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Women Leading the Blockchain Revolution: “Raise your hand and say you want to be involved” With Julie Myers Wood, CEO Of Guidepost Solutions and Tyler Gallagher

My biggest piece of advice for women is to raise your hand and say you want to be involved.

My biggest piece of advice for women is to raise your hand and say you want to be involved. Personally, every time I have ever gotten a big job or opportunity, I’ve raised my hand for it. It’s been hard to do, at times even scary to do, but it has always been worth the effort.


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?

I’m currently the CEO of Guidepost Solutions, a boutique investigative, security and compliance firm with nine offices in the U.S., as well as offices in London and Singapore. I also sit on several Boards, including the Board of Zero Hash. Zero Hash is a subsidiary of Seed CX, a digital asset trading and settlement venue backed by Bain Capital.

Early in my career, I served as a federal prosecutor and then in leadership roles at two law enforcement agencies. While working at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), I became interested in how technology could help companies stay in compliance with various laws, and helping companies resolve their problems with the U.S. Government. Guidepost provided me an opportunity to do this work in an entrepreneurial environment. Over the past several years, I have enjoyed helping companies resolve complex regulatory problems, particularly startups and those with unique challenges. My involvement in crypto and the blockchain space was a natural evolution of our work with startups as well as our compliance expertise for financial institutions.

I am a big believer in government service and encourage everyone to consider an opportunity to serve during some point in their career.

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

One of my most interesting projects is serving as a board member for Zero Hash, a new institutional platform for trading digital assets. The founders, Edward Woodford and Brian Liston, are extremely thoughtful and have built compliance attributes into their platform at every step of the way. It’s exciting to work with them and their team who are at the forefront of finance, trade and emerging technology within government and the commercial sector.

Another extremely innovative project is assisting the Marshall Islands with the development of the first digital asset that’s a national fiat currency, known as the Sovereign (SOV). (In this capacity, Guidepost is a registered foreign agent with the U.S. Department of Justice.) The Marshall Islands faces a number of unique challenges due to its small size, dispersed population, vulnerability to climate change, and recovery from nuclear testing projects. The country has used these challenges to pioneer what has the potential to be the most efficient, secure, and democratic form of national currency. We are helping ensure that not only will SOV have the advantages of speedy transactions, anonymity, and decentralization associated with blockchain currency, it will also have multilayered and progressive controls in place that protect it from money laundering, terror financing and other abuses. With these controls, SOV has the potential to be as secure as compliance regimes that protect traditional paper money. SOV’s deployment and acceptance could open up vast economic opportunities for citizens of the Marshall Islands and beyond. We are only one small part of the SOV project — a dedicated team is behind it, including Neema and Tusk Ventures.

Our firm has also been privileged to support Paxos, which was one of the first entities to develop a stablecoin, called PAX, and obtain approval for it by regulators. The swift approval, launch, and enthusiastic public response around the PAX meant that our role in helping ensuring Paxos’ regulatory compliance was critical to so many parties. We’ve had the opportunity from the outset to conceptualize and develop the most secure and reliable procedures for everyone involved with PAX, from new stablecoin holders to large cryptocurrency investors, from issuers to digital exchanges, and every party in between.

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?

One leader who helped me and really transformed my career path was Michael Chertoff, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security. He hired me as his Chief of Staff while he was at the Justice Department, and then brought me into DHS as well. Secretary Chertoff was someone I had admired as a brilliant lawyer from afar. Up close, I had the opportunity to observe how he focused solely on key areas that matter, pushing away the bureaucracy that sometimes engulfs government jobs, and circling in on vulnerabilities in strategic policy decisions, investigations and even personnel decisions. He made me more decisive and focused. When he brought me to DHS, he supported a huge increase in my role, even when others claimed I was too young. My DHS role represented a significant increase in responsibility for me, but he had faith in my ability and supported me.

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

№1: Speeding and securing of everyday transactions

While not the juiciest application for blockchain and crypto, at its most fundamental, these technologies are revolutionizing the pace, ease, and security of everyday financial transactions. For anyone who works in the financial or regulatory spheres — and for anyone who has a bank account! — this is very exciting.

