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Women Leading the Blockchain Revolution: “You don’t need a deep technical background to succeed” With Christine Leong and Tyler Gallagher

I think the biggest lesson for anyone out there, especially for women, girls, and others is that you don’t need a deep technical background to succeed. All you need is a curious mind and the desire to learn something new. My college degree was in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. What I learnt in college couldn’t […]


I think the biggest lesson for anyone out there, especially for women, girls, and others is that you don’t need a deep technical background to succeed. All you need is a curious mind and the desire to learn something new. My college degree was in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. What I learnt in college couldn’t be further away from what I do today. Many who work with me consider me as a fairly technical person. The real lesson for all of us is that we need to have an open mind and we must never stop learning.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Leong of Accenture.


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 came into blockchain as a bit of accident. You’d be surprised that I started my career many years ago as a trader and I don’t have a “technical background.” After trading, I found myself working in Biometrics and then I joined Accenture as a part of the Information Security team. As I went to mole around, I discovered cryptography, key management, and encryption technology. It was because of this work that I was exposed to blockchain. I was very interested in the technology and eventually became quite well-versed with it. About 4 and a half years ago — because of my knowledge of blockchain, I have tasked an internal due diligence project, evaluating an investment the company was making into blockchain. It’s been very exciting for me as I’ve had the chance to work with and learn from some of the gurus of blockchain at Accenture. While getting introduced to blockchain was completely by accident, my interest in technology and great mentors have made me stay in the field!

I think the biggest lesson for anyone out there, especially for women, girls, and others is that you don’t need a deep technical background to succeed. All you need is a curious mind and the desire to learn something new. My college degree was in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. What I learnt in college couldn’t be further away from what I do today. Many who work with me consider me as a fairly technical person. The real lesson for all of us is that we need to have an open mind and we must never stop learning.

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

I have been working with some great clients like WWF or World Wildlife Fund and the Moore Foundation to find innovative solutions. As mentioned, my background is in Information Security, so I work across sectors like banking, government and “identity” in a corporate world. Right now, I am evaluating the concept of managing and projecting identities — of people and legal entities, to see how we can apply the same concept to things that impact us as individuals. One of the projects we are completing right now does exactly this. We are applying blockchain technology improve supply chains of agriculture and aquaculture. Some practices across these industries can be quite detrimental to our society. Through blockchain, we can add transparency and traceability to ensure our practices are sustainable. This boils down to create real impact — like protecting our oceans and the environment and I find that very exciting.

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 think there are many! I’m very grateful that I’ve had some phenomenal leaders and mentors. The first would be the Dr. Alastair MacWillson, who gave me a chance by hiring me many years ago. I was just a contractor when he entrusted me with great responsibility. I had the chance of learning about blockchain from one of the best in the business — John Velissarios, our resident cryptography expert. Then our current co-leads for blockchain — Simon Whitehouse and David Treat as well as Rex Thexton, who leads Accenture’s Digital Identity business globally. I will say that true leaders enable their teams for success. These leaders allow you to take a risk, just at the promise of an innovative solution. They truly understand that if you give people a chance, they may in fact change the world. It’s fantastic to know that your leaders believe in you and that’s exactly what each of these people have done.

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

I think the first and foremost thrilling aspect of blockchain is that our work can actually make a difference. There is demand coming from areas that are at the base of the pyramid. For example, I’m having more discussions around farming and agricultural practices in developing countries, to see how we can use blockchain technology for the improvement of our lives. To be able to create a future that is sustainable — when we look at cosmetics, food, plastics or even waste management.

Second — would be the fact that our traditional job with respect to blockchain is about protecting identities and security. However, when we think about sustainability — it is a very different outcome by using the same skill set. So, in a way, I’m learning a whole new thing, diversifying my skill set — by basing it all on my knowledge of blockchain.

Thirdly, I feel that blockchain can have a massive impact on the new business model of the world. Blockchain is like a team sport — many consortiums, many people must work together to make the technology work. So, I think this technology will make business think about how we can work differently, but together in the future.

