Web3 exploded in popularity during the pandemic, with celebrities & companies hyping up the blockchain with NFT projects and token airdrops. However, as events around the world (such as the pandemic and a war in Ukraine) wore on, the rosy outlook started to crack.
Economists are saying that we’ve hit stagflation – an unfortunate combination of high inflation, unemployment and sluggish economic growth. It’s a difficult time for sure, but it’s not the first time we’ve faced this.
What we can do – besides diversifying risk, reducing debt and expenses – is to keep building, focus on performance/revenue and position yourself to reap the benefits when the most credible blockchain projects rise from the ashes.
In this AMA, we chatted with experienced recruiters & hiring managers in Web3 startups, who will be sharing what talents can do to boost their Web3 careers – despite a recession. (PS. We'll use Web3 to collectively describe the industry which include Crypto, Blockchain, GameFi, etc.)
About our Speakers
Leonard Tye. VP, Strategy & Ops, BD & Community Partnerships @ PlanetQuest.
Leonard is currently the VP of Strategy & Operations, Business Development, Community Engagement & Partnerships at Galactic Entertainment, whose flagship product is the sci-fi shooter PlanetQuest (1 billion valuation, 220k Discord, investors include Kingsway Capital and Alameda Research).
He is also a strategic advisor at Multiverse Inc (Earth from Another Sun, an AAA quality Sci-Fi FPS that has entered early access in Steam and has successfully converted its Web 2 gamers and made a Web 3 pivot, investors include Alameda Research and Lightspeed), GEMS (eSports hotel franchise and game aggregator platform), Digital Insights Games (founded by Top Tencent, EA, Ubisoft, Take-Two, Blizzard executives, and the creator of the Might and Magic franchise).
An avid writer on blockchain technology, gaming and leadership, you may find his articles featured on his LinkedIn profile. He was part of the Core Founding Team of World Overlay Studios (an upcoming gamified metaverse SDK and portal) and Catheon Gaming (record breaking IDO, number of investors and partners). A law graduate from NUS in 2017, he was trained in the US and was a technical project manager, agile scrum master and a full stack web developer by profession. As a founding team member of several startups, he is in-charge of hiring, and has hired over 90 different roles, posting over 500 job posts. Therefore, he is keenly aware of what it takes to succeed in Web3 startups.
Angel Gutierrez. Tech Recruiter @ Status.im
Although Angel has been in Web3 for over a year with Status.im (a Web3 tools & technology startup that helps with privacy especially around messaging and communication), he has been in tech recruitment for close to 9 years.
Thus, he has extensive experience helping teams to hire for tech roles, such as production engineers and smart contract engineers.
Evy Lee. Product Growth @ Crypto.Jobs
Although Evy recently embarked into Web3, she has been in people development for close to 9 years, and has helped clients from schools, global corporates and even the military.
Her mission and passion is to help people gain the skills & opportunities to become better.
Today, she’s working to build the talent platform for Web3 at CryptoJobs, to connect talented individuals to the best blockchain projects – and help us all survive this crypto winter.
Here’s what we chatted about!
- Listen to the recording here
- Or select the topic below to read it directly👇:
- About our Speakers
- (1) Web3 Talent Acquisition Challenges: What are paradigm shifts of hiring for a Web3 company compared to a Web2 company?
- Challenge 1: Finding talents with Skills that are crucial in Web3
- 💖 Driven by Values & Principles
- 💪🏽 Self-governing, Entrepreneurial Learners & Doers
- 🤝 Solid communication skills
- Challenge 2: Convincing skeptical talents to join
- Challenge 3: Onboarding people into the ecosystem
- (2) How to manage teams who are working remotely?
- (Solution 1) Prioritise timezone(s) for synchronised meetings
- (Solution 2) Ensure robust processes to manage asynchronous work
- (Solution 3) Communicate clearly & transparently
- (Solution 4) Be pragmatic & flexible, and respect others’ time, not just your own time.
- (3) What can talents do, to stay resilient despite a recession?
- (4) What are some characteristics of the best talent you've interviewed? What differentiates them from the pack?
- 🙋🏾♀️ Knows what the Company does
- 💞 Aligned with the Company’s Values & Goals
- 🧐 Curious and Takes the Initiative to Contribute & Share
- Final Thoughts & Advice
- Questions by Listeners
- From @Yordan Iliev: Most people don’t know what NFTs are, they don’t know what they’re doing in when trading crypto. What’s the next stage beyond the hype and speculation?
