In this episode of the Finding Career Zen podcast, special guest Rob Paone joins Pete Newsome to share his journey into the staffing side of cryptocurrency.
Rob discovered cryptocurrency in December 2013 but became temporarily uninterested when the market tanked. The crypto industry tends to move in cycles, so when prices began to increase again in 2017, Rob committed himself that he wouldn’t walk away again when the inevitable occurs. Like many in this space, Rob believes in the long-term viability of the cryptocurrency space and ultimately bet his career on it.
In 2019, Rob Paone founded Proof of Talent, a recruiting agency focused on career opportunities in the cryptocurrency and blockchain industries. He explains each of these systems and offers several resources for those interested in learning more after today’s episode. Rob also shares advice to those interested in entering the crypto space and discusses careers with the biggest need in the industry.
Whether you’re interested in learning more about crypto or wondering how to turn your passion for crypto into a career, you will want to tune in!
Advice for those interested in entering the crypto space:
- Do as well as you can in school, but build up experience outside of the classroom. If you are interested in crypto, figure out what is most interesting to you and hack around as much as possible.
- Most times, the crypto industry doesn’t care who you are or your background. Thanks to technology, you don’t always need to go to college to have a good career. You can be successful if you have the talent and are willing to put in the work.
- Determine your current skill set and how it could match up with an opportunity within the industry. You need to have value to add to an organization, so work to build up a complementary skill set.
- Build up your crypto-specific knowledge base as much as possible. You don’t have to be an expert, as nobody is, but as strong as you possibly can be through research and education.
- Indicate your interest on LinkedIn. Crypto keywords are always helpful to be found. Add a sentence or two to your bio to help your overall discoverability.
- Get on Twitter and start interacting with people. This is a great place to network and people have been hired based solely on their accounts and contributions to Twitter.
- Top 12 trending cryptocurrency jobs you should explore
- Chasing your passion: tips for switching career paths
- Career guides
- How to optimize your LinkedIn profile
Pete Newsome 00:00
You’re listening to the Finding Career Zen Podcast. I’m your host Pete Newsome. And my guest today is Rob Paone, CEO of Proof of Talent, the company he founded in 2019. Rob, thanks for joining, how are you today?
Rob Paone 00:12
I’m doing great. I’m doing great.
Pete Newsome 00:14
So I love the company name. As someone who was a fan of the cryptocurrency space, it means a lot more to me than it does probably to those who were hearing it for the first time. So I want to understand how you started the company. But maybe you can explain what the name is and then tell that story and talk about how you came to be here.
Rob Paone 00:31
Yeah, so as far as the name goes, proof of work is the consensus mechanism that runs the Bitcoin algorithm. And now there’s proof of stake as well. And I wanted to start a recruiting company.
Rob Paone 00:47
And I wanted it to mean something specific for the crypto industry, but I also didn’t want it to sound so crypto-specific that if you didn’t know what proof of if you didn’t know a proof of work, man and you heard the name proof of talent, you might still be like, Oh, okay, that sounds normal, even if you didn’t put two and two together.
Rob Paone 01:06
So, proof of work proof of talent. We are recruiting firm that sources talent and works with talent within the blockchain and crypto industry. So that’s, that was how the story came to be.
Pete Newsome 01:19
It’s a great name. It’s pure. Brilliant. I have to tell you, so I commend you for it. And I’ll ask you to explain a little bit further about those. So you know, I think those of us who are familiar with the blockchain and with cryptocurrency tend at times to take things for granted that others really know.
Pete Newsome 01:38
But I don’t know if you have a thought on this. But I think most people really are neophytes in the space and just learning. So if you wouldn’t mind expounding a little bit and explaining the difference between cryptocurrency and blockchain and how they work together, that would be very helpful.
Rob Paone 01:54
Yeah, sure. So, for many, for much of the industry, Blockchain is the technology, or basically, it’s the technology that underpins the industry as a whole. So, Bitcoin has its own blockchain, and then Bitcoin, or BTC, is also the asset that is traded. So a lot of times, you’ll see the price of Bitcoin reference or the same thing with Aetherium Aetherium has eath. That is the asset that has a value which is maybe $1,300.
Rob Paone 02:21
Right now, there is also the Ethereum blockchain, which is the technology that underpins and drives that network. And there is some differentiation, you can have blockchain technology without the assets, which some companies have built, like the IBM’s of the world, have had been trying to build those with varying levels of success.
Rob Paone 02:43
But the public blockchain such as Bitcoin, such as a theory, maybe such as Solana, that’s those are some of the more popular ones that you might see. And they have basically technology and they have an asset tied to them as well.
Pete Newsome 02:58
Perfect. I really appreciate that. There’s such a necessary learning curve. And I’ve been following the space for about four years now. But I still feel like there’s so much to learn. When did you first get into cryptocurrency?
Rob Paone 03:12
I got into cryptocurrency in December of 2013. I joke around that I bought the top of the one cycle at least. So I got into crypto in December 2013, I saw an article about Dogecoin. And it had launched maybe two weeks prior to that. And I kind of skipped over Bitcoin and I started to learn about Bitcoin, but I started mining Dogecoin and mining Bitcoin in December 2013, January 2014.
