Blog Article

Break into Blockchain with the Women of SDF Pt. 1


Caroline Young

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In celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day today, we’re kicking off a series highlighting women building the future of blockchain within the Stellar Development Foundation.

Today, we’re spotlighting three individuals on our Developer Relations and Engineering teams: Sandra Persing (DevRel Lead), Anke Liu (DevRel Program Manager), and Syd Wiseman (Sr. Data Engineer). They share a glimpse of what it’s like to work at SDF and how they’re paving their careers in the industry.

In your own words, what do you do at SDF?

Sandra: I look after SDF's relationship with developers interested in building on the Stellar blockchain. I nurture our team's vision to consistently provide a better experience for all developers building in our ecosystem and for those looking for onramps to start their journey with Stellar. I build and grow our DevRel team and empower them with the right resources and tools to effectively engage and serve our developer community.

Anke: I lead the strategy and execution for global programs, including: Stellar Next-Gen, an educational program that furthers growth and development of developers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow, and the Stellar Community Fund, an open-application grant program to fund and grow Stellar-based projects and companies based on community input.

Syd: I build and maintain the systems that collect and convert raw blockchain data into more interpretable datasets for the broader business community. In its current state, blockchain data can be hard to use for forecasting, analysis and storytelling. My job is to present that data in a more accessible way so that the information can be understood by a wider audience.

How did you find your way to SDF? What made you want to join the organization?

Sandra: I've had the privilege of joining mission-driven organizations selectively: Mozilla ensures that the internet is an open global public resource. The Libra/Diem project wanted to provide a financial network for the millions of un/underbanked communities. SDF's mission to create equitable access to the global financial system resonates most personally. Technology can create huge divides and barriers for many people. Stellar's emphasis on equitable access is unique and admirable, especially in the crypto blockchain industry, where we can see that not everyone can access this amazing technology.

Anke: When I heard of SDF and its mission, I was immediately attracted to the organization. Together with working at the frontier of innovation and the next paradigm of internet applications, working at SDF challenged me to take a leap of faith from what I was used to.

Syd: Prior to SDF, I worked in traditional financial services. While I liked the domain, I wanted to move to a mission-oriented organization centered on innovation. I really liked SDF’s focus on financial inclusion and thought the move into a financial-adjacent industry would be a fun change.

What's a typical day/week like for you?

Sandra: I like to tell everyone my passion is creating strategy, and thinking about the big picture is a critical part of my job. But on a day-to-day level, I know what I excel at is operational management. DevRel is a people business. I spend most of my days reviewing opportunities and making functional, collaborative, and strategic decisions that guide our team's success. Everything we do revolves around bringing value to our developers.

Anke: I spend a fair amount of time planning and managing events and programs, in addition to coordinating one with another to make maximum impact. This includes collaborating with internal and external stakeholders and writing proposals and external-facing communications.

Syd: My weeks vary greatly. My time is split between writing code to move data, calculating and validating metrics, identifying anomalies, and compiling reports and visualizations to aid in decision making. Good data engineers need close relationships with their business partners, so it’s common for me to spend a lot of time understanding upcoming business priorities and getting to know the business domain better. I love the variety of the work and the constant new challenges.

What’s an unexpected skill you’ve found to be vital in your job?

Curiosity! The crypto meme coin craze and other network inflationary tactics can create bizarre trends in blockchain data. Unless you are inherently curious about why certain behavior is taking place, it can be easy to jump to an incorrect conclusion. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it is what makes data engineers great at their jobs. – Syd Wiseman, Sr. Data Engineer

What advice would you give to people who want to pursue a similar career path?

Sandra: Be proactive and reach out to expand your network as much as possible. Remember, DevRel is a people business. Every new door that opened for me was because I knew someone on a team. Knowing a diverse group of people will elevate your strategic thinking skills and ability to deliver impactful results through effective teamwork.

Anke: Getting into a different industry and learning about a new technology can seem like a lot, but don’t be afraid to try something new: ask questions, get experience by taking on different kinds of projects, and you may just acquire a new set of skills that can take you to the next level, no matter where you’d like to go next.

Syd: If you’re interested in data engineering, there is no better way to learn about new domains than through data exploration. Make sure to spend sufficient time exploring data and performing your own data analysis. It also makes you a better engineer because you are familiar with edge cases and common patterns to expect.

March is Women’s History Month, when we celebrate the contributions of women to history and society. Tell us about a woman you admire and share why.

I look up to the women who have lifted me up and brought me to the next level throughout my life, when they believed in me when no one else did. It’s those women that are the reason why I am where I am now. I strive to do the same when the time comes: don’t compete but support each other, as we are all in this together. – Anke Liu, DevRel Program Manager

What’s the best thing about your job?

Sandra: DevRel is about listening and understanding what our developers love, hate, or can't seem to get their heads around. I spend a lot of time gathering feedback and information from all channels and outlets. I learn so much from accessing this wide array of resources, and I very much welcome having the chance to review and reset my biases constantly.

Anke: The best thing about my job is that I have the power to help support people who either want to learn about these innovative technologies, fuel project ideas, or grow businesses or communities building on Stellar. There is always a lot left to do, but if at the end of the day someone benefits from the work I did, it’ll always get me going.

Syd: The freedom to take the time to learn new things and advocate for positive changes, especially when they benefit the end user. It is energizing to work somewhere that cares about its impact and is not afraid to be bold in its mission.

What keeps you motivated in your work?

Quite simply, my team. I am very grateful for having the opportunity to mentor and coach this relatively new and young and exceptionally diverse group of professionals. We currently have a growing team that includes five women from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Their enthusiasm and desire to make an impact in this industry are extraordinary. It also makes me impatient to bring all of our educational content and programs into the world! - Sandra Persing, DevRel Lead


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!