Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution: “Girls get labelled more than boys” With Andrea Pretorian and Tyler Gallagher

It starts in school. Girls don’t get to just do things — speak up, know all the answers, lead a group. Girls get labelled more than boys. We’re watched more closely and our worth is constantly being assessed. We need to be encouraging all students — regardless of their gender — to think critically, speak up and share their ideas. If […]

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It starts in school. Girls don’t get to just do things — speak up, know all the answers, lead a group. Girls get labelled more than boys. We’re watched more closely and our worth is constantly being assessed. We need to be encouraging all students — regardless of their gender — to think critically, speak up and share their ideas. If schools become an environment for this, then more women will get into blockchain and STEM as a whole.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea Pretorian, who manages content over at BitIRA. With experience in both biology and computer science, Andrea is on a mission to empower people through the pursuit of knowledge. Through her work at BitIRA, Andrea is able to help people face two potentially daunting subjects: investing and cryptocurrency.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story of how you decided to pursue this career path? What lessons can others learn from your story?

As I was growing up, three things became clear to me:

  1. I always want to know the stories behind people and things;
  2. I love how math and science involve uncovering a solution;
  3. I want to know that what I do makes other people’s lives better.

For a long time, medicine seemed to be the ideal way for me to professionally hit all of these. I dreamed of becoming a neurosurgeon and researching proteins. I worked in a major hospital, shadowing my heroes, recruiting patients, and running molecular biology assays.

By far, the most meaningful part of my work was the patient interaction piece.

But every day, I also saw fear in people who were completely overwhelmed by their diagnoses. This was something more than just the fear of terminal cancer. Part of this was the same fear I saw in the math and physics students I tutored who were convinced they just couldn’t do it. I saw this same fear in an elderly family friend whenever we tried to explain to her how antibiotics worked.

I wanted to do something to help. I didn’t want people to be turned off from making educated decisions for themselves and their families because they were intimidated. I knew I wanted to help people feel comfortable facing the unknown and expressing themselves.

I started looking into opportunities with startups. I knew that, traditionally, women struggled for representation in startup land, and I also knew I wanted to contribute in an all-hands-on-deck environment where I could have the maximum possible impact. I first heard about BitIRA from a friend when we were having a conversation about businesses we know that are socially aware and showed a sense of responsibility to care for the community.

When I had the chance to start working on content at BitIRA — combining two sectors of knowledge with huge potential impact for the person involved — it was a no-brainer.

Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

With BitIRA, we just released a piece on women in cryptocurrency and blockchain, which is near and dear to my heart. I’m still adding resources to it with the hope that it helps get girls and women more involved, helps people writing grants for STEM diversity and other such funding, and so on. We’re looking to draw in women of all ages — high school, college, young professionals, executives — from tech and entrepreneurial angles.

I’m also really excited about developing resources for people to learn more about cryptocurrency and blockchain. Aside from developing guides on the topics people are routinely asking about, we’re interested in figuring out which methods are the best way to instruct. For example, we’ve begun to experiment with graphics that break down the concepts into more easily digestible, visual “chunks.” Think about it like a more sophisticated, almost polished version of a napkin drawing… but with lots more detail. We want this to be easily accessible to anyone and everyone.

Outside of that work, I’m trying to get involved with documentary film-making. I’m really keen on “show, don’t tell,” and I think that exposing people’s stories and perspectives in action can get even the hardest heart to open up to actually hear others.

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?

I would hands-down say my mother, who remains the most determined person I have ever known. I feel very privileged to have had someone who always told me that nothing was beyond the possibility of my mind, and that fear is useless — if there’s a problem, face it head-on. My mother always told me that I have a brain to think and a mouth to speak — and I should use them.

My mother showed me how to be fearless in the face of fear and conflict, and I consider it my duty now to pay that forward.