Rob Paone 03:38
And when I got interested in Bitcoin, the coin was maybe $1,000 At the time, and then it collapsed 80% to $200. And essentially stayed there for two, two and a half years. And admittedly I lost interest. And the industry kind of did what it does. And it had a three four year cycle and it came back in 2016 2017.
Rob Paone 03:59
And I started getting interested again in it again. And when that happens, I told myself I’m not going to waste another two, three years of not paying attention because I would have done a lot better off if I had paid attention to the industry rather than than walking away. So I’ve really been been in it in it since 2017. Till you know up until now and I I don’t plan on leaving so we’ll see where that takes me.
Pete Newsome 04:24
I see this a lot on Bitcoin Twitter, where everyone has that moment where they were first introduced to it and they disregarded it. I remember my moment. It were a friend on the beach was telling me about about this new technology and I needed to hurry and get into it.
Pete Newsome 04:41
And of course at the time I was pretty dismissive of the whole thing. And I looked back and that was about six years ago now and like everyone else I add up how much money I’d have if I if I’d gone all in then but easier said than done right? And it’s still a very volatile space and I think with that, you know, scares a lot of people off. I mean, what do you say to those people, because I feel like it’s one of those things where the more you know, the more comfortable you become with the volatility, but that’s hard for an outsider.
Rob Paone 05:14
Yeah, the volatility is tough to stomach for a lot of people, especially those that have just gotten into the space. And since the, we’re in the midst of another one of those cycles now, where Bitcoin and a lot of other cryptocurrencies that have been around for however long, Bitcoin topped out at around 65, close to $70,000, and is trading sub $20,000. Again, and that happened over the course of the past year.
Rob Paone 05:41
So, and a lot of other cryptocurrencies credit, frankly, right now are a lot worse, they’re down 7080 90%. So if this is the first time around for somebody, it can be, you know, it can be very difficult to to, I guess, stomach that and to deal with it.
Rob Paone 05:57
That said, I do think that the industry does tend to move in cycles, and has traditionally shown that, and I think we’re in the midst of another one granted this time around, thank the entire economy and, and technology, especially the technology sector, as a whole has really seen similar performance, unfortunately.
Rob Paone 06:18
But that said, I kind of view a lot of cryptocurrency, or a lot of the companies and projects within the crypto space, especially that have an asset attached to them.
Rob Paone 06:30
They’re almost like startups that are trading on public markets 24/7 365. And if you can think about some of the startups that have been around and eventually go public, it’s like if they were trading on the New York Stock Exchange within the first year of their existence, and that has its pluses.
Rob Paone 06:47
And that definitely has its minuses. And right now, when things are down, 70 80% certainly feels like a negative portion of that time. But for me, I try and look at the long term of these things.
Rob Paone 06:59
And I see just an increasing digitization of the world. And I think that there are a lot of points that that goes to show, there are some some issues with, with how we do things as as a society, and I don’t think crypto and blockchain as a whole is is the you know, the end all be all of this is going to make the world 100% better.
Rob Paone 07:20
But I do think it’s going to have a place in that. So that’s a big portion of why I really wanted to kind of bet my career on this as a whole.
Pete Newsome 07:30
Well, you’re not alone. And you’re not the only one betting big in the space. And to me that that’s where the comfort comes from is when you see nation states spending, you know, a lot of energy and effort on on the future of cryptocurrency and companies with vast resources, spending their dollars and their time and effort developing in that space. So I’m sure you knew that was going on, when you decided to really focus on that area.
Pete Newsome 08:02
So let’s talk about that for a minute. You know, what, what do you see right now, in terms of what kind of companies are hiring that space? Is it just the biggest companies is SMBs as well, you know, who’s who is looking for, for help in the blockchain space right now?
Rob Paone 08:19
Yeah, so proof of talent, we say primarily focus on small to mid sized startups is somewhat been our bread and butter. So this might be a little bit slanted towards that. Because there are also large companies that are hiring pretty significantly. At this point in time.
Rob Paone 08:37
There are a number of banks and there are a number of large technology companies and consulting firms that are building out some type of blockchain practice or infrastructure or trying to kind of develop deeper support within this industry. That said, we have tended to focus mostly on on venture backed startups that are typically developing some type of blockchain infrastructure.
Rob Paone 09:03
They also might be, it could be more on the fun side, so they could be trading the asset, they could be investing in the space, it really depends. But say the average company that we approve of talent work with is usually between like, five and 150 employees. And so that’s where the bulk of my experience lies, as far as the types of companies that are hiring. That said, it does extend much beyond that in terms of larger companies, both larger players within the specific crypto space.
Rob Paone 09:35
And I suspect that a lot of those jobs are virtual in nature, with the way the industry is heading the way that the markets heading as a whole.
Rob Paone 09:35
But also there are a number of like the traditional players out there too, that have looked at the growth within the industry and said, We want to be a part of that. And we want to supplement our growth with that. So I think both large and small companies hire for sure at this point in time it’s it’s really just a matter for the individuals looking it’s what their preferences in many cases.
Rob Paone 10:07
Yeah, we work with quite a quite a number of remote focused roles, most of the time, I would say, it just has to be in the right time zone or close enough to the right timezone. Sometimes somebody is, is in Asia and the majority of the companies in the US, that might be an issue for somebody or vice versa. That said, most of the companies we work with are are remote or remote first.
