Blog Article

Break into Blockchain with the Women of SDF Pt. 3


Caroline Young

Publishing date




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, three individuals are representing the Ecosystem, Recruiting, and Business Development Team at SDF: Priscilla Ma (Ecosystem Growth Lead), Emily Donald (Lead Technical Recruiter), and Louisa Bai (Business Development and Partnerships). 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?

Priscilla: I work with companies that build on Stellar to help grow their use cases and connections across the Stellar ecosystem. Ultimately, my goal is to ensure that businesses in our ecosystem have the right connections, tools, infrastructure and support to propel their growth and succeed with Stellar and beyond.

Emily: I lead the recruiting team to hire and retain people from diverse backgrounds so that we can build incredible products that will have a positive impact on the world.

Louisa: I develop and execute on the strategy for how SDF engages with crypto-native companies like exchanges, custodians, wallets, and other applications.

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

Priscilla: Indirectly and with a dose of luck. I’m a banker by training, then did a 180 flip into fintech for the cannabis industry because I wanted to provide the underserved community with basic financial access. Fundamentally, that’s the same reason that brought me to the SDF – albeit with a wider impact and at the forefront of innovation. I don’t think you can work at SDF without believing in the mission because it’s so ingrained in how we operate – it's who we are.

Emily: One of my former colleagues referred me to this role with the SDF after I was laid off from another fintech company during COVID. I had been introduced to the world of blockchain and cryptocurrency while I was working for a VR company years prior and found the potential of the technology fascinating, so the introduction reignited my curiosity. During my interview process, I was particularly impressed by the mission and real world use cases, leadership’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the opportunity to build a recruiting function and team from the ground up.

Louisa: Prior to joining SDF, I led the blockchain consulting practice for one of the major accounting firms. I was always bullish on the potential of the technology and grew impatient with the pace of enterprise blockchain adoption. When SDF reached out to have a conversation, I immediately agreed and haven’t looked back since.

In your opinion, why does representation matter in the blockchain/crypto industries?

I come from a male-dominated industry: banking and capital markets. I was one of three women working on the trading floor at a bulge bracket bank, and it has taken that industry decades to achieve a more inclusive environment. One would argue that they’re still not there. I attribute the flaws in our current financial infrastructure to the lack of representation in these “traditional” industries. Let’s not make the same mistake here and realize it when it’s too late to self-correct.“
– Louisa Bai, Business Development and Partnerships

What’s the best thing about your job?

Priscilla: Helping passionate innovators build and grow their businesses while continuously progressing the blockchain and crypto industries through real world use cases. It’s really cool that I can help steer the narrative of crypto to how blockchain-enabled businesses are bringing real-world benefits while operating in an efficient and effective manner. It’s amazing what people can do when you empower them with the right tools and support.

Emily: My favorite part of my job as a recruiter is building relationships with candidates, converting them to colleagues, training them to interview future employees and spot potential, and then partnering with them to build their own teams when they become leaders and hiring managers. I also pride myself on being a candidate advocate.

Louisa: As cliche as it sounds, I feel that the work I am doing makes a real difference. We are trying, together with many others in this space, to fix a systemic problem – the current financial infrastructure was designed for some, not for many. There’s a huge gap to fill, and I am only playing my small part.

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

“A solid understanding of compliance and loan docs. Having worked in TradFi for (too) many years and also at a cannabis fintech, the legalese and acronyms (hello KYC, AML, BSA ) have been ingrained in my daily work for the past decade or so. I thought I’d get a little reprieve here, but I should have known better! On the flip side, it helps us do what we do and I recognize its importance. ”
– Priscilla Ma, Ecosystem Growth Lead

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

Priscilla: It’s a virtual trip around the world! My days and weeks take me across LatAm to Africa to Asia and all the way back to the US. Remittances, cross-border payments and wallets for digital assets are some of our main use cases. It’s only fitting that we actively work with businesses across the globe, especially in developing economies, where we help support their growth, anticipate their needs, and triage any issues. Internally, I collaborate with other teams on a daily basis and advocate for our partners' needs while finding ways to improve our tools and processes and align our growth strategies.

Emily: The scope of my responsibilities fall into three main categories: hiring, team leadership, and process improvement. Each day is different, but usually I’m screening applicants, sourcing talent, having regular check-ins with my teammates, hiring managers, and leadership, presenting offers, and finding strategic ways to increase the volume, quality, speed, and diversity of our pipeline.

Louisa: They are never the same! This year I’ll be traveling close to 50% of my time attending conferences or meeting up with my fellow SDFers. When I’m not in the air, a typical day for me consists of calls with potential partners and internal planning and strategy meetings. I also try to toss in a workout either early in the morning or at lunch.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far in your career?

"In recruiting, we tend to move very fast and, over time, I have come to learn that it’s okay to pause, take a breath, and maybe even sleep on something for a night before taking action. Sometimes the solution after taking that time differs from how I might have responded initially."
– Emily Donald, Lead Technical Recruiter

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

Priscilla: In the wise words of Lewis Carroll through Alice in Wonderland…be “Curiouser and Curiouser”! Progress isn’t linear. Sometimes you have to take a roundabout way to get to where you want to go but curiosity has always been my trusted guiding compass.

Emily: My best advice is to learn how to creatively source passive talent as this is a skill that will serve you well in any recruiting role regardless of the industry you’re in and it is critical to long term success as a recruiter.The most straightforward path into recruiting is to start as a recruiting coordinator, sourcer, or as a recruiter with an external agency. In each of these paths, you will gain critical organization and scheduling skills and learn how to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing.

Louisa: Just jump in! I sometimes still kick myself for waiting on the sidelines as long as I did. The crypto space is not only fast-paced from a technology standpoint; it is constantly evolving and iterating on new ideas and solutions. Look for a project that you identify with and don’t be intimidated by not being a subject matter expert. We were all newbies to this space at some point.


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!