- From Able A: Jack Dorsey seems to be against Web3 because Web3 companies are not decentralised today, and is proposing Web5 – a fusion of Web3 and Web2. Thoughts about this?
- Check out other AMA Summaries
(1) Web3 Talent Acquisition Challenges: What are paradigm shifts of hiring for a Web3 company compared to a Web2 company?
Challenge 1: Finding talents with Skills that are crucial in Web3
💖 Driven by Values & Principles
There are a few changes and shifts, but the main one is finding people who are more values-led.
Most people join a company because of what it pays. In Web3, you join a company because of how you fit into those values & principles, and whether it aligns with yours.
The great thing if you join a Web3 company, is that you get to meet people from diverse backgrounds who think and express themselves really differently, but you’ll be able to connect on those core values.
For example, at Status, we have all sorts of people with different backgrounds, but we’re all aligned on the importance of privacy, liberty and censorship resistance.
💪🏽 Self-governing, Entrepreneurial Learners & Doers
Another paradigm shift is finding people who can work autonomously. Web2 companies tend to be more micro-managing – your bosses may direct what you do, so you have lesser say on tasks and projects. While in Web3, you have to self-governing.
This autonomy can be both good and bad. You have to be able to hit the ground running and be proactive on your own, to take the lead and experiment new processes, to break bigger tasks into smaller, more doable tasks.
I go by the ethos that you’re going to fail. You have to fail fast, then learn and improve. It’s almost like you own a startup within a project. You can try as many things as you want within that realm, and see what works.
So, naturally, learning is constant in this space too. Once I got interested in something and got into the rabbit hole, it kind of swallowed me up. For example, it started with what blockchain is all about, and now, I’m into incentive design and tokenomics.
Yes, I think there are a lot of transferrable skills for Web2 roles. In fact, 90% of my teams were Web2 professionals. It’s just because I prefer to hire experienced Web2 professionals, then onboard them to Web3. I think it’s tougher for Web3 people to pick up Web2 skills.
But really, you need a willingness to pick things up and not expect a lot of handholding, especially for people in very senior positions. I find that people with 10-20 years of experience tend to expect a lot of handholding in the onboarding process. If you’re coming in and expecting to have a lot of resources at your disposal, you’re going to be disappointed.
This is because Web3 companies tend to be younger startups with leaner teams. So, for managerial guys coming in, you need to get your hands dirty a bit. It’s the same for Web2 startups actually.
Generally, people who thrive in Web3 startups are the ones who take a lot of initiative; who don’t need to be asked to do something before they do it. They come to me with solutions, not just with the problems.
Provide solutions, not just the problems.
🤝 Solid communication skills
Community skills is one of the specific Web3 skills that’s very different from Web2.
When you get someone to manage a community in Web2, it’s usually not someone who has a broad range of skills, but someone with a very deep skillset.
In Web3, it’s a different thing. Someone who manages a Web3 community should understand the technicalities of blockchain and crypto, otherwise when your project is minted, you won’t be able to support the community on Discord and Telegram.
I find that a lot of Web2 professionals are used to traditional forums and platforms like Reddit. They’re not used to Telegram and Discord. So, it’s a challenge to onboard people to the tools and practices in Web3 as well.
Also, Web3 community management tends to be democratised and decentralised. This means that you really need solid interpersonal skills. You’re not just posting stuff, you have to manage community reactions to those posts.
The reason is because the trust in Web3 is really low. A lot of projects are just scams and rug pulls right now. So, having someone who is good at talking to people and is able to head a vertical that links the community with the internal team, will be key to rebuild trust.
If I have a problem with the community or have a partner who is of very high value that I need to send somebody in to talk to, I need someone that I can trust to send in and manage the situation well.
So, finding someone who is mature and has solid interpersonal skills and Web3 skills is not easy.
But if you’ve been in the community for a while, I would have had the time to assess your abilities as a moderator, which gives me more confidence to hire you since the gap between the community and the internal team would already have been bridged.
In fact, our Community Lead was hired through our Ambassador Programme. He was already our Lead Ambassador, part of our Discord server. We hired him full-time because when they’re contributing with no pay as a community member, if I bring you on and incentivise you, I already know you sort of have that sort of passion.