Rob Paone 10:34
And there are some companies that are still headquartered in New York, or San Francisco or Miami and maybe Austin, but most I would say are remote because it gives them the best access to talent, which I personally agree with that said, If a company wants to have a headquarters more power to him, I think it makes your life more difficult. But it’s neither here nor there, I suppose.
Pete Newsome 10:54
How have you want to go on a couple of different in a couple of different directions from what you just said. But how have you seen that change? Since COVID? I’m in Florida, most of our clients are in the southeast. And we’ve seen a big shift, but not not everyone is taken advantage of technology and the ability to work remotely. What about your client base? Have you seen a change since COVID?
Rob Paone 11:17
I don’t know if I would say there was a mess older, there was a massive change. That said, I think the crypto industry, I believe as a whole was was one of the better equipped industries to deal with things when COVID hit. And what I mean by that is, no Bitcoin was started in 2009, the vast majority of large or medium sized crypto companies now, they weren’t even founded until maybe 2015 2016 2017, even later.
Rob Paone 11:48
So these companies are brand new, they have all the latest infrastructure, they have all the latest technologies, most of the time, their employees are relatively young as well. And so with that said, I think these are companies that are kind of like born in the cloud. And they’re not very, they don’t have a lot of tech debt, they don’t have a lot of input.
Rob Paone 12:09
They don’t have Office phones and desktop computers at the office or anything like that. So that said, I feel like it was very easy for a lot of these companies that were in the office to just say, alright, come in, get your laptop and go and we’re we’re moving like we’re, we already had slack, we already had zoom, it’s not a big deal. And I think the biggest just conversation beyond that was when do we want to stay remote first?
Rob Paone 12:32
Or do we want to have to, we still want to try and bring people back into an office and some companies did. And some companies didn’t. And Coinbase, for example, like one of the largest companies in the space. They had a headquarters in San Francisco. And I think they still do have a headquarters in San Francisco and a variety of offices. But they went fully they went remote, essentially.
Rob Paone 12:55
And it was it was a choice that they made. And some other companies did the same thing. And then some companies double down on on the office. So that said, I do think it was a very easy transition for most companies in comparison to let’s say, a traditional finance. If you’re JP Morgan, or whoever, and you have all this infrastructure in the office. I think that took a lot more time for these those people to move then then the crypto industry did.
Pete Newsome 13:19
Yeah, I think it makes it a more of a real estate decision as much as anything else. If you’ve made that big investment. We’ll see if Elon Musk ends up buying Twitter, it seems like last, the last I’ve read it looks like he may end up with it in the very near future. But and I know he’s commented on the the big headquarters that they have that I don’t know what the price was invested in. But it’s massive. And it’s really hard to justify.
Pete Newsome 13:47
We didn’t go back to the office, a lot of our clients haven’t gone back, I find it. It’s gotta be fun in the startup space where you are where you can actually weigh in on those things. Do you get a chance to give that advice to companies looking to hire?
Rob Paone 14:00
We do generally. My advice is that if you want to have a headquarters, you want to have an office great. But I do think that you get significantly better access to talent, if you are open at the very least if you’re open to remote talent just because there’s a lot of debate about the the efficiency of remote employees and the ability to manage them and collaboration, all that type of stuff and and that very mate that may very well be true.
Rob Paone 14:30
That said you are limiting yourself to employees within a 30 mile range. And if you think that just by doing so whether it’s even if it’s New York City or San Francisco, I think that you open yourself up especially in an industry that is pretty hyper specific and for very specific or niche roles. It becomes almost a liability to not have an openness to remote candidates.
Rob Paone 14:58
But again, if If you if you start your own company, if you’re the CEO of the company, if you want to have an office, then that’s that’s on you. So whatever our clients tell us that they want to do, ultimately, that’s what we have to do. But I do think at least having an option for remote employees is is really helpful in the recruiting space.
Pete Newsome 15:17
It goes without saying limit your candidate pool. Right? I mean, that’s, that’s a choice I think you’re referring to. And if you want only local candidates, well, then then that’s the size of your pool. I’m personally hoping and I don’t know if you have a thought on this, that blockchain technology will evolve in such a way that it gives us access to the world as our candidate pool. You mentioned that a little bit earlier.
Pete Newsome 15:40
There’s a lot of restrictions on legal restrictions when it comes to taxes and country by country, what needs to be done. But I don’t know if that’s too off topic. But have you thought about how blockchain can enable that? Are you seeing that out there yet, with companies working on that? Because I think it needs to happen. I’d love to see it happen.
Rob Paone 15:58
Yeah, there’s there’s some interesting things that I think happened with stable coins. And that’s always been one of the big avenues in which its value propositions for for crypto as a whole has been remittances. And so I guess, you know, you can kind of, say, as a corollary of remittances, you could even just say, paying international employees, or we in a lot of cases, now take invoices for placement fees in stable coins.
Rob Paone 16:24
So USDC, kind of being one of the more prominent stable coins, somebody doesn’t have a bank account yet, or whatever they can send USDC to us, and we’ll take that happily. That said, I think there are some other companies doing cool work in that as well. I haven’t actually worked with them specifically, because we don’t have any international employees approved talent, but DL D, or D with two E’s. And then L. They have a like system where you can basically it’s kind of like a Justworks, or gusto.
