An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
… COVID really did put blockchain, NFTs and crypto in the limelight which is great, but like other disruptors of the space, tech maturity doesn’t happen overnight. The internet began in 1969 when Charley Kline (UCLA student) sent a message to the Stanford Research Institute, which was the first connection between computer networks. It wasn’t really until the early 2000s that it became mainstream.
As a part of our series about Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution, I had the pleasure of interviewing Niamh (Neeve) O’Connell.
Niamh (Neeve) O’Connell is senior business development manager at CasperLabs. Niamh is a blockchain expert and has been at the forefront of the blockchain evolution since 2016. She is a co-founder of BlockW, a female-led initiative providing a platform for communication, education, and the discussion of ideas relating to careers in blockchain.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story of how you decided to pursue this career path? What lessons can others learn from your story?
Absolutely. I always knew from a young age that I would end up in business after setting up little businesses, selling my neighbors everything from lemonade to locally sourced flowers. It was really during my undergraduate course (Business, Economics & Social Studies) at Trinity College Dublin — where I undertook some IT modules — that I started thinking about marrying the two: business and technology. At the time, these hybrid courses weren’t available, but they are now!
And so, in 2015, I joined Deloitte & Touche’s Consulting Division in Dublin, Ireland, which was heavily investing in disruptive tech at the time, and I had the opportunity to be part of the founding member team that was tasked with setting up and scaling their blockchain lab for Europe, Middle East, and South Africa (EMEA). I quickly realized I was most interested in exploring how blockchain could be used to disrupt supply chains, and how consumers specifically could really benefit from using the tech. So that’s really how it all started and I haven’t looked back since.
As for takeaway lessons, I would say that:
- Just because you start a course or a job in one area, doesn’t mean you can’t shift gears. Your career path is a journey and shouldn’t be viewed as something linear.
- Find a job in an area that you’re genuinely passionate about where you feel you could make an impact …it will make the late work nights seem not so bad!
- The biggest factor to affect your career is your mindset. Be open.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
Yes there are a few that come to mind.
On the supply chain management side, we recently worked on a project with our partners at WISeKey, where we demonstrated the viability of using the Casper blockchain as the secure data layer for transmitting and communicating encrypted information with IoT sensors and satellite technology. WISeKey can now fully secure its IoT communications network with verifiable data to record and query information on the blockchain.
On the consumer engagement side, we’re exploring a range of VR/AI mobile activation campaigns underpinned by the Casper NFT across a number of verticals.
We’re building several bespoke marketplaces for a number of assets to enable trading and resell of access products.
This project is a doorway for mass deployment of farming, agricultural sensors, logistics, infrastructure monitoring, and energy sectors.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Yes, there are actually a few.
Tyler Mulivhill (Global Co-head of NFTs, ConsenSys) — Tyler is the reason I’ve been working in New York since early 2020. He asked me to move stateside and help scale out Treum’s supply chain & blockchain SaS offering and team.
Claire Fitpatrick (Enablement Head EMEA, TikTok) — Claire has been a great support and sounding board since we worked together at ConsenSys and continues to do so virtually.
Emma Walker (Director, Wayflyer) — Emma and I were introduced in early 2018, whilst we were both working in Blockchain in Dublin. We were both frustrated by the lack of women in the space generally. 4% of meetup attendees were women at the time and this minority told us they didn’t feel necessarily comfortable getting actively involved as a result. And so, that’s why Emma and I co-founded BlockW to foster awareness and inclusivity around blockchain and disruptive tech in Ireland.
What are the 3 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
At a fundamental level:
- The fact that blockchains can provide verifiable proof of information. So, consumers can — for the first time — make more informed decisions before purchasing or consuming something. You can see the proof points beyond the claims brands make about their products. For me, a big foodie, this was a lightbulb moment!
- The fact that information on the blockchain is tamper resistant (it cannot be deleted) is absolutely pivotal as we’re living in a world where censorship and a lack of trust are growing concerns.
- NFTs (non-fungible tokens) which can represent ownership, an object (digital or physical) and even collect fees. They are paving the way for new assets and economies, through the ability to fractionalize asset ownership, create new revenue structures, new ways to engage with an asset, a brand and a community.
They have the potential to run the economy!
What are the 3 things that worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
- The pace at which blockchain education is occurring.
Since mid 2020, a lot of people have been buying tokens for blockchain projects for quick wins following “market hype” but don’t know necessarily how the technology works or the expected utility. There’s a growing number of cyber-attacks generally, and so when people don’t understand the risk engaging with projects that were born during COVID and don’t know how to secure their digital assets, they are extremely vulnerable to attacks.
Blockchain is a long-term play. The technology is maturing and we’re far from mainstream adoption. We need to educate people. Transparency and education create trust. We need to get to a place where blockchain products can be insured.
2. The media are writing about the wrong things which create misperceptions to those not deeply embedded in the space in times of uncertainty.
Layoffs, for example, historically are sadly always a case in bear markets as a result of actions taken during long periods of economic growth. The blockchain industry is no exception and has come under even more scrutiny because it came on more people’s radar as a result of the global COVID crisis.
Blockchain and NFTs actually provide a new medium for content creators to monetize their assets, opening up more opportunities.
3. The speed at which standards & regulation come into play which ties back to my first point around time. COVID really did put blockchain, NFTs and crypto in the limelight which is great, but like other disruptors of the space, tech maturity doesn’t happen overnight. The internet began in 1969 when Charley Kline (UCLA student) sent a message to the Stanford Research Institute, which was the first connection between computer networks. It wasn’t really until the early 2000s that it became mainstream.
As you know there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 5 things that you would advise to other women in the blockchain space to thrive?
- Connect with other women and other blockchain enthusiasts in the space — community is everything.
- Put yourself out there — if you’ve an idea and a community is bought into it, they’ll help make it happen. Look at the number of DAOS that are out there!
- Bring more women generally into this space — we’ve a lot of catching up to do!
- Attend conferences, meet ups and webinars for continuous learning.
- Connect with me on LinkedIn.
Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the blockchain industry?
- Change at a policy level. Education needs to start at an elementary/primary school level as kids’ values and views are shaped from as young as four.
- DAOs to replace the broken and outdated corporate structures that are in place which cause more harm than good and stifle change.
- More “coder dojo”-type programs, but also non-tech programs for those on the business and arts side of things for all ages.
- Better company mandates that encourage women to apply and support particularly around massive decisions like starting or delaying parenthood.
- Mature blockchain products and tools freely available which can be downloaded via an app store. Decentralized app stores will be here in the next 3 years.
What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?
“Try To Be A Rainbow In Someone’s Cloud” — Maya Angelou
I value how we treat one another above all else, which is something that’s completely within our control and so I treat a stranger, a best friend or a colleague the exact same. You just don’t know what someone is going through at a given time and everyone would be physically, mentionally and emotionally better off with positivity, so I live by this.
In a meeting or out with my friends, what you see is what you get.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
It would be focused around DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations).
Forming DAOs at a country and then global level which are formed around maintaining a sustainable planet and even leaving it in better condition.
People could participate and contribute to as many “programs” via digital immersive experiences and then also meet up and participate with their communities as they travel or move around the world. Let’s say one is around a circular economy, so members’ actions are all focused on reducing, reusing, and redistributing finite resources like water and food. This enables global problems to be addressed and anyone can actually contribute and see the impact/effect it is having because it’s all evident and provable on the blockchain.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Twitter: @niamhjoc and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/niamhoconnell1/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution With Niamh O’Connell Of CasperLabs was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.