One of the stories I’ll proudly tell my grandkids someday is I was employee #1 for Malaysia’s first digital asset (cryptocurrency) exchange.
I’ll tell them having a blog helped. That the company approached me not because I had a “degree in Blockchain,” but because I was already writing about Bitcoin online. Don’t let anyone tell you exploring your passion is a waste of time.
This was back in late 2017, when many people were starting to hear the word “cryptocurrency” for the first time.
Today, three years on, Bitcoin and crypto continues to gain prominence all over the world. Some of the smartest people in the world work in crypto now. Elon Musk has bought in. And even traditional financial institutions who once scoffed at the thought of Bitcoin are getting involved.
Because it’s so new though, careers in crypto aren’t the most straightforward. If you asked your average university career advisor: “How do I get a job in cryptocurrency?”, they might not have a good answer.
Let me try. I don’t claim to be an expert, or that this is a detailed guide to crypto careers. But it’s what I’ve learned from my years in the industry — both as an employee and hiring >30 people, chats with several OGs, and good ol’ Internet research.
If you’re interested in a career in crypto, read on.
Common Roles Available in the Crypto World
Tech jobs are the most popular. For example, software and blockchain developers. I did a cursory search for “careers in crypto”, and of the ~40 positions that showed up, about 50% were tech-related.
(Note that Google only showed me Malaysia-based roles, where I live. With the rise of remote working, you don’t have to limit yourself to a job near you. More on that later.)
What did the other 50% of non-tech roles consist of?
- Customer success
- Market research
- Digital marketing
- Business development
You don’t have to be a programmer tech guru to work in crypto. Other skills are welcome too — you just have to be adaptable and apply whatever abilities you have.
Going back to my own story: My first role in crypto was a “Marketing and Community Lead.” In a nutshell, my job was to support the crypto community in Malaysia and help with marketing work.
Up to that point, I’d never even worked in a Business-to-Consumer (B2C) industry before. And the only remotely-related course I’d ever taken was “Introduction to Marketing” 10 years earlier.
Perhaps my only strong points were my passion for crypto, and whatever digital marketing skills I had from running this blog.
Skills (and Experience) Required
The secret to new industries like crypto, is that job requirements are often more flexible than established industries.
For example, there’s almost 0 chance a company will require “10 years crypto experience.” Why? Crypto’s only been around for 12 years. Nobody has that — unless you’re Satoshi Nakamoto himself or a legendary crypto OG.
Additionally, you’ll likely be competing with fewer candidates. Sure, crypto is hot right now, but have you ever seen how many people queue up for Oil and Gas jobs?
This means your interviewers might struggle to find a perfect fit between job descriptions and candidates. If anything, they themselves were probably once imperfect fits, but tried and succeeded anyway.
If you’re someone who’s just graduating or from an unrelated industry, I hope this gives you hope.
Apart from any mandatory technical skills, attitude is critical. So yes, you won’t get a crypto coding job if you can’t write code, and you won’t get a crypto finance job if you can’t read balance sheets. But for many other roles — especially entry-level ones — your attitude determines your success.
Even the most talented programmer in the world with the wrong values will fail.
What attitude would I look for? Someone who’s a good team player and humble. We don’t need any of that office politics BS in crypto. Someone who is both excellent at work and still a hard worker. Someone who’s ambitious and wants to conquer huge challenges.
If you’re looking for a relaxed workplace to chill with colleagues and leave at 5 p.m. every day, I’m sorry crypto is not for you.
Your Past Doesn’t Dictate Your Future
I’ve hired people into crypto from a huge variety of backgrounds: including banking, consulting, e-commerce, finance and human resources. We even have ex cabin crew. When it comes to paper qualifications, this gets even more diverse, including interesting degrees like petroleum geology, actuarial science and education.
(Having a degree helps, but we’ve also hired successful people without degrees — as long as we believed they could perform.)
Sometimes this means people have to accept less-glamorous jobs to get in. In my case, I initially applied for a Country Manager position but failed. Hence I started in marketing, and only got promoted 20 months later.
Taking a different job from what you want is a mix of scary and humbling. Some people might be reluctant (too proud?) to do a customer success job where they have to answer angry customers. But if you believe in the industry long-term, it might be your way to get your foot in the door.
Once you prove yourself, other opportunities will arise.