Rob Paone 16:57
But for international employees, and I think they do a little bit with crypto there, too. I’m not 100% sure what they might do with it, but kind of allows you to hire somebody in almost any country in the world and pay them easily no matter where your headquarters is. So there’s some outside of just blockchain check. There’s some cool things in that arena as well.
Pete Newsome 17:14
Good, we need it, we need it. But on that point, can you can you talk for a minute just again, I know we’re talking about a lot of different things that are more crypto and blockchain in that area versus versus proof of talent in particular, but I think, for your company, hopefully, you’d agree that your for your company to ultimately strive, adoption, and familiarity really needs to continue to ramp and we we both clearly think it will. But I still think it’s we’re in the very early stage of just knowledge and awareness.
Pete Newsome 17:47
So when you what are some use cases that you see companies doing? Everyone kind of knows about DOS, for better or worse? Usually, I’m I spend those conversations. Yeah, trying to differentiate between those and other cryptocurrencies in the space is all but what are some of the practical use cases you see for blockchain that companies are doing and that may interest employees who want to gravitate towards that area?
Rob Paone 18:17
Yeah, there are, I think quite a few. I think the biggest one still, if we’re being honest, is speculation. It, like you said Doge is basically a, an asset that is, has value due to speculation and has pretty significant amount of value still to this day, which is pretty funny. And you can make that argument across the industry and whether or not that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It happens.
Rob Paone 18:42
And I think in the traditional markets as well, but I think speculation is still, for better or for worse, that is still one of the main use cases at this point in time. And I think that becomes maybe less and less over time, but still a huge use case. That said, I think you have other avenues in which there is value and I think the value prop of some of these things changes over time for Bitcoin in particular, it was the part of the reason that ran so crazy in in 2020 2021 Was this Treasury diversification asset, which you saw a Tesla you saw with MicroStrategy and just a different avenue to hold your wealth in outside of USD and of that digital gold.
Rob Paone 19:23
So I think that’s on the Bitcoin side of the house and people might have different views on on that that said outside of that, I think there’s a lot of other things that are happening that are interesting with a variety of of layer one blockchains out there, such as Aetherium, such as Solana such as even polygon which I guess is kind of a layer one or layer two, but you have d phi, which is decentralized finance and there’s different ways in which there’s kind of a dis intermediation of trading.
Rob Paone 19:53
So, exchanges such as uniswap, which are I want to say democratizing exchange Just but it’s a really interesting way, utilizing smart contracts. And FTS are another thing that have become incredibly popular. And even over the last week or so Reddit, which is obviously a huge website, they’ve started to integrate NF T’s into their avatars.
Rob Paone 20:15
And that’s just caught fire amongst their user base, which has been really interesting to see and how they’ve abstracted the, it’s built on Polygon, which is kind of a layer two, for a theory and kind of a faster, cheaper version of Aetherium, in some in a very simple sense.
Rob Paone 20:31
And that’s become very popular. And, and so that’s been really interesting to see, you have things such as music nfts, which are which are really kind of interesting to watch, there’s one of the cool things I like about the crypto industry as a whole now versus let’s say, five years ago, or longer, or even a few, maybe three years ago, is that there’s all these different sub sectors to the industry, where depending upon what interests you, as an individual, like if you’re, if you’re interested in traditional finance, there is there’s Defy.
Rob Paone 21:05
If you are more of an let’s just say an artistic person, and FTS or specific NF T’s might be really interesting to you, if you really like music, there are now these music NFT and all these different ways of how, basically these companies are trying to replace a Spotify or an apple and how artists get paid.
Rob Paone 21:24
There’s just all these different kind of subsets of the industry that were really, frankly not available four or five years ago, and it makes it so that you might like Bitcoin. And that’s great, but somebody else might not have any interest in what they would consider to be hard money and the principles and the properties behind bitcoin.
Rob Paone 21:44
But if you’re an artsy person, and you like NF T’s, hey, here’s here’s something for you. So there’s a lot of different avenues right now in the industry that I think is cool, just because it appeals to such a wider group of people than then it did a few years ago.
Pete Newsome 21:57
There’s so much, I mean, just just just listening to what you just said. And everything you mentioned is familiar to me. But a lot of people are you are hearing these things for the first time still. Where do you go? I mean, is there what resources would you recommend? I’d love to link anything you think would be a good idea. I know my sources, which I’ve gone to heavily over the years, but do you have anything like kind of a 101? resource to get your feet wet?
Rob Paone 22:27
Yeah, it’s a good question. And it’s something I asked people a lot to just to hear what they what they say, because quite frankly, there is an information overload within the industry, especially if it’s something you’re following on a day to day level, if you don’t know where to look, and it can definitely get overwhelming.
Rob Paone 22:46
That said, for daily information, places like coin desk, the block, and block works are some of the I would say better like news sites, if you’re just trying to keep up with the you know, the day to day. If you’re looking for specific projects, or prices, something like coin Gecko or masari is really good. And there are countless podcasts out there in the space that talk. A lot of them have specific topics that they’ll cover.
