The Big Interview

Blockchain has ‘more freedom, but more responsibility’

Marion Vogel, the director of aeternity answers a few questions from Coin Rivet

Marion Vogel, the director of aeternity tells Coin Rivet how she made the transition from the automotive industry into blockchain after a move to the West Coast of America.

The blockchain platform is part of a movement that aims to propose decentralised, trustless alternatives to the existing governance economic and financial intermediaries.

Your background is in the automotive industry. How did you make the leap to blockchain?

I moved to San Francisco for a job in marketing and business development (for the Bavarian Ministry of Economics).

On my first day, I moved into an Airbnb hosted by Bitcoin entrepreneurs and that’s where the journey began. After moving back to Europe, I had intended to start a PhD program, but then aeternity came my way and I made the decision to join this exciting project instead.

In another interview I read, you said you didn’t feel you ever fitted in when you were in previous roles. What makes blockchain technology such a good fit for you?

I felt that I didn’t have the freedom to fully express myself and evolve my skills.

It’s harder to “make your own point” in industries that are already established, such as the automotive industry, where instead you need to tag along within the set infrastructure.

In the blockchain industry, everything is more raw and less rigid. We are in a young industry in the process of shaping itself, so you have more freedom but also more responsibility.

When I started, the regulation landscape was essentially non-existent and now we are part of shaping this landscape. This is particularly exciting to me.

Why are there so few women in blockchain?

I don’t have the golden answer for this but I think the problem may not be as bad as it seems. More and more women are joining the industry, and I see this among our team members; our female to male ratio is constantly improving.

Does it bother you that there’s a gender imbalance?

Not particularly. Coming from the automotive industry, I am used to it.

I was working in Research and Development at Porsche before, and on my team there was only myself and two other women, the rest were male.

I don’t think we should force change, but rather just actively welcome more women to the space, step by step, and the change will happen naturally.

What more can be done to make blockchain and other tech appeal to young women as a career?

It’s important to be open and welcoming. It’s as simple as that. I don’t like the idea of trying too hard to enforce a gender balance in every industry out there, some exist naturally.

Using Kindergartens as an example, we also see a gender imbalance, but the other way round. By letting the industry grow in an open and welcoming fashion, we will see more equality.

What is your company doing, in practical terms with scholarships, to bring about this change?

In the past we offered around 40 scholarships at SoftUni, Bulgaria, to bring blockchain education to the masses. However, this is just the beginning.

We are planning a grant program for R&D efforts and expanding scholarships to other universities. We see education as a great way to encourage women into the blockchain industry, providing them with the skills to compete in an industry that has been typically gender unbalanced.

Why do you feel people have been turning on one another in the crypto Twitter world?

There is constant fighting on Twitter, however, this is reflective of an industry that is still growing and maturing.

Every day something new and significant happens in blockchain, and people desire an open and free conversation about these issues.  That’s the beauty, debating on Twitter shows the youth of the industry and though sometimes things are rough, I am happy that we avail of the freedom to discuss these important issues.

What are the main benefits of blockchain technology?

Financial freedom. Have you ever had your bank account locked?

That doesn’t happen with a digital currency wallet. Other benefits are efficiency and lower costs of transactions, which are a big improvement to current systems.

Why are people so slow to embrace it? Is it the fear of the unknown?

Yes, the fear of the unknown is one important part. Also, we still have to make this technology more accessible for everyone, currently it has rather high barriers to entry.

Blockchain is a very powerful technology, people and industries but also the technology itself needs to grow into it.

Is the lack of regulation a good thing or do you believe there needs to be more regulation to improve public faith in the technology?

Initially, I think it’s a good thing, and after a few wild years regulation is now catching up quickly. At the end of the day, though, I hope that the industry won’t become over-regulated and therefore limit its positive potential.

You’ve said previously you like the chaos of blockchain. What specifically do you mean by this?

Blockchain is a colourful space that is not afraid of being different. People wearing suits are treated with scepticism, but people with blue coloured hair are giving keynotes!

We are seeing people come from all different backgrounds and we are dealing with major fails, scams and genius ideas at the same time.

It never gets boring because the next drama and the next success are always just around the corner.

Would you recommend it as a career for young women?

Absolutely! The industry is growing and all kinds of jobs are opening by the hour.

Some people are already writing off cryptocurrency as a result of the dramatic fall in its value this last few weeks. Isn’t this a little premature?

It is. This is not the first crypto winter we’ve gone through and won’t be the last. It’s business as usual, with every big hype we inevitably enter a big low- this is typical for every industry.

What do you love most about blockchain technology?

The disruptive potential. Once you go down the rabbit hole of learning about it, you get stuck with believing in utopia. I, of course, say this with a twinkle in my eye, but what could be more exciting than achieving financial inclusivity and decentralising power?

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