So you want to start a career in blockchain for social good but don’t know how? Fret not. First, take this simple test.

If …

… then the blockchain industry wants you!

We Need To Build Bridges

The blockchain industry is a young industry and like any new industry, we need bridges between the old and the new system in order to bring more people into the new system and increase participation and adoption. Building these bridges takes people who oftentimes are the ones most frustrated with the status quo. They are pained by the shortcomings in the current system and are hoping, searching and working towards something better – even without the assurance of success. They have the ability to see how a new technology such as the blockchain, can possibly solve those frustrations in a meaningful and significant way.

If this sounds like you then this could be the space and community you’ve been looking for.

Spotlight: Elizabeth Rossiello, BitPesa CEO & Founder

Blockchain technology has seen an explosion of use cases but one of its greatest and long-held aspirations is to advance the goal of financial inclusion in developing nations. BitPesa is the most well-known successful project of this kind. Founded by Elizabeth Rossiello in November 2013, BitPesa is enabling the underserved to do faster, easier and cheaper cross-border money transfers among countries in Africa and between Africa and the rest of the world. This is no mean feat.

BitPesa has effectively opened up the micro-financing market in sub-Saharan Africa giving small businesses there access to the types of loans they need to be profitable. It has also opened up the job market in the region since freelance workers can now get paid by overseas employers conveniently through BitPesa. BitPesa leverages blockchain technology and the existing mobile money infrastructure to deliver value across the chain – from the first mile to the last.

How Elizabeth Got Started in Blockchain

At the time, Elizabeth was working in micro-finance in Kenya at a ratings agency:

I was really struggling with the fact that all the banks I was working with and the micro-finance institutions – they were lending in dollars or euros and then un-lending in African currencies so no matter how hard they tried, at the end of the year, if their currency slipped, they were screwed. They would lose all their profits. And I’m like you have to mitigate your FX risk. And they were like how? How can we mitigate it? There are no products in local currencies that are anywhere near affordable…” – Elizabeth Rossiello

She was introduced to Bitcoin by a long-time crypto enthusiast from the micro-finance sector who described it to her as “international mobile money”.

So when I heard about Bitcoin, the first thing I thought was wow, this would be a really cool way to get funding from abroad and quickly change it into local currency without having to worry about that dollar risk. So I was thinking that someone can make a payment every week or every month to a micro-finance institution instead of taking out a loan in dollars for two years. So I was thinking about short-term FX mitigation because the process was cheaper and easier. That was the very first thing that I was thinking about.” – Elizabeth Rossiello

Source: Interview by Epicenter (published in YouTube on December 27, 2017)

Suffice it to say that Elizabeth wasn’t specifically looking for a career in blockchain. It was more like an existing problem meeting with the perfect solution at the right time. In other words, she was in a position of confluence that intersected with blockchain.

Kickstart Your Blockchain Career With The Three Factors of Confluence

Let’s unpack what that means – to be in a position of confluence. As we go through the factors below, envision how you may put yourself in a similar position of confluence and how you can potentially kickoff your blockchain career.

Confluence is defined as the junction of two rivers or an act or process of merging. It comes from the Latin word confluere meaning ‘flow together’.

As far as we could tell in Elizabeth’s case with BitPesa, it was a confluence of the following three (3) factors:

Factor #1: An existing problem or need

Elizabeth was on the ground in Kenya with her clients and everyday gaining a deeper understanding of their challenges some of which were also her challenges – because she’s a member of that community.

Ask yourself: In your own career, what are some of the pain points in your industry that you’re trying to solve now? What are some of your own pain points? Could blockchain technology help?

Tip: If you can’t think of any issues in your industry, what social good projects are you passionate about? If you’re not sure, take a look at the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals for ideas. Explore projects addressing the areas where you want to contribute and go from there.

Factor # 2: An existing expertise

Elizabeth had many years of experience in international finance which made her familiar with opportunities that had the highest prospects of fulfilling the needs of her market.

Ask yourself: How can you use your existing knowledge and experience to solve the issues in your industry or in social good projects? Additionally, how can you be aided by blockchain technology in this regard?

Tip: The idea here is to use what you already have – your expertise in an area or if not your familiarity with a problem, and evaluate if blockchain technology could be a solution. When you begin to understand blockchain technology, you will uncover more and more applications.

Factor #3: A supportive network of like-minded individuals

First, Elizabeth was introduced to blockchain by a friend. By learning about bitcoin, she was able to create a minimum viable product (MVP) relatively quickly. Second, well-known blockchain industry personalities approached her to give advice. Third, friends joined her team. Fourth, a VC seeded her project. Fifth, she was able to beta test the MVP and iterate quickly with the participation of members of the community she was serving.

Ask yourself: Look around you. Are you surrounded by like-minded individuals who are willing to support you in building a career in blockchain for social good?

Tip: To multiply your efforts and accelerate your progress, you need to find your tribe. You need to find a community within the blockchain industry that has goals similar enough to yours and willing enough to support you. Among the three factors, this may be your biggest hurdle because it takes time to find your own personal squad in blockchain and to build connections. Keep reaching out until you find them. Try these communities:

Women in Blockchain International Impact Group
https://www.wibi.io/

Miss Blockchain
https://missblockchain.tech/

Qrypto Queens (by Women Investing in Women Digital)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/200386697180930/

Women in Blockchain
https://www.facebook.com/groups/womeninblockchainglobal/

Sheer Grit and Determination

The three factors of confluence are as relevant for a social good blockchain career as for any other career in blockchain that is worth pursuing. The story does not end there however. You may have a trifecta of the above factors of confluence working in your favor but when the going gets tough, do you have the guts to power through? Since founding BitPesa, Elizabeth has had to deal with regulators constantly to keep BitPesa running. Just recently, the Kenyan government had prohibited bitcoin-related startups from opening or maintaining business bank accounts with local banks.

BitPesa has grown globally but it began in Kenya. We are saddened not to be able to operate at full steam in what we consider our home country, given our success globally – especially with regulators. We look forward to the day when the Kenyan government and Central Bank allow us to open bank accounts and service our customers in KES. – Sep 1, 2017

Source: BitPesa blog post “An Update on KES Payments” dated September 1, 2017

So how determined are you to build a career for yourself in the blockchain industry? Because it’s going to take time and hard work.

Final Tip: You Don’t Have To Be A Blockchain Expert

Yes, you don’t have to be a blockchain expert because it’s a new frontier and everyone is learning as they go. Keep imposter syndrome at bay and be confident in your abilities. Find the places where you can use your talent, passion and knowledge to add the most value to the space. Have a learning attitude and above all, tenacity.

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In this Women In Blockchain For Social Good (WIBFSG) series, we put a spotlight on the female movers and shakers in blockchain particularly in the social good sphere. Learn how they built their blockchain careers and be inspired to join the blockchain industry.

Women In Blockchain For Social Good (WIBFSG) is a series to honor our pledge to #PressforProgress by celebrating women’s achievements.

We’re no. 143,142. You too can #PressforProgress.

Visit https://www.internationalwomensday.com/PressforProgress for more information. Pledge your support now!

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References:

  1. Epicenter (YouTube) – “#215 Elizabeth Rossiello: BitPesa – Building Financial Platforms for Frontier Markets”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8v4D9Y–3nw
  2. BitPesa Website – “An Update on KES Payments”: https://www.bitpesa.co/blog/kes-payments-update/
  3. BitPesa Website – Team: https://www.bitpesa.co/team/

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