Rob Paone 23:16
So like Peter McCormick, and what Bitcoin did very Bitcoin focused podcast, that’s great if that’s something you’re interested in bank lists is another one that is much more theory and focused and talking about the different technologies and use cases that are being built on Aetherium and involving Aetherium. So if you have specific types of of an interest that then there’s probably a podcast or YouTube channel out there for you. It’s always good to try and just check the sources though, because there’s a lot of bad information out there quite free.
Pete Newsome 23:46
There’s some there’s some wild stuff out there, that’s for sure. I’m personally a big fan of Lex Friedman’s podcast, I don’t know if you listen to him at all. But he goes, he they’re long interviews. So he has the opportunity to go really deep. And I think that’s really what caught my interest.
Pete Newsome 24:02
First was a couple of those podcasts with some really intelligent people who did a great job of explaining what you know, what’s going on and what the future looks like, and really why it’s so necessary. So those are good resources, we’ll link those for sure. Let’s talk about jobs, since that’s really what we’re here to do otherwise, keep fascinating questions all day long. from an education standpoint, for folks who who are interested in the space and aren’t yet in it, what are some of the roles that are just natural to move into you know, I’m sure it jobs right.
Pete Newsome 24:39
So if there’s anything beyond that, I’d love to know your thoughts on that too. But what are the some of the skills and background that are really just a natural path to get into the kind of jobs that you staff and recruit for?
Rob Paone 24:52
Yeah, absolutely. So it’s good question and to that point, like you said, it so software engineering is One of the biggest needs in this space. So if you are an engineer and you have interest in the crypto industry, you’re in luck because you’re a good engineer, you’ll be able to really have a have your pick of of opportunities based upon what interests you and think there’s hiring from an engineering standpoint across kind of all levels. And it’s not just blockchain specific technology.
Rob Paone 25:21
So if you are just a classically trained back end, or full stack, or front end Dev, or DevOps, or site reliability engineer, kind of you name it, there are opportunities there. And then if you happen to be more into the weeds on some of the crypto stuff, let’s say solidity engineer that’s focused on Aetherium, smart contracts, obviously, you know, you’ll have some opportunities. That said, on the non technical side, there’s definitely quite a bit of hiring avenues in which you can find a role in that side of the house.
Rob Paone 25:49
So product is is a big deal. A lot of product managers, product marketing managers, marketing as a whole operations, legal compliance, sales and bizdev. The way I would somewhat think about it is if there is a role at either like a tech company or at a finance company, there’s probably a logical transition to that within the crypto space, because in a lot of ways, crypto is kind of like a mash up between tech and finance. Some companies are more focused on the tech side, some companies are more focused on the finance side.
Rob Paone 26:22
But if there’s a job available at either a traditional tech company or a traditional finance company, there’s probably the same job that’s available within the crypto industry as well.
Pete Newsome 26:32
Perfect. That’s great. Now how much experience of those companies generally look for in the space, specifically, versus just being good, you know, within your area of expertise.
Rob Paone 26:44
So some companies require previous experience within the industry and or for specific roles, and some do not. And it definitely is a role specific thing. Obviously, there’s only so many people that have experienced within the crypto industry already, because we’ve only been around for as an industry for so long.
Rob Paone 27:03
So for some roles, it does make sense where let’s say you’re a salesperson, and this is a relatively new company, they want somebody to come in and step in, and have a book of business that they know what’s going on. Or alternatively for a solidity engineer, they want somebody who’s worked on smart contracts that are already live within Aetherium space. And so those require crypto experience that said, for example, somebody might want a product manager, but they don’t need any any specific crypto experience.
Rob Paone 27:37
They just want somebody who’s a, you know, is a really good product manager, or they want a DevOps engineer doesn’t need crypto experience, but they just want somebody who has a really strong experience with Kubernetes and Docker. And needs that. So it depends upon on what skill set that they’re hiring for. It’s it’s not, I guess it’s, it’s not an exact split there.
Rob Paone 27:59
In terms of how often one is the case over the other, the one thing I would say is that a lot of companies, what I usually see is that from like an overall experience, professional experience level, a lot of organizations typically tend to look for somebody with at least like let’s say three years of experience, professionally, sometimes a little bit more.
Rob Paone 28:21
But especially for the smaller organizations, when you’re talking about a small five or 10 person company or even a little bit above that, many times, they just don’t have the infrastructure in place yet to train somebody who’s very junior. So because of that, they are looking to hire somebody who has a smaller or who has a quicker ramp up period, who has a little bit more professional experience, who once they get in seat, they can somewhat hit the ground running without needing to be trained as a professional in general.
Rob Paone 28:51
And so that tends to be less of the case, as you go up market in the crypto space, as you start to talk about the coin bases of the world where they have the infrastructure and the training, and all that type of of process in place to bring on you know, new grads or anybody like that.
Pete Newsome 29:06
So alright, you mentioned new grads, I happen to have a junior in college who is is a computer science major if you if you could go back or if you were given advice on someone that age now what what would you tell them to focus on based on where you think everything’s going?
Rob Paone 29:21
So I would say to do as well in school as you can learn as much as you can in school, but also try and figure out what interests you and if you are interested in the crypto space in general, I would try to figure out what is most interesting to you.
Rob Paone 29:35
And I would try to build up some experience outside of outside of the classroom. So I think this is the easiest transition and easiest process for engineers versus other like somebody in marketing or in sales, but the crypto industry as a whole is very much built on open source technology.
