PR9’s Tara Annison recently sat down with Coin Rivet to discuss her illustrious career in the blockchain and crypto space.
Tara has been involved in the crypto and blockchain space for some time. She studied Mathematics and Philosophy at university, with a focus on cryptography in her final year – “I came across it from a mathematical side of things, and I just got hooked,” she notes.
“I like the idea that you could have a system without a centralised authority, and which could survive all the nefarious activities – hacking and whatnot.”
Tara is currently a product manager at PR9 – a company which is currently solving an “industry-wide problem, which is at the moment there is a trade off between security and being able to pay with crypto assets.”
“PR9 enables clients to not have to choose between this and a real-time network for the trading of assets held in cold storage.”
Prior to PR9, Tara worked at blockchain company Lendingblock. While there, she won the Women in IT Award for ‘Young Leader of the Year.’
“I was really excited to win that award,” comments Tara. “The category was filled with amazing women across technology from all different spaces.”
“For me, getting it was a really exciting opportunity to showcase some of the work I’d been doing at Lendingblock but also at HSBC.”
While working for HSBC, Tara was involved in a lot of blockchain and crypto-related work. She notes what was really interesting is that “outwardly, banks can have this perception that they’re spared of fintech generally, and certainly crypto and blockchain.”
However, her time with HSBC proved this to be false because there was “this huge appetite to learn more about it – how it affects customers, using it, needing to use it, and I think that really showed that banks are evolving to what’s going on in the marketplace.”
Last night I had the privilege of attending the Women in IT Awards and was inspired by all the amazing stories of success and achievement. Winning the 'Young Leader of the Year' category was the cherry on top of the cake for a wonderful evening! @womeninitawards #WomeninITAwards pic.twitter.com/esJ8P0NzPO
— Tara Annison (@TaraAnnison) January 31, 2019
‘I’m very used to being the only woman in the room’
Tara notes that during her time studying Mathematics at university, it was “quite male dominated”.
“I then went into banking and institutional banking, again quite male dominated. Then I came into the crypto space, so my whole career has been a male-dominated environment, so I’m very used to being the only woman in the room.”
For Tara though, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but she would definitely like to see more females in the space.
In particular, Tara would like to see more women getting speaking spots at events because “there’s loads of women in the blockchain and crypto space doing exciting things, and I think it’s about surfacing what they’re doing as well as getting new women into the space.”
This isn’t the first time Coin Rivet has been told this. Sanja Kon recently revealed how in “95-99% of cases” she is the “only female speaker at conferences”.
Tara’s personal female hero in the space, who continued to pique her interest in blockchain after university, is Everledger’s Leanne Kemp.
Everledger is focused on provenance, which for Tara is a “great application” for blockchain and a “really clear use case”.
“Everledger is one of the first companies that just shone for me. She (Kemp) then went on to diversify the business across from just diamonds to fine wine, art, and other gemstones.”
“I think she’s such a great character to have as a female spokesperson in the industry and someone who is leading the field.”
How to get more women involved in the blockchain and crypto space
Tara’s advice to get more women involved in the blockchain and crypto space is that “often people look at crypto and blockchain and think it’s super technical, that you have to be a cryptographer or a developer to understand or work in the area.”
“Actually, there’s so many roles which are non-technical. I myself am a product manager and I have vast knowledge, but that’s because I’m a nerd.”
“There’s a lot of roles people can get into which don’t require that super-technical understanding, which I think can sometimes be a little bit scary for people – men and women.”
For Tara, it’s about finding an area you’re incredibly passionate about – “It’s about finding a niche and getting people involved.”
Yesterday I was in charge of our pre-hockey fitness session, and unsurprisingly I managed to give it a crypto theme! If you're around Mile End Park in the next day or two, you might spot some crypto ticker symbols chalked on the floor – there's 25 to find #Crypto #MileEndPark pic.twitter.com/FyT2Gedwsk
— Tara Annison (@TaraAnnison) March 7, 2019
When quizzed on how she would like to see the space evolve next, Tara replied: “We need some maturity in the space.”
“We need to come out of this ICO boom and crazy investing, and I think we’re now getting into a place where people are seriously considering blockchain.”
She wants to see blockchain moved to solving problems, and from there, “we’re going to see some really interesting results”.
Tara also talks about regulation, noting: “I’m really pro-regulation. I don’t think it’s necessarily against the core of crypto, although I know some people would probably disagree with me.”
“I think we need to focus on making sure the regulation that comes in is sensible, pragmatic, and doesn’t inhibit innovation. I think that’s going to be the key over the next few years.”
This graphic was shared by @101Blockchains back in September. It shows some potential applications of blockchain tech across various industries. #Blockchain #Transformation #Industry #Crypto pic.twitter.com/fVL95GN2Qw
— Tara Annison (@TaraAnnison) March 11, 2019
‘If I’d asked my customers what they would have wanted, they would have told me a faster horse’
Another top piece of advice from Tara was a famous quote, which states: “If I’d asked my customers what they would have wanted, they would have told me a faster horse.”
“I think this is a really useful bit of advice for anyone who is working in the space or building a platform – which is always have a dialogue with your customers.”
“You need to make sure you’re innovating in a sensible way. You shouldn’t just build for the sake of it. This is something taken to heart by PR9 – we’re building a council of experts who can come in and help shape and guide the way the platform should be developed.”
“But we’re also using our expertise and knowledge of the industry to make sure we’re building a product that doesn’t just use blockchain because it’s cool.”
Last week I attended a meetup with the topic of: Quantum Computing and Bitcoin. The speaker put forward a new signature scheme – Rainbow Signature – for a Quantum Proof version of bitcoin. It was a little light on details overall but still food for thought for the PQC world pic.twitter.com/ldglH0RV0L
— Tara Annison (@TaraAnnison) January 22, 2019
‘If you’ve done something good, you’ve got to shout about it’
Tara also commented on how often people talk about women in blockchain, including the challenges, the difficulties, and the gender disparity that’s there.
However, Tara notes: “I’ve been lucky in my career so far that I haven’t found my gender to be an issue.”
“Women and guys coming into tech, if you’ve done something good, you’ve got to shout about it – you’ve got to go for awards because they can be a fantastic boost.”
Tara claims this is particularly true when you’re early in your career because “you don’t have the years behind you, the credibility, the long list of companies you’ve worked for”.
“I think that’s something people should really take forward, and on a more gender-specific point – women are not as good at shouting about their achievements when there are so many awards out there championing women in tech, women in blockchain, and women in fintech.”
“I think that it’s important that people go forward for those kinds of things and show the amazing work that is being done in the industry.”