I like to ask candidates to invest at least 18 months into mastering their role before considering a move, but with the way the crypto industry is exploding — promotions/job changes sometimes happen faster.
“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”– Eric Schmidt, ex Google CEO –
Applying for a Crypto Job
With my “insider” status, I initially thought I’d share some super-impressive strategies that nobody else knows. It turns out applying for a crypto job is pretty similar to any other.
No, there’s no cryptography involved. Yes, you still have to pay taxes on your salary. Standard job-hunting advice applies. No need to be an expert in crypto, but please spend as much time as possible learning the basics.
You can already find crypto jobs on major job portals like LinkedIn, JobStreet, AngelList and Google. There are also crypto-specific job portals like CryptoJobsList and DeFi Alliance. It’s not just crypto startups hiring either. Many “traditional” companies are already setting up internal crypto teams — another sign crypto is going mainstream.
Of course, connections help. If you already know someone in a company who’s hiring, ask them to refer you to the hiring manager. Some companies pay generous referral fees.
Crypto — making you and your friends’ lives better.
What If I Don’t Get a Role Immediately? (Or Have No Connections)
You can start contributing to the crypto world without a full-time crypto job.
You won’t get paid for it at first. But this allows you to sharpen your skills and gain experience, while building a good reputation in the crypto community.
Some actionable1 ideas:
- Create crypto content in your favorite medium, whether its writing, animation, videos, podcasts or TikTok. This could be something as simple as “My first experience buying crypto” and building from there.
- Find a crypto community on social media (Facebook, Reddit, Telegram, etc.) and start contributing. Help others in the community with their questions and problems. For example: over here, there’s always people asking questions in the Bitcoin Malaysia group.
- If you do this well, you might even get promoted to become an admin/moderator. In a world of takers, a sincere giver stands out. Don’t be afraid to put your hand up and volunteer to do more.
- Can’t find a community where you can contribute? (really? 🤔) Consider starting your own. Maybe there’s demand for a “Bitcoin for Women” or a “Crypto for Students” group that hasn’t been met yet.
The crypto world is still so young. We have nowhere near enough rational voices in the community today.
If you’re willing to invest time and effort, you can build a name for yourself. Good karma for your next interview.
- Is remote working (e.g. work from your hometown for a global company) really possible?
Yes it is. Even if you come from a small country nobody’s heard of. As long as you can demonstrate your value and the company/role2 suit remote working. This question was top of mind for me (inferiority complex Aaron? 🤔), but thankfully, the people I spoke to reminded me crypto is all about decentralization and globalization.
As the original Nick Carter once sang: “I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you did… as long as you love me.”
- What does career growth in crypto look like?
We’re still really early so there’s no fixed career path. Depending on your perspective, this could be a good or bad thing. Yes, there’s uncertainty. There are no guarantees you’ll be named “partner” after working in the same company for 10 years.
But this also means the sky’s the limit on how high you can go.
- Should I get a career in crypto?
Everyone has different circumstances, goals, strengths and weaknesses, so I can’t say for you.
For me: It’s been an amazing journey; one of the most rewarding — and by far the most challenging — work adventures I’ve ever had. I’m grateful I get to work on something every day that will change the world.
Perhaps an overused analogy, but if you could go back in time and work on building the Internet in the early 90s and 2000s, wouldn’t you too?
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A huge thank you to Bobby Ong and TM Lee (CoinGecko), Mira Christanto (Messari), Harith Kamarul (Etherscan), Colbert Low (Bitcoin Malaysia Events), Daryl Lau (Mechanism Capital) and Darren Lau (Spartan Group) for being so kind to speak to me, and provide validation and guidance for my thoughts.
As you can probably tell, most crypto personalities are active on Twitter. Telegram and Discord (for specific projects) are where crypto people hang out too.
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- I didn’t include tech-related ideas here, as I don’t have personal experience. But you could of course make tech contributions. Much in the crypto world is open source software. You could help by writing, reviewing and testing code, or reporting bugs. For example, here’s how to contribute to Bitcoin Core.
- For various reasons, not all crypto jobs are fully remote. E.g. some companies allow working from home, but you need to be in the same country as the headquarters. Generally speaking though, the crypto industry is remote-friendly.
Pic from Pexels: jiawei cui