“I like to be the voice that encourages (mostly young) people to follow their actual passion or tell them that they absolutely should go ahead and jump into the cold waters of entrepreneurship or take a chance on a new career-path. These words of encouragement do matter, as I experienced them myself receiving similar words of advice from leaders and experts that I met throughout my studies and career. I feel passionate about supporting whistleblowers and I often think about how to positively impact the lives of those often left behind, such as the elderly in many countries. I have a handful of initiatives Id like to kick-off. Let’s see how many I am able to bring to life!”
I had the pleasure to interview Marion Vogel, Director and Head of Marketing and Operations at aeternity, a new blockchain technology designed to deliver unmatched efficiency, transparent governance and global scalability.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Hi Yitzi! Thanks for having me! Prior to aeternity, a big part of my background lies in the automotive industry in Germany, and it is safe to say the industry itself was quite conservative.
In early 2014 I moved to San Francisco where I began working for a governmental service. Despite working in a public body, we did really cool stuff, for example I was involved with numerous business development activities and location marketing. Saying that, I didn’t feel it challenged me enough nor did I exactly fit in. Not exactly fitting in has always been a feeling accompanying me throughout my career — until I met the crypto community.
My first stop was an AirBnB located in SoMa, San Francisco’s tech-hotspot and that is when my luck kicked in — it was hosted by two bitcoin entrepreneurs!
From then on I slowly started going down the crypto rabbit whole…I started examining the potential of this technology from a socio-economic point of view and honestly, I had some ups and downs exploring it.
The technology itself is complex and hard to grasp, it’s provocative, it’s raw and certainly immature in many ways, but at the same time it urges you to think about the current situation in our world economy and politics. It makes you question current systems, and for the very first time I felt truly outraged and excited about learning something new.
I started meeting people, engaging in crypto communities, back then ethereum was starting to gain traction under the hoods in Silicon Valley, and I began to feel at home.
Unpopular fun fact: Although I engaged and lived with many tech-entrepreneurs and devs, even in a community house with over 50 tenants — cryptocurrencies never really made it on the radar of tech-hipsters back then! Many were and still are too busy creating the next-big photo-sharing app, an app for meeting like-minded puppy-owners or how they can score a job at Facebook or Google.
A very small bunch of people talked blockchain and bitcoin back then, and in retrospect I find this fascinating as it speaks for the, lets say, very specific and controversial niche that this technology arose from. It triggers freedom-loving individuals and probably over-the-top critical-thinkers, and what is really special is that it doesn’t matter whether you are technically-minded or not.
Long story short, I stuck with it, wrote my final-thesis on bitcoin, came back to Germany, attempted to pursue a PhD-program to keep writing about blockchains but luckily I crossed paths with Yanislav, the founder of æternity.
I immediately decided to get my hands dirty on a real project, aeternity. Two years later, I have not looked back once!
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
Everything that I am currently working on is related to aeternity, a new blockchain protocol written in Erlang, that launches this summer.
Apart from the technical functionalities of aeternity, I am an avid fan of our newest offspring — the aeternity starfleet. An incubator that supports new projects building their applications on top of the aeternity protocol.
I love our focus on educational activities, e.g. we are sponsoring software university scholarships and creating easy-to-use developer-tools in order to bring this technology to the masses. Additionally we are creating an æpp-ecosystem with applications that can be used by everyone, not only blockchain-savvy developers.
Watch this space, as there is much more to come, with a new offspring that I will leading in relation to educational matters that will be launched very soon! Essentially, we are creating a global ecosystem to foster this technology.
We put a lot on our shoulders in order to reach our objectives and it weighs extra heavy when your goals lay in making long-lasting positive contributions to society rather than chasing acquisitions by a large corporate organisation. Open-source, permission-less blockchains belong to everyone — thats the real beauty and way to go.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
1. The impact.
This technology scratches on the door of the alleged big players. From politicians and bankers, to financiers and corporate-gurus, everyone has something to comment on and feels either threatened or at least pretends to be intrigued. Blockchain is presented as the technology that can take over middlemen-functionalities in a range of industries and services, and this rings as a wake-up call to many fraudulent and/or outdated ways of how we interact with each other. Blockchain is nothing but one tool for an overlaying paradigm shift we see happening in many societies. Broken down to the technological impact, some examples are: Unrestricted financial self-control, access to financial markets (for everyone!) and privacy. By privacy I mean full ownership of one’s data, from there they can decide who they will allow to make deals with it-not the other way round!
2. Exploring the unknown.
Besides scratching on the edges of what is technologically possible, almost every aspect you’re touching with your project has to be shaped by you and your allies. When we started there was even less regulation than there is today — no set forms to fill out, no rules for crypto accounting. Country X bans crypto — what to do? Country X allows it again — what to do? No proven models or benchmarks of what works and what not — creativity is limitless.
3. The raw chaos.
As a very organized and straight-forward person, I needed to learn that this movement is swirling in full chaos. There are a ton of charlatans, wannabe experts and scammers, the tone is often rough. At the same time, you meet the most inspiring people, idealists, fantastic misfits and geniuses — that’s something I have never experienced in any other industry. In addition, there is no dress-code nor unspoken code of behavior — I love that!
