So you want a first job in crypto? Good luck. Although the digital asset market structure is evolving and shifting to meet the needs of institutional investors, many of the companies in the space are still quite young. Very few run real graduate programs. However, many are in the process of setting them up.
A recent report from Coalition Greenwich highlights the fact that crypto covers everything from trading platforms, to prime brokerage, market making, surveillance, analytics, custody, and settlement.
We’ve included the key players identified by the report in the list below. If you’re interested in a first move into crypto, it’s worth contacting them individually. There are some familiar names like Nasdaq, as well as banks including BNY Mellon, Northern Trust, Standard Chartered and State Street; for the moment, banks offer the most obvious way in through their traditional graduate programs.
The problem is partly that pure crypto firms are growing fast, but they employ a fraction of the people that traditional finance, and they don’t need scores of graduates. Consequently, they don’t usually offer graduate programs in the traditional sense. But if you scour their websites, some, like Coinbase, offer graduate roles in programming, or in the case of Binance M&A internships. Their needs are evolving. A spokesperson for Kraken told eFinancialCareers that the crypto exchange is “in the process of expanding opportunities at Kraken for interns and recent grads.”
Broadly, though, the cryptocurrency ecosystem and decentralized finance especially are growth areas. This means that the crypto industry is looking for an increasing number of workers that specialize in various niches, including blockchain programming, software design as well as marketing and growth experts. Then there are venture capital firms which specialize in crypto investments, and they hire investment analysts.
Many roles at crypto firms require people with multiple years of work experience, creating something of a ‘Catch 22’ – as a new graduate how do you get into this industry without having a job in it already?
It can be daunting, but there’s a way in. Zeth Couceiro, founder of Plexus, a leading crypto recruitment firm, says, “the best advice for a grad looking to get a job in crypto is to upskill in Solidity, then start open-source coding on GitHub. If you can get code published, then you’re into the ecosystem.” For software engineers, resources for possible graduates include Consensys Bootcamp, Chainslot, UseWeb3, Buildspace and Web3 University .
Solidity is the programming language for developing smart contracts that run on Ethereum, and salaries for solidity engineers rose by as much as 63% to $180k during 2020, according to Plexus.
As the crypto industry becomes more mature, firms are also staring to hire more people with a traditional finance background. Couceiro says: “Our clients are starting to realize that you can hire talent with standard finance experience instead, in an attempt to avoid the ultra-high costs that comes with a candidate with DeFi experience. People working in the DeFi space need to have an understanding of lending, mathematics, and traditional finance; so pulling people from the finance space is a great way to fill these requirements without breaking the bank.”
The crypto industry is self-selecting and not for the faint-hearted. “When I started in crypto it struck me as more of a religion than an industry. The level of intellectual debate and argument is intense,” adds Couceiro.
Jesse Powell, founder and CEO of Kraken, the crypto exchange echoes this in a video interview: “For most people at Kraken, crypto is a lifestyle. Once they discover crypto they become totally immersed in it and coming to work for Kraken is a way to bond their personal interests with their professional life.”
In terms of the job itself, no two days are the same for ‘Krakenites’ because it’s a hyper-growth company. Employees are expected to have a flexible mindset and adapt the changing needs of the company. “You will see me loading the dishwasher at the office – I’m not above doing any job,” says Powell.
The Coalition Greenwich list of the top players in crypto
Order books, custody and settlement:
Custody, brokerage, fund administration and settlement solutions for crypto and tokenized assets
Fidelity Digital Assets
Trading system providers offering market access (Market and OTC), smart order routing and order and execution management:
Tagomi (part of Coinbase)
Insitutional prime brokerage services:
Liquidity and market-making services"
Building digital asset divisions, partnering with technology companies and creating joint venture crypto-custody offerings:
Crypto market surveillance and market abuse solutions for marketplaces and platforms:
Blockchain analytics, transaction monitoring and other solutions for regulators and law enforcement:
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