A recruiter who has helped place candidates at top crypto shops like Coinbase and Circle shares 5 tips for making the jump from traditional finance into digital assets


By any metric, 2021 was a banner year for crypto.

Fundraising within digital assets reached a record $14.5 billion globally through the third quarter, according to Dealogic. Coinbase's May direct listing was one of the year's largest public debuts. 

But 2022 hasn't been as welcoming for crypto, with the price of bitcoin down nearly 20% since the beginning of the year and about 50% off the all-time highs it reached in November.

For many in the industry, however, digital assets and the tech underpinning Web3 still represent a seismic shift in money that's removed from the day-to-day volatility of cryptocurrencies. 

The boom in digital assets has also fostered an ecosystem of crypto investors, advisors, and companies looking to capitalize on a surging market and in need of talent. That's led to more people in traditional finance, both young and old, and on the buy and sell sides, looking to make the jump into crypto.

Executive search firm Intersection Growth Partners has embraced the burgeoning market. After launching as a recruiting service focused broadly on the fintech sector, the firm has now pivoted to only accepting crypto firms as new clients, Scott Fletcher, the founder of Intersection, told Insider. 

Kelsey Begin Intersection Growth Partners
Kelsey Begin, an associate at Intersection Growth Partners 
Intersection Growth Partners

As a search firm, Intersection has placed talent at some of crypto's most-well known startups including Coinbase, Circle, Gemini, and Anchorage. Through its limited partnership venture fund, Intersection has also been an active investor in some of these names. In May 2021, the fund contributed $105 million to Circle's $440 million strategic fundraising round.

One of Intersection's own associates, Kelsey Begin, intimately understands the move from traditional finance to crypto. She joined Intersection last May from BlackRock.

In December, Begin's experience moving from BlackRock to the world of digital assets prompted her to share a list of seven tips for making the move from so-called "TradFi" into crypto on Medium

Insider spoke to Begin about making the switch and key considerations candidates should make before jumping into the crypto waters.

Know the tech ins and outs

First among Begin's recommendations is that candidates hone their technical understanding of the intricacies of crypto. While a background in finance or tech and an underlying passion for digital assets might have once been enough to land a job at a crypto startup, these days companies are looking for candidates to already have a deep understanding of the space. 

Apart from understanding the coding languages common within crypto, Begin recommended diving into the latest industry research or taking courses on blockchain tech, which signal to recruiters a passion for crypto that goes deeper than just trading Bitcoin. 

"There's just a higher bar when it comes to completely pivot your career into crypto. It's not necessarily enough anymore to just be interested in crypto and make the jump. You have to prove your worth and prove that you're genuinely passionate about the industry, you're doing what you can to self-educate," Begin told Insider.

Have a view on the competitive environment

Candidates should also have a decent understanding of key players and subsectors in crypto, Begin added. 

For those looking for a quantitative way to assess the competitive ecosystem, Begin recommended the digital asset data and research tool Messari

But it's not just about understanding the numbers. 

Given that so much of the crypto world is driven by individual personalities, Begin said podcasts are another way to become more immersed in digital assets. Two of her favorites, as she outlined on Medium, are On the Brink, which covers everything from crypto mining to the latest deals in the space, and Real Vision's collection of video interviews with digital-assets players and traditional investing names alike. 

"It's one of my favorite ways to stay aware of not only what's going on company-wise, but also just the people, the CEOs at the companies that you're interested in, personalities in the space, and crypto pundits," said Begin.

Investing is an important way to have skin in the game, but not the only one

Having a stake in crypto is about more than just owning bitcoin, Begin said. She recommended that candidates invest not just capital but also time and energy into understanding digital assets tech. Two examples are diving deep into open-source code on GitHub (particularly for more technical roles) or setting up a computer to run Ethereum software that can validate transactions.

That being said, Begin does think owning cryptocurrencies will push candidates to understand the digital asset markets better. Such investments are less of an indication of someone's passion for crypto and more of a tool to get a feel for the way cryptocurrencies trade and operate. 

"I don't think you have to be invested necessarily to pay attention to what's going on in the market, but it does force you to. For me, I became more aware of what was going on when I started investing," said Begin.

Speak the language of crypto

Speaking the language of crypto can mean a few different things. For one, Begin recommended diving deep into podcasts and newsletters, which she called "a creative outlet and a way to learn about the industry." 

But for engineering roles, specific coding languages have become more useful within the crypto world. Solidity and Rust programming languages are "probably the most in-demand" among crypto firms, according to Fletcher, even as Python, C++, and Javascript remain mainstays. 

Knowing what programming languages are the most relevant and current is important because the tech supporting new currencies and functions is rapidly changing. 

Fletcher cited zero-knowledge proofs, an encryption method where one party sending information is able to verify it's true without any additional information, as an example of the speed the space moves. 

"It really is like, 'Check back in a month and we'll see if we have an updated answer for you,'" Fletcher told Insider. 

Warm intros go a long way

While a warm introduction can go a long way in any field, Begin said that leveraging professional and personal networks is a powerful tool in the nascent world of crypto and Web3.

"Word of mouth is one of our favorite ways for information and opportunities to spread," she said. "It's a really good opportunity and a good way to kind of stay abreast of who's hiring, especially at these earlier stage companies — I think that's a really interesting and exciting way to get involved in crypto."

Begin also noted that existing connections can help candidates keep up with the quicker pace and less-formalized hiring processes of the crypto industry.

"There are so many VC dollars in the crypto world right now that a lot of these startups are growing pretty rapidly, so I think it's helpful to stay really connected with people who are already in that space," she said.

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