Without having to rely on traditional bank procedures, basic money transfers and payment processing validation can happen around the clock. This allows transactions to be processed via the blockchain almost instantaneously. Likewise, for trade processing and settlement, blockchain technology can reduce risk and expense by eliminating the need for each broker, manager, and other party to maintain his own records. The blockchain ledger encrypts records, reducing the risk of error, and reduces or eliminates the necessity of intermediaries.

№2: Individual control over things that matter — Empowering individuals and grassroots organizations

Perhaps more immediately inspiring is the potential of these technologies to empower people and groups. One example is the possibilities for copyright and royalty protection and the impact this could have both for musicians themselves and for each of us as their audience. Over the past 20+ years, the internet has notoriously affected copyright and ownership laws in ways that radically altered the ability of individual musical acts to be remunerated. Blockchain and smart contracts could remedy this by bolstering copyright laws for digital content downloads, building a comprehensive decentralized database of music rights, and transparently transmitting royalties to ensure proper proceeds are directed to the artists themselves.

On an institutional level, as well, the blockchain can remove impediments to the mission of foundations, NGOs and academic groups by facilitating self-organization and providing them with self-management platforms. This can allow groups to transparently and securely communicate and share material globally and with reduced risk.

№3: Keeping bad actors out

Especially as a compliance provider and former law enforcer, the potential of the blockchain to protect against crime and abuse is immensely attractive. One topical example is tracking prescription drugs and preventing the circulation of counterfeit medication. Blockchain allows drug manufacturers to track products based on serial or batch numbers and ensure the correct prescriptions are reaching the correct recipients. Another area of potential is weapons tracking. Blockchain could create a record of all weapons sold privately and a transparent and unchanging registry network for law enforcement and federal agencies to track gun ownership.

№4: Providing transparency for regulators — Removing obligation from businesses

Coming from the perspective of a business monitor, the ability to give companies better, easier, and more reliable ways to demonstrate to regulators that they’re compliant is vastly appealing. One example is in tax regulation and compliance. Blockchain allows businesses to record sales and demonstrate to lawmakers their adherence to local, state, federal and international laws. And these sales records can further act as a transparent record for the IRS that a business has paid its correct taxes and any of these levels. In an analogous example, insurance claims processing for businesses can be streamlined — a huge boon for busy companies, as well as for insurers. The blockchain’s encryption capabilities allow insurers to track the ownership of assets and prevent fraudulent claims or errors.

№5: The fast pace of technology

Another intrinsically exciting aspect of blockchain and crypto development is the sheer pace of technology. One popular outgrowth of this is the blockchain internet of things and the eruption of smart appliances that can innovate your kitchen by alerting you when your brownies are ready or which laundry cycle is starting. Besides the obvious convenience, this helps keep your appliances in top condition and reduces energy expenses. Your appliances and other property can also have smart technology embedded in them, registering them on the ledger and issuing smart keys to facilitate access to certified owners. And who knows what aspects of our lives — big or small — will be revolutionized by blockchain capabilities next?

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

№1: Potential for bad actors to take advantage of blockchain vulnerabilities

In a number of our crypto projects, a key goal is to be aware of the technologies’ vulnerabilities to abuse and prevent access by criminals. One aspect of blockchain services that has allowed exploitation by criminals is its inherent anonymity, which can make it hard to track users’ identities, behaviors, and adherence to sanctions. Obviously, people are concerned — understandably — at the idea of being open to ransomware or having their transactions be tainted by money laundering or black-market dealing. These vulnerabilities are all surmountable, but we need to be vigilant to marry anonymity with due regulation.

At Seed CX and Zero Hash, the team has implemented a range of surveillance and security features to make sure investors feel safe and prevent bad actors. The surveillance team is constantly surveilling the market as well as inbound and outflows to the system.

№2: Compliance tools are developing at an inadequate pace and undermining legitimate activity or coins

Blockchain is still an emerging and evolving technology, and so much of its growth has occurred without the oversight of regulators. One reason we’re so focused on crypto projects is that we see a huge need for compliance tools and even concepts to catch-up so that blockchain capabilities can be securely and reliably incorporated into the lives of individuals and businesses.

№3: Delayed acceptance by regulators based on failures of understanding

Following on the points above, the speed and informality of blockchain development has meant that some regulators themselves, rather than pushing to develop symbiotic regulations, have instead often tried to reject the entire enterprise.