What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

  • The potential for charitable giving to nonprofits — There is so much value out there, waiting to be donated!
  • The potential applications of blockchain on renewable energy. I hope we can use it to better our planet.
  • The fact that anyone can currently learn about crypto and get into it. I particularly love reading stories about people in difficult life situations who started investing or working in it, and now have created a life they love.
  • The use of blockchain and smart contracts to hold each other accountable, from paying appropriately for using piece of music all the way through ensuring that donations are used as intended
  • Because the terminology is new and there’s so much buzz about them, blockchain and crypto offer an opportunity to reach people who otherwise might not have been receptive or even exposed to the technical and financial concepts behind them.

What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

  • The fact that less than 10% of the industry is female. This isn’t just a STEM issue; with all of the potential for social and environmental progress that crypto and blockchain can bring, diversity is critical.
  • The stigma that exists around it with many people, who may think it’s too complicated or technical for them to wrap their heads around.
  • Future regulatory steps that might introduce a lot of the same problems faced with conventional currency — including making the rich richer.
  • The current volatility of the market, and whether that could drive people to panic and abandon crypto before it’s had a fair shot.
  • The amount of skepticism surrounding crypto, as though it’s just a passing fad. I think about it as more of an experiment that’s worth buying into.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

When I was in college, I landed a research assistant job by knocking on the doors of everyone I admired the most until someone said yes. This turned into four and a half years of experience in brain tumor immunotherapy, and it forced me to grow and face my fears in so many ways.

In undergrad, I started a program to recruit local high school students to receive mentorship from undergraduates involved in research, with a quarter of our recruits being sourced from the most at-risk schools in North Carolina. I will never forget, three years later, when I received a thank you note from one of those students, thanking me for helping her realize that she could achieve more than just culinary school, her original dream track; she had just been accepted to Duke University, to study microbiology.

I want to do a lot more of this.

As you know there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other women in the blockchain space to thrive?

  • Make time to mentor others, regardless of their gender. Any chance you have to show your leadership skills and expertise makes it that much easier for women to enter the industry, while also fostering a culture of learning and support.
  • Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. Odds are if you don’t have full clarity on something, someone near you doesn’t. I’ve found the crypto community to be very open to sharing knowledge when people ask — it’s all about seeing someone putting in the effort. I think the reluctance to ask questions hits women worse than men in this industry because we often feel we have to compensate and “look tough,” making us worry that by asking questions, we might look weak.
  • Get social. Connect with as many people as you can, whether in person, on Twitter, etc. Talk to your friends and get them interested in crypto and blockchain. The more diverse the perspectives contributing to the discussion and the community, the better; position yourself as a leader in this.

Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the blockchain industry?

It starts in school. Girls don’t get to just do things — speak up, know all the answers, lead a group. Girls get labelled more than boys. We’re watched more closely and our worth is constantly being assessed. We need to be encouraging all students — regardless of their gender — to think critically, speak up and share their ideas. If schools become an environment for this, then more women will get into blockchain and STEM as a whole.

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?

(Note: I am *terrible* at quotes, but there is one quote from a friend that has special meaning in my life and so I’ll base my answer on that.)

It actually comes from a friend who once shared with me, during a time when I was feeling very anxious, “Start where you are.” It’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything you want to do and know, and how you could have done things better in the past. But these are just ways to bully yourself and shut down. The reality is that no matter what’s happened or where you’re at, dwelling on the past or worrying about things will only hurt you. “Start where you are” is a simple little mantra I use to sweep the anxiety aside and forge ahead.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Everyone: take $5 a month and invest in your retirement. There are two reasons for this. Once you start investing and you see how doable it is, you’ll find yourself investing more and more. The second is because you cannot guarantee that the coverage you need for medical and other expenses will be there as you get older; you need to prepare for your own future. Fortunately, you have a friend in compound interest.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I just closed down my Facebook and rebooted my Twitter (@AndreaPretorian). You can also find me on Instagram @pretornatural.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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