Challenge 2: Convincing skeptical talents to join
I think there are 2 paradigms as a hiring manager:
- Hiring Web2 professionals getting into Web3; and
- Hiring Web3 professionals for their Web3 skills.
If you’re trying to hire blockchain developers, a lot of them are just jumping on the bandwagon. And since Web3 is nascent, you can’t really tell if they’re good or not.
You have to rely on your dev team to design the technical tests to assess the quality of candidates.
Otherwise, you’ll be relying on third party integrations to secure your smart contracts – which can be risky, since there are so many hacks and scams each day, with hundreds of millions of dollars being stolen from projects.
There is serious gravity of the work that blockchain developers contribute to. So, the good ones will be compensated well, and we’ll try to keep them happy.
I think another paradigm shift is mindset.
For example, it’s not difficult to help experienced Web2 game developers acquire the necessary Web3 knowledge. But it’s difficult to convince good Web2 developers to get in.
The reason is because of how cryptocurrency scams has given to the industry a bad reputation. Anything associated (such as blockchain) tends to turn people off.
Challenge 3: Onboarding people into the ecosystem
Besides convincing people, it’s also a challenge to onboard them.
When you’re in a Web3 team, you’re likely a startup, and thus, your team is usually lean. There’s usually no dedicated person to onboard people. So, as one of the earlier founding team members, you may take on more roles, which includes onboarding people.
You have to teach people who are new on how to setup crypto wallets, and even so, they would want to transfer crypto back into fiat, and into their bank accounts.
I don’t remember ever having to do that when I was working in a Web2 company – teaching people how to set up their bank accounts and get their money out.
I agree. When hiring Blockchain Engineers, I see many people who have jumped in on the hype.
Some thoughts coming from a Web2 environment.
Firstly, the competitive nature is different:
- In Web2.. We have to be the best company and take on more market share.
- In Web3… Not really about taking on more market share (although it’s important), but onboarding as many people as possible into the ecosystem, by providing them with the tools and means to level the playing field, such as communication, transacting, managing their assets.
Secondly, “moonlighting” is therefore seen differently:
- In Web2, it looks bad if you’re working on multiple projects.
- However, in Web3, if you’re working part-time in another company and also contributing to a DAO, it’s actually good because you’ll be learning more, networking more, contributing more, and the ecosystem grows, which is better for everyone. You can even bring that back to your project.
I’d like to add that it’s ok to work on multiple projects, but you to have moral compass. It’s something that I look out for.
If I hire and pay you full-time, I expect you to contribute the value required for that full-time role.
So yes, you can work on multiple projects part-time, but be honest about that.
For example, for community-based roles, you may be working for multiple projects. It’s possible, because you won’t really be sitting there and managing a Discord for 8 hours a day.
But just be honest about it. Don’t tell me you’re going to be working full-time. Tell me what projects you’re working on as well, because there might be some potential conflicts of interest that needs to be considered.
Because we’re remote, and we can’t really tell how many hours someone is spending on the project. We’re not going to force you on a Zoom call and see whether you’re in front of a computer for 8 hours. So, moral compass is important if you want to join a Web3 project or ecosystem.
Essentially, it seems that in Web3, you’re trying to get people to be familiarised with the ecosystem, which includes how to use its tools and platforms.
And you’re not just selling your company’s product, but also selling the entire ecosystem – other products as well. To get them to trust and continue building upon an ecosystem. And that’s why community management is an important skill.
People that join Web3 are not tied by geography, but tied by moral values and principles that they believe in, as well as the drive to make things happen without being hand-held.
Consequentially, people that join Web3 will tend to be diverse across the world, and therefore a major challenge is managing different cultures and timezones – which brings us to another question:
(2) How to manage teams who are working remotely?
Remote work is not unique to Web3. There are many remote Web2 companies as well. However,
- Web2 companies are new to remote work – but older and thus bigger so it’s a lot harder to manage.
- Web3 teams and teams are born remote – but they’re newer startups and thus smaller, so it’s easier to manage.
For example, today, we have a marketing team based in Dubai. Before, some teams were based in Australia and the US as well.