It is perhaps a natural instinct for regulatory bodies to be cautious around uncharted and complex new technologies. However, it’s vital that agencies push to pioneer regulations that can meet the intricacies and particularities of blockchain, rather than rigidly pushing the use of existing regulatory frameworks.

While I think there has been some positive movement among regulators recently, it’s critical that they continue to engage in the process. Without involvement, regulators lose the opportunity to provide secure and verified pathways to its development, use, and all the benefits it has to offer.

№4: Complexity for end users

While having regulators and compliance regimens that stay ahead of the technology will do much to advance the reliability and utility of blockchain applications, it can still be complex for average, individual users. This could spell added risk for neophytes venturing into cryptocurrency without understanding the difference between competing offerings and systems or how to protect themselves. With time, familiarity, and widespread adoption of these products, ideally this concern will lessen.

№5: Unpredictability

As with any rapidly evolving technology, the sheer unpredictability of new developments and applications can be daunting. Crypto’s global reach can add to this unpredictability. Of course, this is what makes this — and any new technology — so exciting.

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

I think it’s important for each of us to try to bring goodness to the world around us — even small things can make big differences. I try to recognize the accomplishments of others and give them opportunities to shine. I mentor younger people just starting out in their careers and am generous with my time and energy.

At the core, my family and colleagues are those who I can most influence and support. My husband and I are working to raise two kids to be happy, giving and productive members of society. If we can achieve that, it will be our greatest success.

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?

Read, focus and then jump.

If you are interested in the blockchain and crypto space, read everything you can about the space — from key blogs to the mainstream press to trade publications. Watch documentaries or news clips. The more you can ingest, the more you’ll learn.

Focus on an angle that’s most interesting to you, or where you can relate from your prior experience. You may not know everything about blockchain, but you may know marketing — what thoughts do you have about web design or marketing for blockchain applications? You may not know everything about cryptocurrency, but you may be an expert in financial crimes compliance for traditional financial institutions — what lessons can you take from traditional problems with compliance to inform your views on the vulnerabilities of digital currency?

Jump! You probably won’t be able to master everything. Don’t wait until you feel that you know it all before starting a project in the space or expressing your interest. The only way that you will get an opportunity is if you look for one and jump (a little) even before you think you’re ready.

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

My biggest piece of advice for women is to raise your hand and say you want to be involved. Personally, every time I have ever gotten a big job or opportunity, I’ve raised my hand for it. It’s been hard to do, at times even scary to do, but it has always been worth the effort.

Many times, I see women hesitate to raise their hand and show interest in things that they may feel are a little outside their comfort zone. When I was in Presidential Personnel working at the White House, I saw a big difference between what the men said and what the women said when they interviewed with me. I recall an example when I had two candidates for the Department of Defense positions. Both had basically equal, identical resumes. The man said he wanted to be Deputy Secretary. The woman said she wanted to be Special Assistant to the Deputy.

Although crypto tends to be a male-centric industry, we’re breaking that mold at Seed CX. Serving with me on the public directors board of Zero Hash, Seed CX’s settlement subsidiary, is Kathleen Camilli, the former Chief U.S. Economist at Credit Suisse Asset Management who now runs her own consulting firm, Camilli Economics.

And at Seed Digital Securities Market, which is seeking approval to become a broker-dealer in order to list security assets, the public director is Cynthia Meyn, the Chief Operating Officer at Venerable Holdings and a former Executive Vice President of operations at PIMCO.

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

When I was 11, I came across Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” I’ve tried to put energy and enthusiasm in everything I do and also seek out opportunities and projects I could be enthusiastic about.

When I was first practicing law, I had a really interesting case involving First Amendment Rights and Chicago’s Navy Pier. This case had it all for a nerdy lawyer — constitutional issues, a trial, significant public interest. The senior lawyer on the case told me, “You better enjoy this case. It will be the most interesting thing you work on your entire career.” He was telling me that so I would savor the work. But it was depressing. I was 26 — how could that case be the highlight of my career? I took Emerson’s quote to heart and thought I should continue to search for things I could be enthusiastic about. Shortly after that, I left the law firm for a job with the federal government (the Independent Counsel’s Office) and my career was never the same.

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. 🙂

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Link in with me on LinkedIn and follow us on twitter @guidepostglobal, @myerswood

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