilst I have basic knowledge, the goal is to keep learning and applying. One other area that I want to give more time to is investing in tech, especially companies founded by women or at least that has a good female ratio within the company and executive-level roles.
#4 What advice do you have for children/youth (10–18 years) today especially young women about the Blockchain world? How do we nurture interest in this new Technology?
I’d say keep an open mind, ask questions, and be yourself. Don’t be afraid, and even if you are, still go for it as there’s nothing to lose. Less talk, more action!
I applaud initiatives that make learning interesting and simple to understand using real life examples and applications. We hear so much jargon on daily basis that it is no wonder youngsters, feel that STEM is not for them. That needs to change, and we need to make education a dialogue, not a monologue.
I would also tell them to nurture their soft skills because there is and will be a huge demand for it in the future. Don’t forget emotional intelligence is just as important as IQ! It’s what makes us unique, so learn it, develop it, use it.
#5 What kind of skill set would you be looking at in job applicants?
It very much depends on the type of role and level of experience required. If we are talking about a vital role that can impact a business heavily, then I’d need the applicant to have relevant experience. If, however, we are looking at an entry-level, then I will most likely put an emphasis on soft skills, personality and ability to adapt to change.
It is important to say that for any job level what I find useful is the ability of the individual to learn, to keep biases built in previous roles out of their mind and be able to embrace change. When you’re joining emerging technologies, you have to sometimes re-learn concepts and change your mentality and how you look at things. Enthusiasm and curiosity are also needed as most times you will explore paths that have never been walked before.
#6 Blockchain to me is a forward-thinking force of snowballing Technology, but where I’m from a lot of people still see Bitcoin as a scam.
 How do we bridge the gap between Technology and people that are skeptical about it?
One thing has to be very clear, technology itself, being it Bitcoin’s blockchain or any other, it is agnostic and does not by default become a medium for scams. It is all about how WE decide to use it. And some choose to use it in the wrong way.
When Bitcoin was created, there was absolutely no mention of speculative trading, creating derivative products like futures, there was no mention of bitcoin being used in exchanges or any other platforms. There is no instruction that says, “how to run a ponzi scheme with Bitcoin”!
It is people who run scams, they always have and always will. Some choose to use technology to scam you or me, some technology companies run scams making you and me “the product”.
When a (big name) company supposedly gives you a free service and then takes your data and sells it for a profit without your specified consent, I call that a scam too. When your hard-earned wealth is watered down by constant printing of currency, that is a scam as well. But I get it, the big company has a “legal” cover to sell your data because you agreed to it in some hidden 5 pages of fine print, where there is no opt-out provision. And the regular printing of currency for “quantitative easing” purposes, is done with the blessing of governments, so it’s a legal scam ran by those we elect and trust.
Going back to technology, I would say building ethical technology solutions should be a default, not an option. Touching on Bitcoin specifically, the media shows mainly the negative side of the story. People trying to take advantage of other people, is a trait that has existed throughout the history of humanity.
The scams or hacks that involved losing people’s Bitcoin or cash did not happen on the main Bitcoin blockchain, ever. It is always on third-party platforms, like exchanges, who are unregulated companies with very basic cybersecurity processes in place. Scams happened when people took the “shortcut” and did not do their own research and instead believed in some smooth talker who promised them returns too good to be true.
Like with any new technology, most people don’t want to spend time learning if they don’t have a specific purpose or benefit that justifies their effort.
My advice would be to first take time to learn about Bitcoin or any new technology, and I don’t mean become a coder or change your career but keep yourself informed and search for reliable sources of information.
Get a hardware wallet for yourself or install Bitcoin Core wallet, try your first peer to peer transaction and don’t just jump the bandwagon of speculative trading from the start. Take time to understand how Bitcoin really works and why it has been designed this way. Don’t go looking just at what media tells you and do your own research.
Bitcoin’s blockchain is an open-source technology so it is absolutely normal for people and corporations to take it, use it, and adapt it, to come up with new solutions to existing or non-existing problems. I believe the exploration is required in order to advance and find new ways to use technology.
#7 Can you please provide the details of an educational facility that is in your area or country if anyone reading this article decides to find out more about Blockchain.
London is a vibrant city with numerous events, hackathons, meetups, mentorship programs that appear on a daily basis and it would be unfair to name some over others. I am not close enough to the organizers to vouch for their content or efficacy. Online resources and courses are very popular, including the Oxford Blockchain Strategy Programme course.