Since there has to be cross-department meetings, there are 2 solutions:
(Solution 1) Prioritise timezone(s) for synchronised meetings
Solution 1 entails making sure that everyone can make it for a call, with some people taking the bullet of getting bad timings. Or, you can rotate between timezones to be fairer.
(Solution 2) Ensure robust processes to manage asynchronous work
Solution 2 is important, which is to start off from a good base with solid processes, and iterating based on that.
It’s important, because otherwise, your teams will burn out. For example, it may be difficult for remote teams to have:
- ❌ 2-hour meeting culture. If it’s too frequent, it’ll burn people out due to timezones.
- ❌ Daily stand-ups. If it’s a “must” for people to touch base frequently, it’ll burn people out too since it’ll eat into personal time and family time.
So, a remote team should use documentation and systems that allows people to work asynchronously. For example, an asynchronous standup could be posting updates on Slack.
But it’s not easy to ensure compliance, especially remotely. When you don’t meet people face-to-face, it’s not so easy to get people to do something without feeling like they’re being forced.
For people to be compliant to processes, it starts with motivation. People need to be motivated to do. So, you need to build relationships by having team-bonding events and cultural rituals.
Right now, we have different Slack channels each with different interests. We also have a monthly town hall. Of course, there’s more that can be done to create a better remote culture.
(Solution 3) Communicate clearly & transparently
Yes, here at Status, there’s a lot of different remote working schedules that people have. And with different geographic locations, that comes with a lot of cultures.
In the point of view of a recruiter, I definitely have to do 2 things well:
- Manage my time well. This means managing my calendar, my availability, and the time I have for work or meetings which can be quite time-consuming.
- Manage people’s expectations on responses. For example I’m based here in London, with colleagues across the world like in Europe, Canada and Singapore. I can’t expect them to get back to me immediately. There’s usually a 6-8 hour delay before a message gets back to me.
So, this means that my communications have to be really clear and concise.
Also, it should be in a channel that’s quite open and transparent, so people can easily see the flow of information on what’s been happening, what tasks needs to be done, and move forward.
If can be tricky to get used to that, so you have to do little things to manage the asynchronous working style. For example, if I’m getting my dog out for a walk, I will change my status on Discord, and set time and timezone when I’ll be back.
(Solution 4) Be pragmatic & flexible, and respect others’ time, not just your own time.
Yes, I think it’s important to respect peoples’ time. Sometimes, I run meetings from 6am to past midnight.
But I think you also have to be flexible. If you insist on doing a 9-5 gig like in Web2, as though you’re working on-site in an office, it makes it very hard to work together (or even be hired) – especially if the entire team is remote.
Scheduling is already a pain in the ass, you don’t want to always be the one taking the bullet when it comes to scheduling.
(3) What can talents do, to stay resilient despite a recession?
Web3 is nascent, yet has gone through wider swings of ups and downs (compared to other industries). How has this affected how Web3 startups manage talent? e.g. Are there more Contract roles? How has benefits & compensation changed?
For Status, it hasn’t changed too much thanks to our finance team who learnt from what we’ve went through in 2018, and budgeted for another downturn in the market. We’ve got around 3 years of runway. So it allows us to work and not have to worry about price.
If you’re in a project that is experiencing uncertainty, make sure you’re always learning. It’s one of the most important things going into Web3. Like I mentioned, once you get down into the rabbit hole, it’s really difficult to stop. Because you find out 1 thing, and it links you to another, and that goes on and on.
See the recession as an opportunity to build the dip, to do all you can to contribute to other teams, especially if you want to keep your skills updated and develop them.
For example, I’m interested in tokenomics and incentive design, and so I’ll jump in on calls with the infrastructure or finance team. I’ll shadow and hear how those conversations go and how they think, and hopefully I’ll be able to put it to practice and be able to contribute in some way.
Most work in Web3 should be open source and openly available, so try and share your knowledge across, and make it known that you’re valuable.
I think that the bear market is the best time to build. If you join a company because the values are aligned, you’re not really going to be worried about the price, because you’ll be more focused on building the product.
I think that in a recession, it’s important to focus on things you can control, and go all out to ruthlessly prioritise tasks & projects that push the needle, such as growth or revenue.
You need loads of initiative, and to keep experimenting and improving. I think it’s important to be impatient to get things done rather than waiting for your boss to tell you what to do.
