Sally Eaves is everywhere. Barely a conference, summit or blockchain event occurs somewhere in the world without it being enhanced by her expertise in digital technology and thought-leadership.
Early flights, late nights, skipped lunches and the rare skill to manage the global logistics of simply maximising time give her an uncanny ability to appear almost capable of time travel.
Somehow, Coin Rivet managed to catch up with her in the same place, at the same time…
Coin Rivet: Sally, we can’t start any interview without asking the one question that always crops up and never fails to provide a good story when you’re talking to someone about blockchain (it’s a bit like putting 2,000 people on a cruise ship, and the first question you’ll always hear them ask one another is ‘Where have you come from?’) and that’s: How did you get into blockchain?
Sally Eaves: This was definitely a natural evolution! Disruptive technologies and digital transformation has always been core to my work as a CTO, Founder and Professor of Emergent Technologies in the UK and internationally. This involves deeply understanding technological but also behavioral, social and economic shifts and scanning the future horizon. The potential for blockchain to be transformational across multiple sectors became clear at an early stage, alongside its integration with technologies such as AI. I am passionate about harnessing blockchain capabilities for both business and societal benefit – that has been a major personal driver, including working with the UN.
CR: As it’s still a fairly embryonic field, you can’t possibly have set out at school wanting to be involved in blockchain, but I take it you set out to be involved in technology?
SE: I have always been innately curious about how things work, love learning and am motivated by the opportunity to make a tangible difference. So, yes working in technology excited me from an early age – I vividly remember an after-school computer club aged around eight as my first dive into coding programming languages and web development. Opportunities like that make a huge difference and I love mentoring kids on STEM/STEAM projects today.
CR: What was the attraction?
SE: Blockchain affords applications in every type of industry but notably where trust and security are critical. The technology has deep transformative potential far beyond cryptocurrencies and FinTech to sectors as diverse as supply chain, healthcare, public sector, energy, music, and law. This field is young, vibrant and dynamic and it’s exciting to be working with bleeding edge start-ups, established but transitioning organisations and government and academia too. I see dynamic opportunities for change in emerging markets and to harness blockchain for social impact benefits, aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
CR: Where did you study?
SE: Most recently Said Business School, Oxford University and prior to that Aston Business School and the Faculty of Arts, Computing and Engineering in Sheffield. I am a passionate advocate of education and continually seek to develop new knowledge – with the fast pace of change, especially in technology disciplines, the ethos of ‘lifelong learning’ has probably never been more appropriate!
CR: Speaking of studies, a handful of universities are starting to incorporate blockchain into their programs. Do you think we’ll see blockchain degree courses soon?
SE: It is fantastic to see some quality courses now emerging for both blockchain development and blockchain business strategy. In fact, I have designed courses on blockchain, AI and emergent technologies myself – more announcements on access to those is coming soon. We are already seeing the first digital blockchain degree certificates being issued (University of Cagliari) and with regards to degrees in blockchain, there are some quality developments with dedicated modules emerging in existing degree programs such as FinTech MBAs (Stern Business School, Cornell).
CR: Several events or stories we’ve covered recently have involved you in some capacity. You seem to be everywhere lately – different events, different countries. How on earth do you manage to do it all, do you have a time-travelling DeLorean parked out the back or something?
SE: I would love a DeLorean or Hoverboard like Marty 😉 – but more seriously I agree with that well known quote ‘If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it’. Providing you possess deep commitment alongside the expertise plus a capacity to manage global logistics, it is possible to optimise events alongside projects. In fact, most of my upcoming new book has been written in the air!
CR: As with many of the world’s industries, blockchain also appears to be a male-dominated space, wouldn’t you agree?
SE: Yes, this is true in the blockchain sector and the related area of cryptocurrencies too – research studies have estimated that circa 91%+ of all crypto users are male as a linked example. But more than this, I believe it is important to be talking about talent and true diversity beyond gender, to include people from all backgrounds – the ‘people in tech’ that are leading the way.
CR: How can women take up more room and be heard in this arena?
SE: Although blockchain is a field where women are still in a minority, change is already happening. Access to and visibility of mentors and role models is important here, alongside a strong focus on STEM and STEAM learning to encourage, skill and inspire the leaders of the future – I believe that is where longer term sustainable change will be driven from.
CR: We’re running this Women in Blockchain campaign because we want to champion the amazing work of some amazing women in this field, but deep down there’s a part of us that feels we shouldn’t have to be doing it. Do you think we’ll ever reach a point of genuine equality across the tech industries?
SE: I think it is important to build community and showcase Women in Blockchain as this helps to inspire, makes the sector more accessible and importantly gives voice but beyond this for us to showcase Talent in Blockchain (and tech) overall – the skilled and driven people, innovative ideas and tangible projects that are making a difference. As an example, conference panels that are all female or introduce you ‘as a woman’ can be counterproductive – being female should not be a credential in of itself. We also need to be shouting more about People in Blockchain – the talent, experience and insights of all pioneering leaders in the space; alongside opening-up equality of access, broadening skill bases and truly inspiring leaders of the future to enable more women and people from under-represented backgrounds to take equal stage in this exciting field.
CR: Finally, what advice would you give to young girls interested in a career in tech?
SE: Surround yourself with people who inspire you and never be afraid to try something new – we learn so much by experimenting! Attend as many events as possible, from formal conferences to informal and often free meetups, plus actively engage online – there are some fantastic communities out there to meet like-minded people and share ideas.
Look for a mentor and always reach out for support from those in the tech space you want to be in – my door on or offline is always open to chat and give advice. Finally, look to build a broad range of skills that are STEM / STEAM orientated – on that note, I cannot wait to share details of a global new initiative to support that which is coming this September. Watch this space for news and feel free to get in touch for early info – I am on all social channels via @sallyeaves