Rob Paone 29:55
So Bitcoin is an open source technology. A theory is open source. There are all these projects In addition to Bitcoin and Aetherium, that are open source technology in which if you want to contribute, if you want to get involved, you can do so you don’t need to be employed by this company or anything like that.
Rob Paone 30:12
So because it’s open source, if you are an engineer, and you’re quite frankly, good engineer, or even if you’re not so good, and you’re just learning, you can get involved at a very early stage and build up a was just your kind of like digital resume digital footprint, whether it’s GitHub or anywhere else.
Rob Paone 30:29
So I would say on that front, it’s trying to pick those things that are interesting to you, and try to just hack around as much as possible. Whether that is just in your spare time, there’s a bunch of different hackathons that are sponsored with like really good cash as well, which are probably a pretty good side hustle for somebody in college who’s looking to make a little bit of extra money as well.
Rob Paone 30:50
But yeah, I would say to get involved as much as possible and find out what interests you, because that might help you to skip that couple, let’s say two or three years. And this is this is kind of jumping off. But I this question, but I think one of the one of the interesting and great things about the crypto industry as a whole, and there’s a lot of things I like about it.
Rob Paone 31:14
But I think that there are, no matter who you are, if you’re good at your job, if you’re good at what you do in particular, most of the time, and I’ll say most of the time, but most of the time, the industry doesn’t care like who you are, what your background is anything about that, like you can be a high school student.
Rob Paone 31:34
But if you’re a good engineer, there are kids that are I’ve seen get hired at all some of these multibillion dollar startups in this space that are 14 years old. And they’re just these like brilliant engineers, and they don’t care like this kid come in for the summer, come work with us. And I think that that is less of the case elsewhere. In less of the case, in other industries, where even to go further, there’s a concept of anonymity within the crypto space.
Rob Paone 32:06
And there are people that are don’t have their public persona out there. And there are companies that are happy to hire somebody who is either fully anonymous or somewhat anonymous behind the scenes, because they just respect the quality of work that they do. versus more. So all right, I need this to person to fit this exact box. And I want them to have this background. It’s like this person is good at their job. I don’t care who they are, I don’t care anything like I just want them here.
Pete Newsome 32:29
So well I mean, that’s I really, like you said that we just met today. But if we will get to know each other better. And you’ll find that I’m someone who believes that college is not necessarily the way to go. For a lot of people, you know, we sort of I was taught that growing up my generation, I’m 51, it was sort of a given that you were supposed to go to college, after high school.
Pete Newsome 32:53
And that was a path to you know, having a good career. But today, I think it’s very different. I think technology is enabled that and if you are willing to put in the work, and you have the talent, as you said, no, no pun intended, then you you would, you know, you can succeed and you can thrive and no one’s gonna hold you back. Right? It’s gonna care what your degree is, or where you went to school, if you can outperform someone else and, and deliver. So I’m really glad you brought that up.
Pete Newsome 33:20
Because I think young people in particular, and that’s who a lot of our audience we’re trying to get the word out to it with zengig is hey, you don’t have to follow a traditional path. You don’t have to, to do your parents what your parents or friends and neighbors or family are telling you to do. You can chart your own course. And it sounds like that’s what you’re suggesting as well.
Rob Paone 33:44
Yeah, I think the the industry as a whole is so young. And I think that there are a lot of appealing aspects about the industry to many people. And I think that’s even one of the things that is so cool that recruiting in this space is that I haven’t recruited in my first job out of college as a recruiter. And it’s been 10 years since I worked at that job. And there wasn’t a whole lot of passion in that part. It was General IT staffing.
Rob Paone 34:11
And that not that there’s anything wrong with that. But there wasn’t a whole lot of passion behind talking to people and the individuals doing what they were doing. They were just kind of showing up there collecting a paycheck. And granted that’s that’s the light for a lot of people. That’s not a bad thing. However, there are people that love the crypto industry, and it’s almost like an intoxicating space to be in it moves so quick.
Rob Paone 34:34
There’s so many things that happen for better or for worse, there’s a lot of opportunity within the space is fast moving, it is still in many cases, brand new, and the things we’re building are very novel and new. And because of that people are like genuinely excited. And I think that there’s not not to say that is not true in any industry out there. But I think it’s probably one of the fewer people will really get up and are jacked up to be a part of, of the space.
Rob Paone 35:05
And I think that that is is really an enjoyable aspect of things and us like every day just talking to candidates and talking to clients in the space. Like you, you see it and you feel it even when things are down 70% from from all time highs or anything like that people are still excited, and they’re ready to go. And they want to work in the space. And and that is that’s exciting and inspiring to see.
Pete Newsome 35:30
Yeah, I can’t articulate why. And I will tell you my wife doesn’t necessarily share this sentiment when when I talked to her about where our investments are in the in the crypto space right now. But it doesn’t bother me in the slightest it I wish, of course that the prices were up. But it I have no bad feeling over I have no concern over it because my conviction is so strong and I and you feel that energy for people who are involved in the space.
Pete Newsome 35:57
So to get to recruit for that every day I can I have to imagine that. It’s exactly as you described, you get up excited, because every one is going to do something new. And to break new ground, which is hard to come by with a lot of jobs, as you know, from your past and recruiting. If someone wants to explore the space, where do they start? How do they contact your team? What’s kind of the first step and in finding out what kind of jobs are out there and where they fit into into all of this?