I like to believe that being part of and shaping the crypto-movement/economy allows me to say things I wouldn’t have had the courage to say previously whilst working big companies because you always seem to be stepping someone’s toes. Now, I feel confident saying things like, no Facebook it’s not okay the way you’re handling your business, and oh Google your front-row cash-cow is running ads and tracking user data? Meh. Banks can shut down your account when they go bankrupt? Not cool. While allowing myself this freedom to speak out, you also learn a lot about yourself and start applying common-sense to the things you do and say.
5. The people.
Well, most of them!
What are the 5 things that worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
Unfortunately, many people are gripped by the ‘fear of missing out’. There is too much fomo-money flowing in too fast, destroying the rather natural growth of the crypto-economy.
Additionally, large companies and corporates are trying to assert dominance in the space, but they missing the essence of what blockchain is all about. Blockchain technology and its surrounding core-ethics do not fit into many existing business models. If things work out well, we will see a next wave of big projects, businesses and movements. The established tech companies should stay in their fields of expertise and improve within, rather than running needlessly after the next big thing. We recently saw reports that Facebook is playing around with blockchain now, lets see how that goes.
The raw chaos — One of blockchain’s most exciting features is also one of its biggest hurdles. It can be exhausting to contribute in a growing pot of strongly opinionated individuals. I can imagine from the outside-perspective this often looks obscure and daunting to some of the more sensitive souls. For reference — check out crypto twitter, it’s wild.
Too much attempts of regulation early on. However, a number of countries are making strong efforts to create a supportive environment for projects to thrive. In my opinion it is still too early to create too rigid frameworks for blockchain technology. However, the gateways from crypto-to-fiat are already highly regulated — not a surprise.
There is too much talk, and not enough action. During my marketing studies, I was truly disgusted by the power that brands shave over people. Individuals may think they’re resistant to ads and branding, but they’re not. I’m concerned at the level of up-talking and commercialization within the space, the over-promotion of dreams and the bright future ahead whilst the technology or business model is lacking. I guess these concerns apply to many industries.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
I like to be the voice that encourages (mostly young) people to follow their actual passion or tell them that they absolutely should go ahead and jump into the cold waters of entrepreneurship or take a chance on a new career-path. These words of encouragement do matter, as I experienced them myself receiving similar words of advice from leaders and experts that I met throughout my studies and career. I feel passionate about supporting whistleblowers and I often think about how to positively impact the lives of those often left behind, such as the elderly in many countries. I have a handful of initiatives Id like to kick-off. Let’s see how many I am able to bring to life!
What 3 things would you advise to someone who wanted to emulate your career? Can you share an example for each idea?
1. I would advise them to mix common sense with naive bravery. Despite the prevailing narrative coming out of Silicon Valley that institutional education is overrated and we all throw caution to the wind, I think a certain level of understanding the basics in whatever field you’re interested in will help you prepare for future challenges and tasks that may arise in both your career and your life path.
In saying this, I’m not sure if the world needs another army of economics or finance graduates, but pursue whatever interests you, learn some basics, do (paid) internships, read books, attend courses, take advantage of the wealth of material available for free.
2. Additionally, do things that take you out of your daily routine, out of your comfort zone. Move to another country, learn a new language, hang out with the type of people you actually don’t like, present a talk in front of a crowd, ask the uncomfortable questions, allow yourself to fail and learn how to be comfortable with it. Life is ultimately about being comfortable in uncomfortable situations.
With this attitude you develop the right tools and discover what you like and almost more importantly, you discover what you don’t like. Very few people are capable of being the 17-year rockstar entrepreneur and that is completely fine. Stop comparing yourself to others, focus on you, your interests, your passions, and pursue them relentlessly.
3. Stay true to yourself and your interests. While it may seem obvious, it can be difficult to maintain this vision, especially as life progresses and people lose their edge in the comfort of their surroundings. I meet way too many people that end up saying things like: “You know, I don’t really like what I’m doing, but that job pays me well.” A high profile figure working in crypto said to me: “You know, I’m here for the money, I need it, once I have enough I want to work in nutrition, thats what I love doing.” That person has a high reputation and is a well known figure for many. This saddens me.
I can totally relate to this feeling though, having experienced several points in my life where I was honestly terrified of ending up at a soulless corporation, constantly pretending that the tasks I accomplish actually mattered. During my studies and before I developed an understanding of bitcoin, I already started thinking about plan B and C — how I could escape from the corporate treadmill.
And what about people working for a big-four consultancy? While these companies are often heralded as the elite platforms of success, I suspect that only a handful of people honestly enjoy their jobs in these environments. Additionally, most of these consultancy firms purely shift money from A to B, and many of these related jobs will soon be obsolete anyways.
What I want to say is, if you want to be a nurse, become one, if you want to be a carpenter become one, if you want to work in education, do it. If you want to be an accountant — hey, some people might love it — then do it!
Don’t let the outlook of a “safe”, well-paying white collar job destroy your passion.
4. Bonus tip — Be kind and forgiving. If necessary, kill’em with kindness.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
While Facebook is a platform that I have and will continue criticizing, I would still go for brunch with Mark Zuckerberg at the Palo Alto farmers market. I would like to get to know him a bit as a person and talk to him about blockchain’s potential. I would be curious to gauge his understanding of the technology.
Originally published at medium.com