“We want to be one of the good guys in the blockchain space. That also means doing things like providing opportunities for youth to learn about blockchain, which our team recently did while attending a conference in New York. Our software is also published on an open-source basis on GitHub, so anyone can download and experiment with it.”
I had the pleasure to interview Diane Blattner Kresal, Chief of Staff at Dispatch. With more than 20 years experience building resilient, organized and adaptive systems within smaller companies, Diane is Chief of Staff at Dispatch Labs, helping the company achieve their mission of creating a scalable, enterprise-ready blockchain protocol. Dispatch enables the development of secure, decentralized peer-to-peer applications on a scale never before possible .Diane is also a founding partner of The Bureau, a blockchain agency that invests, advises, trades and trains in Blockchain related technologies and companies, as well as a career mentor to many young women.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Well, I’ve wanted to work in tech since the first dotcom boom in the ’90s. But I couldn’t do it at the time because I was a single mom with two small kids. All the long hours, the risk — it just wasn’t feasible for me then.
Working at Dispatch now represents the realization of that longtime career goal for me. I’d like to think I’m a testament to how things can indeed work out for late bloomers after all.
I previously worked in a bunch of different jobs and changed careers multiple times. I was an inventory analyst for William-Sonoma, working on their catalog business back when they weren’t doing online sales. I worked at my dad’s paper company when I was in my thirties. I did patent consulting for awhile — which I found soul-crushing.
One of the big turning points for me was when I got my MBA in 2015, at 52 years old. Going back to school was a big plunge for me at the time, but I felt I really had to do it.
Then, when this opportunity with Dispatch came up, that was another big turning point. I was ready and felt I had to go for it.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
Well, if we define projects very strictly as time-limited deliverables, that’s not so much my focus right now. I spend a lot more time on day-to-day operations — on setting up and building the foundations of Dispatch as a company.
Since we’re still at a very early stage, there’s a lot of work that goes into that. For instance, I’ve hired more than 30 people since the start of the year. That of course means you have to vet an even greater number of potential candidates, which is time consuming, to say the least. I’ve never hired that many people, that fast, in my whole career.
More broadly, as Dispatch grows, I want to maintain our creative culture. I believe that’s really our core strength, and I don’t want us to ever lose it.
Looking ahead, I would like to start a hackathon series for youth and create a series of “women in blockchain” events.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
This is a really hard one for me, as I think I’ve learned a little something from each of many different people throughout my career. But If I had to pick just one positive influence, it would have to be my dad, Simon Blattner.
For starters, he moved me to California when I was a teenager. This exposed me to things I just wouldn’t have seen in Kansas City, where I was born.
But more important, as an entrepreneur himself, he was never the type of parent would just tell me to do a specific thing. He always preferred to ask questions to prompt me to figure things out myself. Are you sure you want to do that? Why’d you do it that way? What about this? Have you thought about X, Y, or Z thing? Stuff like that.
From an early age, this really gave me the opportunity to push the boundaries of my life.
I should also say, Dad is 81 now and in his third career as a real estate developer. He is an extremely philanthropic guy and makes a point of creating shared value between business and community on all of his projects. So he’s still quite an inspiration to me!
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
— The ability for users to own their data. Obviously, a big issue in tech right now.
— The potential for social impact. This is a big priority for us at Dispatch. We want to empower not just industries but also nonprofits, governments, and other entities working for the public good.
— The ability to allow ownership of intellectual property to stay with its creator(s). This is a big one for artists, musicians, and other creatives who are basically abused by all sorts of middlemen at present.
— The transparency of it. Because everyone on a blockchain network checks one another’s transactions, there’s no secrecy akin to what we see in a lot of traditional finance.
— The energy it’s creating around innovation. We’re seeing this in a lot of areas right now as the idea of blockchain as a development platform spreads. For instance, we can democratize financial systems in parts of the world where they currently don’t have a lot of security around money transfers. That’s huge.
What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
— Diversity. This is one of our biggest priorities at Dispatch, realizing that the tech industry in general hasn’t been very good at it so far. We want to do better, to build teams that reflect the communities we work in.
— Security. We’ve seen some ugly hacks of users’ crypto wallets and other systems in the industry. This is something we absolutely must guard against better as we launch new products.
— Money laundering. Self-explanatory, but it bears mentioning.
— Fraud. Another obvious but important one. The hucksters give those of us trying to do this the right way a bad name. So they’re a problem we should all be concerned about.
— Lack of maturity. Obviously, a lot of the folks involved in this industry right now are really young. I think this can sometimes lead to decisions that aren’t so well thought-out, to be honest.
I’d also add that I think it’s one of the things we’ve handled well at Dispatch. We have some people who are young and full of zeal. But we also have some that are more experienced and just flat-out know how to run a business. So the team is very balanced.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
Dispatch is committed to bringing goodness to the world, it is in our DNA and it’s baked into everything we do.
That said, I’d also point out that our software is still in the works, with a full public launch expected in the fall. So a lot of the positive change we want to enable hasn’t been realized yet. But we’re already talking to people and organizations interested in homelessness, income inequality, and other issues about how we might be able to help.
We want to be one of the good guys in the blockchain space. That also means doing things like providing opportunities for youth to learn about blockchain, which our team recently did while attending a conference in New York. Our software is also published on an open-source basis on GitHub, so anyone can download and experiment with it.
What 3 things would you advise to someone who wanted to emulate your career? Can you share an example for each idea?
— Pursue growth opportunities. Never stop learning. If you have something you’re interested in, pursue it. That’s easier than ever because there are so many ways to study new topics online, whether it’s a course on Udacity, or Lynda, or watching tutorials on YouTube.
— Build good relationships. Be kind, interested, and genuine when you deal with people. It will really help set you apart, sometimes in unexpected ways. For instance, I met Dispatch’s CEO, Matt McGraw, as a customer in a previous job. We developed a friendly relationship, stayed in touch, and he reached out to me when he was forming this new company.
— Work really hard. Like a lot of people in tech, I try to stay fit, meditate, eat well, and all that. But it doesn’t change the fact that we also work long hours and that things can sometimes get pretty stressful.
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? He or she might just see this 🙂
Another really difficult choice for me here. Offhand, all the candidates on my shortlist are strong female leaders I admire from various walks of life: Michelle Obama. Madonna. Oprah. Gayle King. J.K. Rowling. Depending on what day you catch me, I’d go with one of them.
Originally published at medium.com