Rob Paone 36:29
Yeah, absolutely. So if they want to contact our team, our website proof of talent Dotco, we have a submit your resume form and you can feel free to reach out to us there any point in time of a seven shouldn’t be eight recruiters and our team. So happy to reach out. That said outside of just like generally, that side of the house, I think one of the things that you really want to do if you’re interested in the industry is trying to figure out the path to get into this space, and what skill set you have currently that matches up with an opportunity within the industry.
Rob Paone 37:01
And so a lot of times the advice that I will provide to people that are interested in this space is trying to build up a complementary skill set outside of the industry, because some people will come to come to me or they’ll reach out and they’ll say, hey, I really want to get a job in crypto, but not good at anything. That’s a tough sell to a company. If you are if you don’t have any value to add to an organization, it’s tough.
Rob Paone 37:27
So you need to be good at something. So figure out what it is. And for a lot of people, it’s somewhat of an easy process, you might be in sales, you might be in marketing, you might be an engineer, what path is there for you to get into the industry from that point in time. And so because of that, I would say just trying to figure out that, that journey for you. And doing two things with that.
Rob Paone 37:50
So a just building up that complementary skill set to be as strong as you possibly can. So just being the best salesperson being the best marketer being the best engineer that you can be outside of the crypto industry. And then in addition to that, I would try to build up your crypto specific knowledge base as much as you can. And you don’t have to be an expert because quite frankly, nobody is really an expert.
Rob Paone 38:13
That said, I think you want to have something in particular that you like talking about that you find fascinating because in an interview, many times what will happen is that somebody will talk about an opportunity, they will. They’ll basically you’ll have an interviewer who will ask a interviewee, hey, what about the crypto space is interesting to you?
Rob Paone 38:37
And somebody might say, oh, well, I’ve invested in a coin or two. And I think that that is is cool. That’s not a great answer. If somebody asks you, hey, what do you find out interesting in this space, you want to have a specific topic that you actually like and can talk about. And you can talk about that for five minutes, or 10 minutes or 15 minutes, and you can have a little bit of back and forth. And you can just show that you’ve done your 60 minutes, couple hours of research and that you are well versed in this subject.
Rob Paone 39:05
So I would say those are really just the two things is trying to a build up that complementary skill set when you can and where you can and then be trying to supplement that with some crypto specific knowledge. And again, you don’t have to be an expert just enough to be dangerous.
Pete Newsome 39:23
I’m glad you clarified that. And so I’ll go back and say, you know, make no mistake Rob Rob and his team at proof of talent or that there to find jobs for anyone who wants to get into the crypto space. It’s actually the opposite, right? You find people for jobs.
Pete Newsome 39:38
I think one of the things, too, in why I was asking you about what kind of background is required how much crypto or blockchain specific experiences needed is because people need to know how to be found people need to know where to apply and do you list your jobs on your website?
Rob Paone 40:00
We do not so we post them on social, but we do not always list the full, full jobs that we have on the website.
Pete Newsome 40:08
So how can someone be found if they if they are inclined, you know what, what kind of or do they? Is it really just someone who has? Has that technical experience has that knowledge? What would you how do they close that gap between not yet having the experience and making themselves available as a prospective candidate.
Rob Paone 40:28
So I would say LinkedIn is always a good spot still to this day. And I would just indicate some some level of crypto interest. I think those keywords are always helpful. So if you have any blockchain or crypto related interest, having just a sentence or two in your, in your personal bio, saying, Hey, this is something that I’m interested in, I’m passionate about. And I think that will help in terms of just overall discoverability or in your resume as well.
Rob Paone 40:52
I think that’s always good. There are a number of crypto specific job boards, if you’re trying to browse those as well. I think crypto jobs list pump crypto jobs, there are a couple off the top my head, there’s there’s probably more than a couple at this point in time. But there’s there’s a good number of crypto specific job boards.
Rob Paone 41:11
And I would say if you’re on the technical side of the house, having a GitHub that has contributions to projects within the space is hugely helpful and proves a ton of of interest. And then I would say in addition to that, a lot of the conversation in crypto happens on Twitter. So if you are somebody that has a there are a lot of people that have been hired basically on their Twitter accounts and their contributions to Twitter.
Rob Paone 41:36
And so if you are comfortable with that, if you have some interest there, I would say to to get on Twitter to start interacting with people, because it is definitely a good place to, to network as much as you can. So it’s pretty small community. Still, it is I and I think that that is one of the elements that is again, like going back to the industry being appealing. It is a small community. And I think the access is still really there.
Rob Paone 42:04
And what I mean by that is, if you are a 20 to 23 year old and you want to talk to the CEO of JPMorgan or, or Goldman, or you want to talk to, you know, Tim, at Apple or the CEO of Google, or you know, what have you, those are probably conversations that you’ll never have an opportunity to have.
Rob Paone 42:28
She’s not going to have, for the most part had said the access that you have on in the crypto space, there are CEOs of multi multi billion dollar crypto exchanges, and these companies that are interacting with people on Twitter that are responding to DMS that are they’re just so much more publicly available.
