Blockchain has been a buzzword here in Silicon Valley for a couple of years now and is now an integral part of many tech business discussions. Recently at a FinTech Silicon Valley meetup held in San Francisco, a panel of women gathered to discuss something different: the role women play in the blockchain and their experiences in the tech industry in general. The talent assembled on stage was impressive: Karen Hsu, Chief Revenue Officer of BlockCypher and co-inventor of five patents, Lily Liu, Co-founder Earn.com who also helped found China’s first international, private, mass market hospital(!), Shuonan Chen, Founding Partner IOVC/Agile VC with previous experience at Goldman Sachs and PwC, Jackie Hart, Founder ZeroPoint:Blockchain in Balance who can call upon over 20 years of project management and strategy with Fortune 500 software development projects, Audrey Chaing, Founder Blockchiang and co-founder of two companies, and of course Intertrust’s own Senior Cryptographer Vanishree Rao, a cryptographic researcher and one of the key members of the development team behind Intertrust’s own blockchain project, TIDALs.
When asked about what attracted them to blockchain/distributed ledger technology, Hsu, who has experience working in the financial industry, mentioned that since blockchain based systems could eliminate the need for financial reconciliation, it made sense to her. “It did away with SWIFT which is wasteful and expensive,” (Hsu). Rao mentioned that her initial fascination about zero-knowledge proofs brought her into the world of cryptography and then blockchain. Hart mentioned her interest was piqued by discussions of how blockchain could potentially help the unbanked and Liu said that a poker game chat with friends in China had brought her into the world of blockchain.
It was agreed that while in general there is still a shortage of women in technology and blockchain, there were some signs that things were changing. Liu mentioned that she had recently attended the Cryptosprings conference and that about 85% of the speakers were women, despite it not being a women-focused blockchain event.
To help increase the number of women involved in blockchain, the question came up of experience with mentors. Rao said that through her studies at UCLA and her previous work at PARC, she had found mentors who would take time to help even when they were busy. At Intertrust, she particularly found her interaction with our Chief Scientist Robert Tarjan insightful. “You can talk to him for five minutes and it will be an extremely dense experience,” (Rao). She mentioned that her boss, Dave Maher, Intertrust’s CTO and and Bill Horne, VP of Intertrust’s Secure Systems mentor her in her professional development. Chaing mentioned that while the numbers of women in blockchain were not so many, “the women who are in it are doing amazing work and are very supportive of each other.”
By the way, if you are interested in things blockchain and are in Rome on Monday, October 29th, Intertrust and our partner LINE will be holding our 4th LINE x Intertrust Security Summit. David Maher, Intertrust’s CTO who works with Vanishree, will be moderating a panel entitled “Breaking Through the Block Chain” that will discuss blockchain with a number of experts. One of those experts will be Marta Piekarska, Director of Ecosystem Development at the Hyperledger blockchain project. Hope to see you there!