Many of them come with hefty fees so for beginners I would suggest using free resources and attending hackathons, meetups, free entry conferences. Understanding the basic concepts of this technology does not require you to fork out money from your pocket. You can do that once you have a specific goal in mind and you need specialized courses to achieve that.
#8 What is your current opinion on the Digital Assets, (Cryptocurrency) market and share with us your opinion on where you think this Technology will take us?
Whenever we create something new, we always hope to use it for the best, and then there will be some who will try to dominate the market, as it happened with the internet, and some who will use it for nefarious purposes, and then those that keep plowing ahead, with grit and dedication and build real solutions for the real world out there. This is what I am looking forward to in the future. Solutions for how to increase your wealth and cut costs (e.g. centralized blockchains for the banking industry) are part of the journey but solutions for the common person, for you and me is what excites me and makes me feel hopeful about the future. Solutions that allow us to make sound decisions about our life, identity, politics, money, privacy. Solutions that put us at the forefront, not as zombified Guinea pigs that have to take what we are given, no questions asked.
I know I’m one of the founders of a hedge fund, serving those who want to make money, but it is that, a service for a niche market. I am not a hypocrite; it is simply an opportunity to earn money in a legal and fair way. It is a vehicle that supports me in my journey to achieve the goals mentioned in this article.
#9 What new exciting projects are you currently working on or planning?
As mentioned before, cryptocurrency and blockchain education and investing in solutions that deliver what I was talking about earlier, real life solutions for real-life problems.
#10 What is your favorite Blockchain project and why?
This is a tough question. I believe that blockchain technology is still new and none of us really know how it will evolve. However, if I have to be honest, I prefer blockchain projects that use the technology in a decentralized manner to make it fair and give the users/nodes the right to make a choice. I think it is time to change the mentality of blindly doing what we are told. We have to question, to scrutinize and be able to control our lives. We have to have the option to say no, I don’t want to agree to your terms to read your article, and you should respect my wish without punishing me and not granting access to your platform. That is not having a choice, that is “my way or the highway”. And GDPR, for example, does nothing but give the legal platform for companies to do just that.
My favorite is Bitcoin Core. Some other promising projects are Lightning Network (layer 2 technology on bitcoin blockchain), CasaHodl and Nodl (both used to run bitcoin full node), Trezor (hardware wallet), Ethereum (decentralised application and smart contracts platform), Sentinel (decentralised VPN — disclaimer I am an investor), TravelbyBit (paying for travel using cryptocurrency), Tykn (digital identity and access management system).
“Morne
Quote:
“makes me feel hopeful about the future. Solutions that allow us to make sound decisions about our life, identity, politics, money, privacy. Solutions that put us at the forefront, not as zombified Guinea pigs that have to take what we are given, no questions asked.”
A friend once told me she liked my description on my LinkedIn page “ I was born Decentralized” and you know Veronica it is just that, I believe that the Decentralization of our rights to own and use our currency of choice in a secure Blockchain environment and it is this that our children need to understand. It is this that will empower them to think “Out of the Box”
Thank you very much, Veronica, for your great input here, I am sure this won't be our last conversation.
**********************************************
Now for my second guest Nena
Nena is the Founder, CEO of the BlockBox.
The BlockBox is a Blockchain Consulting, Blockchain Product Design, Development, Information Security and Smart Contract Audits Start-Up.
Q&A
#1 Give us a summary of your background and how you got into Blockchain & Digital Currency / Cryptocurrency?
I’ve actually been a vocal advocate of blockchain technologies for some time. When I roll the film back, I think my passion for blockchain and crypto first appeared when I realized just how big of a difference a fully democratized form of money would have made back when my home country was at war in the 1990s. Drastic inflation measures were taking a toll on Serbia and Montenegro and, after a while, getting enough of the local FIAT currency to buy a week’s worth of food required you to forfeit a full month’s pay. If we had BTC back then, no amount of inflation would be able to bring down the value of money.
On the other hand, my fascination with blockchain came a bit later. Like most, I first got to know blockchains as a mechanism used to run cryptocurrencies — but, as it quickly emerged as a technology with more potential than the actual cryptos, I knew we had stumbled onto something special. I remember constantly coming up with potential opportunities for blockchain adoptions and, to my utter amazement, every single one of them seemed like a perfect fit.