This mindset is not for everyone, so if you’re the type who likes to charge forward, then Web3 is the perfect space for you no matter a downturn or not.
I do notice that there’s not much community roles going around. I see more roles around tokenomics because I think a lot of people are realising that having good tokenomics is important for your revenue stream and controlling token supply.
My point is that some roles are easier to hire for than others.
Even for Web2 games, it’s hard to find good game developers. If you’re a superstar game developer or just a mildly competent one, you’ll still be in demand no matter an upturn or downturn.
A lot of Web2 startups had a lot of funding and were over-hiring because they want to supercharge their growth. The downside is that when a recession hits, they’ll start tightening their belt and start looking at the balance sheets and cutting the excesses.
So roles that are more dispensable will go first in a recession. For example, if a startup doesn’t want to raise as much funds anymore during a recession because they don’t want their valuation to be cut by VCs, they’ll probably cut investment related roles.
In a recession, most companies will focus on building the dip. What this means:
- If you’re in a critical growth related role like product or sales, and you’re actually good at your job, you should be reasonably safe.
- If you’re in a non-critical role, I would suggest to do your job well, and make it known. Try to pick up more diverse responsibilities. Contribute to company culture, because no one wants to let go of someone whom everyone feels is part of the family.
As for hiring for short-term contractor roles, I think it’s a more responsible thing to do, if you’re not sure whether a role will be there for the long-term.
For example, if you hired somebody whom you think is not really a fit for the role, and you want to keep looking, I think it’s more ethical if you had hired him/her as a contractor in the first place.
I don’t think it’s a change of strategy to hire employees or contractors during a downtime. If you’re uncertain of hiring someone that’s a good fit for a position, make sure that in the first place, your contract terms are fair, transparent and equitable.
No matter the economic conditions, you have to be transparent and careful when hiring.
(4) What are some characteristics of the best talent you've interviewed? What differentiates them from the pack?
🙋🏾♀️ Knows what the Company does
Usually when I speak with people, I can usually tell if they’re going to give a good impression.
And literally, my first question is what they know about the company.
You might not believe it, but some people barely even checked Status’ website. Some join a video call, and you can see that they’re reading off the screen.
If you’re getting interviewed, please make sure you interview with a purpose – that you understand why you are interviewing for that specific role, team, and project as a whole.
💞 Aligned with the Company’s Values & Goals
So it’s refreshing when you speak to someone who knows your product, understands its values, are interested to understand more, and share why they’re aligned with the company.
And most of the time, as long as they’re aligned with us, they’re 50% on the way there.
I always feel that you can teach people skills, and you can teach people how to use new tools. But you can’t really push or enforce values and principles. It’s something that comes within them.
Really, I know I keep mentioning this, but if someone’s values and principles are aligned with the company, it really goes a long way.
In times of uncertainty – especially in crypto and Web3 – you’ll hear all these negative pressure of people saying it’s a scam, crypto is crashing, etc.
If you’re aligned with what the company is doing, you won’t be affected as much.
I completely agree, the first thing I ask when I interview, is why do you want to join this company?
There are thousands of GameFi projects out there. You could just apply to any one of them. Why our project?
I want to know whether you’re applying because you really want to join us, not just a blanket application to all available projects out there.
I generally will not take a person who does that. I want someone who shares our mission, long-term vision, values, beliefs, and even culture.
In interviews, I like to treat them as they’re already team members, and see whether there are any red flags, before I pass this person to the next stage of the interview process to assess their hard skills.
🧐 Curious and Takes the Initiative to Contribute & Share
If I see someone coming on from Web2 and has no exposure to Web3, I’d like to see personal projects of what they’ve done to try and understand concepts like dApps, blockchain, smart contracts, etc.
For example, what are the courses they’ve done? If they’re a developer, are they already contributing to projects and communities, since a lot of projects are open-source? Are they contributing to bounties and open challenges?
If you’re in another type of role, it would be engaging in communities, either across DAOs or the open Discord channels. Or sharing what you’ve learnt on channels like Twitter, Youtube, Mirror and Substack.
Even once they get the role, in the first few weeks and months, you can see them getting involved and sharing knowledge. It’s a good indicator if they’re continuing to learn, they are active in the project and all the chats.
I think what’s important is that interviewing people takes time. Putting them through an interview process takes not just our time but theirs as well.
