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The Dos & Donts of Breaking into Blockchain

This article was created by Amber D. Scott & Emma Todd (of MMH Blockchain Group) with writing assistance from Ailsa Bristow.

We go to a lot of events, and the number one thing people keep asking us is how to get into Blockchain. Developers, students, accountants, lawyers… anyone with something to sell.

Our knee-jerk response is if you want to get into blockchain, just get into blockchain. Yes, it’s that simple.

However, that doesn’t seem to be the conversation-stopper we intend it to be, so a more fulsome response is called for. Here are our collected thoughts on how to get involved, along with some tips on how (and how not to) conduct yourself along the way.

Get Involved

First things first: blockchain is, at its heart, a community. The best place to start is to do your research, find a meetup in your city, and start talking to people. Don’t just sit at home reading about blockchain and bitcoin on the internet.

The blockchain community is one of the more welcoming places on the planet. Here are people who are passionate about what they do, committed to the open-source philosophy, and willing to help newbies learn. Sure, it can get technical at times, and that can be intimidating when you don’t have a strong opinion about proof of stake, the latest token, or whether it was ok for Microsoft to buy GitHub… but as long as you don’t pretend to know more than you do, you’ll be fine. These folks will know when you’re bluffing, and they will call you out on it.

If you really want a crash course in blockchain, volunteer either through a meetup or at one of the big blockchain conferences. This is a great way to start meeting people: you could be brushing shoulders with the big names in blockchain before you even know who they are.

Learn The Ropes

As you start your journey into blockchain, spend some time listening. Seriously. Listen more than you talk. It’s hard to learn anything when you’re the one speaking. Be interested, and be genuine: these are the attributes that will earn you credibility in the blockchain space. But don’t just rely on people to be your tour guides: people will get frustrated with you when you ask questions without doing your basic research first (if you want a great list of bitcoin resources go here). And seriously: please don’t email/ DM/ whatever at leaders in the blockchain community asking them questions that you can easily google for yourselves. That’s not how to win friends and influence people, folks.

If you want to be a coder, there are a lot of free learning resources out there. You don’t need to spend $100,000s getting a computer science degree (unless that’s something you want to do otherwise) given the wealth of learning you can do online. Two communities that we love are freeCodeCamp and BlockGeeks. There are also scholarships out there if you are planning on following this route.

Finally, if you’ve been in the blockchain for all of a minute, please, don’t start advertising yourself as an expert before you’ve even had a chance to learn the basics. Two months attending Meetups and some internet reading does not an expert make. Showing up on panels or guesting on blogs before you’ve really had a chance to learn is going to hurt your reputation.

Get Some Skin In the Game

If you’re interested in working with or selling to blockchain companies, get some skin in the game. We’re always shocked whenever a vendor asks us about selling to blockchain companies, and when I ask them if they’ve ever used a blockchain based service, or a cryptocurrency they say no. If you haven’t taken the time to understand the ecosystem, how can you possibly hope to understand your customers? Why should anyone in the blockchain world trust anything you have to say?

It’s fine to start small. Set up a wallet. Buy some Dogecoin (it has much of the same “backbone” as bitcoin) or even a small fraction of a bitcoin (yes, they are divisible). You don’t need to break the bank. You should participate only according to your passion, your risk tolerance, and your knowledge. But you do need to get a feel for how things work, and demonstrate a personal investment.

Prove Your Value

Blockchain is about proving your value. If you come from a background where people are impressed by your education, your resume, who your parents are, or how much money you made, get ready for a reality-check. In the blockchain world, people are interested in learning about what you’re doing that’s cool.

There’s room for all skillsets in blockchain, from traditional accounting to marketing. But don’t come in trying to make the hard sell. Do talk about things you’re doing that’s cool, and be interested in what other people are working on in return.

Be Respectful

Respect people’s time. Do not use people’s names or photos or logos to promote your event without checking with them first. Do not call someone an advisor to your project if you’ve only  spoken to them once. Get explicit agreement from people before plastering their name all over your website.

Also, if you’re chatting to someone and you hear they got into bitcoin X number of years ago, do not ask them a) how much coin they have, b) if they are a millionaire. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking for somebody’s bank statement, or the state of their investment portfolio, don’t ask them for the ins and outs of how much money they’ve made from bitcoin. Your curiosity is not a reason to override basic good manners.

Twitter is King

If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in Blockchain, Twitter is the place to be. It’s where news breaks, connections get made, and discussions are had. Follow one or two of the biggest names in Blockchain, follower their followers, and start jumping in.

Fit Matters

Finally, know that not everyone should be in Blockchain. Sure, you’ve heard the buzz and that there’s money to be made, but that doesn’t mean you need to be in this world. If you’re simply chasing money, you’re probably going to end up getting burned.  If you don’t like change and uncertainty, this probably isn’t the place for you. If you don’t have the ability to pivot, this probably isn’t the place for you. If the thought of listening to engineers argue technical points fills you with dread, this probably isn’t the place for you. And if you aren’t at least open to the idea of being converted into a flaming libertarian, we’d suggest this probably isn’t the place for you. And if that’s true, that’s ok.

On the other hand, if nothing we’ve said here has put you off and you’re ready to dive in, welcome. You’re joining one of the most passionate, genuine, smart, and exciting communities on the planet.

Welcome – we’re glad you’re here!

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