In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re continuing our series highlighting women building the future of blockchain within the Stellar Development Foundation.
Today, we’re spotlighting three individuals on our all-star Legal team: Bianca Hearfield (Product Counsel), Sahar Bayat (Legal Counsel), and Christin Spradley (Senior Legal Director, Commercial Counsel). They share a glimpse of what it’s like to work at SDF and how they’re paving their careers in the industry.
Bianca: I help our product & engineering teams build awesome products… and keep them out of trouble. In other words, I help them navigate the legal and regulatory issues around crypto so they can make informed decisions about how to design and build the best products.
Sahar: I work closely with the various teams at SDF to draft, review, and negotiate different types of transactions/agreements (typically, commercial).
Christin: I manage a team that provides legal support for all of SDF’s commercial contracts and strategic transactions. When the SDF invests in or engages with individuals, companies, partners, and projects building on the Stellar network, we provide the deal team with comprehensive legal support. That includes everything from scoping and conducting due diligence, to drafting and negotiating the agreements, to structuring the partnerships in compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.
Bianca: I had come out of a (slightly traumatic) crypto start up experience and was looking to join a more established blockchain organization that had a clear mandate & strategy.
Sahar: I became interested in blockchain several years ago and knew I wanted to work in the space. While interviewing, I was immediately drawn to the employees I was speaking to and I became so impressed with SDF’s mission-driven focus and mentality. It was clear to me that SDF values its employees like family. Since I joined, I’ve been in awe of our leadership, inclusive culture, and individual and collective talent and passion.
Christin: I was initially drawn to SDF’s commitment to promoting financial inclusion and delivering on the promise of blockchain technology to improve the lives of real people, particularly those that are chronically overlooked and underserved by traditional financial markets. It was also refreshing to see so many women in leadership positions at SDF, especially given that we operate at the intersection of financial services and technology, which are both historically male-dominated industries.
Bianca: There are many well documented examples of where unconscious bias negatively impacted product design with unforeseen consequences. That's why it's important to have a design team that reflects the product end users, or at least a design process that factors in and mitigates unconscious bias. We are building and scaling the new digital payment layer of the internet that will replace the existing global financial system. It's crucial that we build it with diversity and inclusion front and center.
Sahar: I believe blockchain, if applied correctly, can foster equity, and to do that, we need a diverse set of minds at the table. To me, the point of blockchain technology isn’t to serve the already privileged populations in our world. Sure, blockchain technology can bring efficiency and improvements to so many of our existing processes and establishments, and that’ll inherently benefit the privileged, but those who will benefit the most from the technology are the underprivileged. For blockchain technology to reach its potential, it’s not just important to have representation at the table from those underprivileged groups: it’s necessary!
Christin: Representation in the blockchain/crypto industries is critically important. Many have critiqued our industry, saying it is just a speculative playground for “bitcoin bros.” But I see the potential for blockchain to be used for so much more, and I believe that diverse representation, particularly at the leadership level, is the key to unlocking the full potential of blockchain technology. Having a seat at the table helps to steer the focus and direction of industry.
This Women’s History Month, I want to celebrate my maternal grandmother, Farideh. Farideh led an underground rebel network fighting against the Ayatollah’s takeover during the Iranian Revolution. She was captured by the new Islamic regime, imprisoned, tortured, and soon after died because of her treatment in prison. All the while, she never gave up a single name of anyone else in the network and fought tirelessly against the fascists, even from her prison cell. – Sahar Bayat, Legal Counsel
Bianca: To advise on product work, you really need to understand the tech, and blockchain can be complex. As someone who is not technical, it can take me longer to understand. I spend a lot of time reading, researching, and experimenting with products to ensure I understand how they work, so I can then see how they fit within the legal landscape.
Sahar: No day or week is ever really the same because SDF is constantly growing and adapting with new ideas and types of engagements. Day-to-day, I’m typically working on many different projects, drafting and negotiating different sorts of commercial agreements, having meetings with colleagues about exciting new projects and thinking through the implications/risks/benefits of those proposals.
Christin: Every day looks different because the volume and complexity of SDF’s commercial deals are growing at an incredible rate. The endless creativity of the business teams we support means that every transaction and every investment looks a little different from the ones before. I also get to work on a diverse set of projects with a mix of different internal and external stakeholders – it keeps me on my toes, but I wouldn’t want it any other way!
We launched a cool wallet app in Argentina and I get to practice my (almost fluent but a little rusty) Spanish almost every day. – Bianca Hearfield, Product Counsel
Bianca: I get to play with cool new crypto products and work in an incredibly exciting industry!
Sahar: The people. Our legal team is a powerhouse, and I’m so humbled that I have the opportunity to be on this team and learn from some of the greatest legal minds in the industry. As part of an in-house legal team, I’m also grateful that I get to work strategically with colleagues on other teams in the business. This has given me the chance to build relationships with such a diverse set of people, literally from all over the world, with different backgrounds and experiences. SDF is it’s own little melting pot of diversity and being able to experience that and learn from my colleagues is easily the best thing about working here.
Christin: The people, hands down. Everyone at SDF is so authentic and supportive. The team is also whip smart and approaches work with a great sense of humor.
You have to be intentional about creating opportunities for yourself. Volunteer for challenging new projects. Actively reach out to potential mentors. Seize the chance to learn from other subject matter experts. If you are waiting on someone else to create those opportunities for you, you will be waiting a long time. – Christin Spradley, Senior Legal Director, Commercial Counsel
Curious what it’s like to work at SDF? Head on over to our careers page to learn more about our culture and check out the positions we’re hiring for. In the meanwhile, stay tuned for our next installment of Break into Blockchain with the Women of SDF!