I think that has to be respected, and so, the shortlisting process has to be robust.
If you’ve hired for many roles and have gone through many applications, you should be able to decide in the first 30 seconds if this person is worth hiring.
If this person writes a lot about something, if they’re involved in projects, this shows that they have the passion.
Showcase your passion through your portfolio.
A very important thing that I look out for is hard skills. For example, this is what I look out for each role:
- If you’re a Game Developer, you definitely need to show that you have solid development skills. So I’ll check out your work on Github etc. And if you have work experience in companies like EA, Blizzard, Tencent, I can reasonably assume that your skills are strong as well, since you’ve gone through these companies with robust hiring processes.
- If you’re a Community Manager, I’ll look at projects & communities you’re involved in, by taking a look at those Discords and see how they’ve been managed.
- If you’re a Business Developer, you need to have a willingness to network, to build relationships with partners. When you network, you’re forming partnerships not just to source new partners, but also there to build relationships with partners who have already been sourced.
Final Thoughts & Advice
My litmus test to decide if I want to hire someone is whether this person is a teammate whom I can live and die with, on a day-to-day basis.
Be aligned with whatever the company is trying to build, as well as the values that they stand by, because will get you through tough times, despite volatility in the markets.
And open with your hiring manager as well on where you’re trying to go, so you can be aligned on your personal development and your place in the project.
Questions by Listeners
From @Yordan Iliev: Most people don’t know what NFTs are, they don’t know what they’re doing in when trading crypto. What’s the next stage beyond the hype and speculation?
I completely agree. Most people can’t explain NFTs well. Most people perceive NFTs as art only, when there’s a lot more to it. But there’s a lot more to it than a security and for people to flip and earn money. It’s being masqueraded as something a lot more noble.
For example, if I ask a GameFi professional what does a token do and what is the utility behind a token, or game NFT, a lot of the time I find that they cannot explain. They don’t fully understand it.
When I explain to VCs as well, similarly it’s hard to find a VC who really understands what problem you’re trying to solve, what your solutions are, what challenges lie ahead, what exactly is your value proposition. It takes a lot of effort to actually explain these things.
I think most people buy crypto not as money to be used as the digital currency of the future, but to be collected as a security, as a stock that they would actually convert back into fiat.
From Able A: Jack Dorsey seems to be against Web3 because Web3 companies are not decentralised today, and is proposing Web5 – a fusion of Web3 and Web2. Thoughts about this?
I hear a lot of people chatting about it, and to be honest. I didn’t read too much about it. But personally, whenever I hear something that sounds absolutely amazing, that it’ll revolutionise everything, I always take it with a pinch of salt and do a lot of research first.
Web3 definitely has its downfalls, and it’s still in it’s very early days. I’m not sure what Jack’s beef is with Web3, but definitely understand that he’s a Bitcoin maximalist. And people with this mindset tend to discard other ideas no matter how much value they have.
Anyone who’s big with a large audience following like Jack Dorsey, I always take their opinions with a pinch of salt because you really don’t know what their intentions are. Hope it works out to be cool, and I’ll probably read more about it too.
For me, I actually saw his slides. I think he’s right. Web3 is not decentralised. It revolves around platforms like Coinbase and Opensea.
Consensus mechanisms like PoW, PoS, still largely benefit those who come on very early on, and gives them a lot of power in the infrastructure.
Just off the top of my head from what I remember, it seems to me that Jack Dorsey is trying to resolve the problem by creating another platform that would facilitate the creation of dApps that would allow users to store and control the data themselves.
So, instead of them being centralised in the companies, it would be decentralised identifiers or verifiable credentials, as well as decentralised web nodes which is very similar to the blockchain.
I think what’s being highlighted by him is that you can port those apps like how you install apps on your computer, but there are portable versions of them. So you can identify yourself on a number of applications without relying on multiple logins. And these apps have access to your data across all the entire ecosystem.
So, it sounds to me like a creation of more platforms rather than creating something on one platform.
But I think it’s very hard for anyone to assess what the value proposition is, just based on those slides. I don’t see the business case, I don’t see the long-term scaling potential is, how they would make a profit.
A hot button topic right now is how eco-friendly it is, how much energy output there is. Web3 is moving towards carbon-neutral solutions like Immutable X, whereby the gas fees and ecological impacts are very negligible.