It didn’t take me long to see that blockchains are bound to make an enormous impact on the world. And TheBlockBox is my way of being a part of that going forward.
#2 Tell us about your current position, responsibilities and some day to day activities that you look forward to?
Well, as the CEO of TheBlockBox, I have a lot of responsibilities on my plate. The company was recently launched and, in order to meet the promise of making top-of-the-line blockchain products, I needed a stellar team of experts to work on our projects. That’s what I was up to for the last few weeks — interviewing and choosing quality people who can help put TheBlockBox on the map.
As for the day-to-day responsibilities I look forward to the most, I’d have a hard time highlighting just one. As someone who worked for world-leading companies like Apple for years, I grew accustomed to facing each day with as much vigor as I can in order to make the most of it. I programmed myself to be passionate about every responsibility that comes my way, which is something I’d recommend to everyone. That way, you get to look forward to every task, no matter how small or big.
#3 If you had to be critical about yourself, which part of your career would you like to improve on?
Marketing is definitely a field I wish I got myself into earlier. My career never crossed paths with marketing too much, so getting acquainted with that line of work was never a priority for me. However, that changed when I decided to launch a firm of my own. Building a company from the ground up is almost impossible without having a strong grasp of how you present yourself in the online world.
As I worked on putting TheBlockBox website together, I’ve started learning about various facets of digital marketing that were previously more or less unknown to me. I got more and more familiar with content marketing, SEO, social media, paid ads, etc. I quickly came to the realization that, if I assemble a team that knows how to make the most out of these channels, the early stages of our new company would go a lot smoother. That’s why I made it a priority to put together a fantastic team of experts to work on TheBlockBox’s online presence.
While my newly assembled team does its magic, I plan to continue expanding my marketing knowledge. This will help me identify new opportunities to educate, supply and delight both our customers and stakeholders, which will be of vital importance going forward.
#4 What advice do you have for children/youth (10–18 years ) today especially young women about the Blockchain world? How do we nurture interest in this new Technology?
It’s all about educating them on the potential of blockchain and its current and potential use cases. Blockchain will be what young people use to shape their world going forward, and we need to encourage them to get involved and innovate.
As for young women looking to get into the rising blockchain technology, I’d say either follow my blueprint or start by learning everything there are about blockchains. In my case, I made a name for myself outside of the blockchain community, so when I wanted to make the transition to a new field, my reputation preceded me and gave me some leg-up.
This approach will take years, though — if you’d like to start earlier, I’d say get in the trenches and learn how blockchain works, learn about cryptography, read as many whitepapers as you can, and ultimately learn to code. I think we’re way past the illusion that only boys are good at programming and are the only ones with computer-savviness to them, so you should be giving it you're all every day to learn as much as you can. Always push yourself, keep trying the things people say cannot be done and, to quote the immortal Steve Jobs, “stay hungry, stay foolish.”
#5 What kind of skill set would you be looking at in job applicants?
Naturally, this would vastly depend on what position I’m looking to fill, but here are some qualities I always keep an eye on:
● Operational excellence
● Attention to details
● Subject matter expertise
● Ability to learn new things
● Not dwelling on mistakes but learning from them instead
● Believing that impossible can be done against the odds
● Not scared of deadlines
● Enthusiasm to innovate
● Team player
● Overall creativity
● Proud to be a part of the company
Regardless of what the job in question is, these characteristics are always great indicators of a quality employee. Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll come across a lot of people that possess all of these traits, but once you do stumble onto one or two of them, do everything in your power to keep them a part of your team.
#6 Blockchain to me is a forward-thinking force of snowballing Technology, but where I’m from a lot of people who still see Bitcoin as a scam. How do we bridge the gap between Technology and people that are skeptical about it?
Looking back, every disruptive technology we’ve ever come across was doubted at first. People may often speak out about how they want changes to be made, but deep down, most of them would like things to stay as they are. And if anything starts threatening the status quo, they feel the need to push back. It’s only natural and we, as innovators, need to respect that.
It’s up to us to prove our worth by delivering quality products and demonstrating the power of blockchain. In other words, don’t worry about naysayers and focus on execution and quality of work while taking feedback from those believing in the potential of blockchain. Everything else will fall into place.
#7 Can you please provide the details of an educational facility that is in your area or country if anyone reading this article decides to find out more about Blockchain.
I’m actually planning to organize a series of blockchain educational events under TheBlockBox name down the line, but while we’re waiting for that to take place, there are a few quality programs I can recommend.
