Blockchain at Berkeley - Medium Sun, 01 Sep 2019 20:54:00 GMT language
Who are We?
Blockchain at Berkeley is an organization dedicated to blockchain innovation (just like all the others out there) through the specific routes of: Education for the beginners, Consulting to help industry build Proof-of-Concepts for their appropriate use cases, and Research to spearhead new ideas and launch moonshot startups.
In the past semester, we also successfully ran a Design department with a dozen talented designers dedicated to blockchain usability, began running nodes to actively contribute to the community, and launched the Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator in collaboration with the Haas School of Business and Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology.
The kicker? All of us are UC Berkeley students — mostly undergrads — who pursue blockchain as a mere extracurricular activity on top of our busy academic schedule.
The question now becomes: how does Blockchain at Berkeley turn 18-year-olds into skilled engineers, specialized consultants, and blockchain entrepreneurs?
1. It’s literally our vision.
Our website states that we are “A student organization focused on blockchain innovation” which is indeed what our executive team strives towards. However, I’ve come to understand that individuals — especially students with very different goals in their extremely short college career — all need a more personal goal in mind. While it is our leadership’s role to strategize and create opportunities based on our official vision, I tell our individual members to follow a more concrete north star:
You will obtain — or create — your dream job.
No, we don’t force our members to grind leetcode or read Cracking the Coding Interview — although those are great ways to get practice for job interviews. We do it by attracting a certain mindset, training members to reach a very high bar, and cultivating an environment where pioneers thrive.
2. We screen for passion in our application process.
I won’t mention anything about what interview questions we use but we care more about why they’re here than what they can do. Over the years, I’ve found that the underlying technologies of blockchain aren’t always all that exciting — woopee, a linked list with hash pointers — but if someone has a deep passion for financial inclusion or data privacy, they will hunker down and learn it.
Some of our most knowledgeable members are extreme libertarians who want to see government officials replaced with prediction markets. Others are terrified of ignorance when it comes to protecting your privacy on the internet (that’s me). Others are vegans who will guilt-trip you about the origins of your products and want to see more transparency in supply chains. Blockchain is extremely ideologically charged — you can’t survive without an opinion. What I’ve seen is that if someone thinks blockchain is about “reducing middlemen” to make better profit margins, they often grow bored and leave.
3. We care about specialization.
There is something in the blockchain space for all types of go-getters, and we can’t afford to have no diversity if we want to understand the blockchain space as a whole. We need to build teams that are well-rounded — consultants with a solid understanding of protocols, developers who can communicate their vision, designers who understand users and pay fine attention to detail, and a bizdev team who can talk the pants off of clients. Or, if you want to be more cheeky: the air, earth, water and fire. We say everyone needs to become an expert in something: monetary policy, consensus protocols, or even “I know a guy.”
4. We build real, impactful projects.
Our software engineers learn how to build full-stack applications and good practice in product development. Our designers learn UIUX prototyping and web development, not just graphic design. Our consultants learn to value technical knowledge and soft skills equally. In their first semester, consulting members can expect to create a pitch deck for a product with a well-reasoned use case, create and deploy a DApp (decentralized application, most likely on Ethereum), and prototype and build a user-friendly frontend to interact with their DApp.
Research projects prepare members to write academic papers and have previously resulted in research opportunities with Berkeley professors, conference talks, and Thiel fellowships.
5. Everyone has to pass a certification exam.
I made a standard blockchain certification that goes over all the fundamental concepts and asks members to think critically about blockchain as a whole. Everyone needs to build their own mental model about what blockchain use cases make sense and how to distinguish real blockchain innovation from shitcoins and fake whitepapers.
Our consulting department also has its own certification for developers and consultants that members need to pass before they work on an external project — this process ensures quality for our clients.
6. Members can do whatever they want.
In fact, we insist on it. Like I mentioned before, if we forced everyone to read for 10 hours a week, our members would hate it and we would need a dedicated team of people to manage them. We make recommendations for how to succeed and provide plenty of resources, but ultimately let passion drive our members.
7. We like to attract pioneers.
While we have many alumni working at Facebook, Google, and the like, many work for new startups: Cosmos, Oasis Labs, Celo, Dharma, as well as non-blockchain ones. When a blockchain startup makes headlines, we often find that a Blockchain at Berkeley alumnus/a works there, wrote the whitepaper, raised the funding, or founded it. Indeed, I have noticed something about our members that is a bit unique among Berkeley STEM students — we gravitate towards this culture of constant hustling to build something cool, handling the business side by ourselves, getting discovered by investors, and dropping out of school (don’t worry, not everybody does this).
Here is a collection of our favorite startups created by Blockchain at Berkeley members in the last two years: Opyn, Mechanism Labs, she(256), Dekrypt Capital, San Francisco Blockchain Week, and Data Agora.
8. We run like a startup.
I think our culture is very much a product of the types of people in our organization, and creates a positive feedback loop in the types of people we attract. Obviously, there are always new opportunities; we give members free reign and funding to start their initiatives: that’s how our Node Initiative, Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator, and various partnerships came to be. Everyone wears multiple hats; nobody only does administrative work.
Where we differ from a startup is: we claim no rights to the intellectual property developed by our members and do not demand a cut of profits generated by projects originating from Blockchain at Berkeley. We are fortunately partnered with SCET and the Haas School of Business in their blockchain initiatives; thus, our projects are always welcomed into the Xcelerator and receive funding from the Haas Ripple Grant.
Finally, like most blockchain startups, the money flows naturally. We use it to reward our hardworking members with typical rewards for college students: free food, swag, and retreats.
If you are a recruiter, I hope this article made you want to hire Blockchain at Berkeley members. You can find us on Linkedin here.
If you are recruiting, and a UC Berkeley student, I hope this article made you want to join our family. You can find our application here.
How Blockchain at Berkeley Trains Top Blockchain Talent was originally published in Blockchain at Berkeley on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.Sun, 01 Sep 2019 20:54:00 GMT language