Rob Paone 42:47
And that is, I think that it’s great just in terms of access and having kind of that ability as a whole. But I think it also kind of speaks volumes to to where just like the where the industry is.
Rob Paone 43:00
And especially once you get into the industry to I think it’s always surprising to the people that work in the industry for the first time when you’re on a bizdev call with a company and you’re talking to, you know, this famous multibillionaire within the industry or something along those lines where that might not have happened until you were much, much older and much, much more experienced in a traditional industry.
Pete Newsome 43:24
I love it. I think that’s great. And I’m glad you made that point. Because that is hard to obtain in most almost every other industry, at least it come to mind. So it the opportunity to advance rapidly to jump ahead is rare. And yeah, you should take advantage of that. What about on the client side? Are you guys open to to new clients right now? And or how does a company know whether they’d be a good fit for talent?
Rob Paone 43:51
Yeah, so we are and if a company so say, 90 plus percent of our hiring is US based or US timezone based, we’re probably not as good of a fit for a company that’s building out an international workforce. At this point in time, we do a little bit of hiring in Europe and in Asia, but for the most part where US based so I would say that is one area in which we’re from just from a client standpoint, I usually kind of preface that.
Rob Paone 44:22
That said, typically we come in and start working with companies a little bit beyond the founding team. So sometimes when somebody will reach out to us with an idea, and maybe one or two people on the team and say hey, we’re hiring for a founding engineer. A lot of times that’s not the best fit because a little bit too early on maybe that company isn’t raised yet but let’s say a company has raised a seed round and they have five people on the team and maybe they have the bones of a product in place.
Rob Paone 44:50
That’s when we can start to have a conversation and and then beyond that. So usually seed series A Series B type companies are that are US based or hiring with In the US, we’ve done a lot of work with international teams building out a US office or building out a US team. So I would say that those were kind of the sweet spots for us. And we work with anybody that’s involved in the crypto space.
Rob Paone 45:12
So it could be a company building blockchain infrastructure, it could be somebody trading the asset, it could be an exchange, kind of you name it, as long as it is a company that has some element of involvement within the industry. That’s that’s kind of where we come into play.
Pete Newsome 45:28
Perfect. Awesome. So candidates, you have the answer clients, prospective clients, you have your answer, and you know how to find proof of talent. And you know, I’m just really excited to see what what happens with with you guys. I’m always excited when I see someone doing something new and innovative. And you’ve, you’ve jumped on this. And that’s, that’s, that’s easier said than done.
Pete Newsome 45:51
I have to ask, what was the catalyst if there was a for you deciding, hey, this is this is my time, because I looked at your resume. You said you started in recruiting. You work for some big organizations. And you had to take this leap. What was Was there a single catalyst that that caused that?
Rob Paone 46:09
Yeah, so I started recruiting. And then I worked in software sales for a few years at NetSuite slash Oracle, and in LinkedIn, and 2017, early 2018, I really wanted to work in a crypto space. So I left my job at Oracle and worked at a startup called airswap, which had just raised a bunch of money.
Rob Paone 46:27
And it was first time I’d ever worked at a true like tech startup. It was really, really interesting, super fun, pretty illuminating in terms of like, how that process works, and, and a lot of things around like that the tech startup world that said, kind of towards the tail end of my time, there I was maybe approaching like 29 years old.
Rob Paone 46:48
And I worked at small companies, I worked at big companies. And I kind of always felt that after a year and a half to two years, for whatever reason, I was just getting bored, for lack of a better word. And I wanted to, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, I’ve always wanted to do something and start my own company, but never really had the idea or bandwidth to do it.
Rob Paone 47:12
And had the idea of really randomly one day just driving the cars like hey, I don’t really think that there’s a a super well known recruiting company in the crypto space. There were one or two at the time. But I don’t think anybody really based in the United States. And so I talked to a couple of different people, and ended up just thinking, Alright, this idea actually has some legs. So I left my role at airswap.
Rob Paone 47:40
And for the first like six months, I just worked on that company by myself and ended up making a few placements within the industry and made enough money to hire my first employee that worked with me, and then it’s kind of snowballed ever since. And now we’re 11 people. So it’s been a bit of fun ride.
Pete Newsome 47:56
Awesome, good, good for you. Well, I remember the day when I decided to quit my job to start for corner resources. My wife was pregnant with our third child and we were in a grocery store parking lot. And I said, I think I’m going to do this and she’s like, well, just don’t be stressed. When the baby comes. I’m like, really, that is not an option. I have a lot of respect for anyone who can do that.
Pete Newsome 48:18
I know, it’s you know, the world is not necessarily supportive of that it’s much easier said than done. And you did it at a time when there was a lot of challenges with COVID hitting right after and you’re on the other side of that and the future is really bright, man i i think you know, things are gonna gonna go great based on everything I’ve seen about your company. What you’re doing and talking to you today only solidifies that so congratulations on your success so far and best wishes your a great future.
Pete Newsome 48:47
Thank you. Awesome. Well, Rob, thanks again for today. And we look forward. I’ll follow up with you, you know, as time goes on, and we’ll talk about the next evolution of blockchain. You know, a year from now, is that is that is that a deal?
Rob Paone 49:00
Sounds good to me.
Pete Newsome 49:00
Awesome. All right, man. Thanks so much. Thanks a lot.