The last thing that makes me excited is that blockchain is a whole new future for people with different diversity of thoughts. My personal experience is that I am on the spectrum and have Asperger’s, so my thinking is often very different on an approach or solution. However, a fitting model for blockchain is to bring together thinking that is cognitively different. I strongly believe that we will be able to develop better solutions as we bring together diversity of thought.

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

I think the number one worry is that people sometimes jump into it without actually gauging its value. We need to evaluate — what is the right model, is it going provide business value? So, the hype really. I think to do it right, we need organizations to take time and effort to figure out the right thought process. Otherwise, we risk over promising and the inability to follow through. So, we lose out on the real benefits of blockchain.

The second risk is that people associate blockchain technology with purely what’s going on in terms of cryptocurrency and the volatility around cryptocurrency. While the two things are closely associated — they are different. There are several appropriate business level blockchain applications out there, that are worth thinking about other than just cryptocurrency.

The final thing that worries me is the people element. People assume that they don’t have the right skills for blockchain or that it’s very hard to understand. Then they don’t embrace learning about it in the right way. A lot of skilled specialists go with the hype associated with blockchain instead of understanding what it’s about. There are different levels of understanding of blockchain out there, pretty much like “fake news”.

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?

First — don’t be scared to have an open conversation. There are so many different roles required in blockchain and being the technical expert is not always the only role. There are roles in marketing with respect to blockchain that are hugely necessary. We need people think about sales or user experience creatively, which I believe that a lot of our female colleagues are particularly skilled at.

Be willing to learn. There is a bit of a learning process with respect to the technology. Getting to grips with how blockchain works or it’s concept, can seem cumbersome at the face of it. But, it can be very easy if you are willing to learn. Because, once you get it — a whole world opens up. So be patient.

Find a mentor or role model. It is very important to have the right mentor or peer. You can learn from your leaders or even your own team. For example, I learn a huge amount from my team. In a way, so many of them are the real experts — they are deep in the trenches with how works and getting their perspective always teaching me something new. I often find conversations with some of our youngest team members as incredibly valuable. It is important to have the right support or expertise, to help you answer any questions you may have about blockchain.

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

I think we need to create the right roles and make it more marketable. Sometimes blockchain isn’t just about technology. You can use it bring about overall good or for business change. So, while we create the right roles, we also need to start giving some context to the role instead of saying — we are hiring many developers or a lot of architects. I will also encourage women who are now in roles that are non-technical, that they should learn new things. I say that because blockchain is new for everybody and don’t be scared by the job description as “I will never be able to do this”. I can guarantee that even though the job sounds like you cannot do it, you probably can, if you have the right attitude.

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

“Every Individual Matters” is a quote by a primatologist — Jane Goodall that really impacts me. I believe that every individual makes a difference, and this is particularly true for blockchain and the way that we use the technology. I say this because I see it in several of the projects we do today. You can make a difference even if you are not a crypto expert and you are in HR. There are so many things you can do because this is about a whole new model and a new way of operating. I’m a passionate advocate for animal welfare and now I’m applying my blockchain skills for wildlife preservation. I do think that whatever your skills — you can make a difference. Even in a highly corporate environment like the role that I have, I feel like there are things that I can do. So, in the same way that I am making a difference to a client in a bank, I am making a difference to the environment and even to my career. Just by learning about blockchain and using that technology for a whole range of things.

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. 🙂

I strongly believe that there are some creative and passionate people out there. If I were to start a movement, I would bring the collective skills of all of us to organizations that are already doing some great work. I would build a marketplace of skills, where people can donate their time to projects they feel very strongly about — for me it’s animal welfare. So, I would use the collective force of our passions to build an ecosystem, that can help solve today’s problems. Whether it is blockchain or biometrics or AI, how we can use this technology to influence the way we behave, to live sustainably and care for our planet.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/christine-leong-b3ab784/
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