I’ve heard great things about BEN (The Blockchain Education Network), so anyone interested in blockchain should stay on top of what they’ve got going on. Blockchain at Berkeley should be on their radar too, so check them out. On top of that, I’ve heard that the team at Blockgeeks is holding some great programs as well.
Of course, for complete newcomers to the field, I’d recommend that you first do as much learning online as possible. There are great courses, videos and reading materials you can find on the Internet and you should make full use of them before you start looking for educational programs.
#8 What is your current opinion on the Digital Assets, ( Cryptocurrency ) market and share with us your opinion on where you think this Technology will take us?
I definitely feel like there’s a lot of room to advance the current state of the crypto market. Cryptocurrency transaction speeds, consensus mechanisms, scaling, overall security, ease of use, user experience, etc — these are all aspects of cryptos that could do with some improving and I’m certain we’ll see a lot of progress in the next couple of years.
However, while we will work hard to improve the way the market works, cryptocurrencies have already made their main mark on the world. They’ve done something I feel will prove to be a monumental moment for the 21st century — they brought internet of money and blockchains into the spotlight and sparked an amazing interest in the technology of distributed ledgers.
They also demonstrated the incredible potential of tokenization, which is poised to make an impact on various industries across the globe.
#9 What new exciting projects are you currently working on or planning?
Well, my complete focus is now completely shifted on launching TheBlockBox’s R&D Hub. Our efforts are dedicated to positioning TheBlockBox in the market and assembling an incredible team that’s able to meet both our enterprise and startup clients’ needs. We’re currently working on centralized and decentralized exchanges, digital wallets, food supply chain, gaming and central bank digital currency projects — as you can imagine, my hands are rather full with all of that on the to-do list.
Furthermore, as of Q1/Q2 2020, we plan to launch several of our own blockchain products and tools. A huge year is ahead of me and, while I’m rather excited about what’s going on, the ambition of TheBlockBox leaves no room for any other project.
#10 What is your favorite Blockchain project and why?
As someone who’s interested in blockchains both on a personal and professional level, it’s honestly hard to keep track of all the projects that grab my attention. There are, however, three projects I’ve been keeping an eye on and am particularly excited to see how they’ll unfold:
● Polkadots — The first project by Web3 Foundation, Polkadots is a platform that hopes to enable a completely decentralized web where users have total control over their identities and data. Polkadots plans to function without any supervising central authority, which is precisely what guarantees full user control over the uploaded information. The platform also promises to facilitate exchanges of information and transactions in a trustless way via the Polkadot relay chain based on independent blockchains. All in all, the team behind Polkadot aims to free the society from its reliance on a broken web and it will be interesting to see if they can manage to deliver on their ambitious promises.
● Tendermint Cosmos — Cosmos is a decentralized network of independent parallel blockchains. It’s a platform that harbors an ecosystem of blockchains that scale and interoperate with each other. Before Cosmos was created, blockchains were not able to effectively communicate with each other, they were hard to create and could only handle a small number of transactions per second. Cosmos solves these fundamental problems of distributed ledgers by enabling users to quickly create scalable and customizable blockchain-based platforms.
● Quorum — Based on Ethereum, Quorum is an open-source platform that turns the adoption of blockchain technology into a seamless process. Interestingly, Quorum mainly aims to introduce the blockchain to enterprise-level businesses. It merges innovations of the public Ethereum community with enhancements to support large-scale company needs — by that, Quorum bridges the gap between enterprises and cutting-edge technologies, which will be crucial for blockchain in the future.
“Morne
Quote
“People may often speak out about how they want changes to be made, but deep down, most of them would like things to stay as they are. And if anything starts threatening the status quo, they feel the need to push back. It’s only natural and we, as innovators, need to respect that.
It’s up to us to prove our worth by delivering quality products and demonstrating the power of blockchain.”
It is difficult to stand up and say I have got something that you need, to really believe that the service or product that you have and believe in is the best and that there are people or companies out there that will need it. For entrepreneurs and start-ups like Nena and I, our biggest fears are turned into solutions, solutions we can provide through the quality products we give the world through Blockchain Technology.
Lead by example, people need people to look up to, children need people to look up to and I believe here we are setting a standard of examples to follow.
I love watching startups grow and I will look forward to seeing Nena’s Blockchain Consultancy with perfect timing grow.
Thank you, Nena and all the best for 2020
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