Blog Article

Break into Blockchain with the Women of SDF Pt. 4


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, we’re spotlighting two individuals on the Vibrant team: Mercedes Madanire (Business Development and Partnerships) and Jeesun Kim (Frontend Developer). 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?

Jeesun: I work on the development of the graphical user interface of Vibrant, a wallet app previously focused to help people in Argentina protect their money from devaluation by expanding their access to USDC on Stellar. We are launching a new version of Vibrant soon, so I’ve been busy building, testing, and refactoring the code.

My time is split between writing code, breaking down big feature tasks to smaller/manageable tasks, fixing bugs, writing docs on the features I worked on for the team, and QA on iOS and Android. Aside from that, I love reading about what the industry is up to and sharing it with colleagues on Slack.

Mercedes: I lead new and emerging product opportunities with deep technical knowledge and understanding of the customer and local regulatory framework. With the Vibrant app, we focus on growth by finding opportunities with new or existing partners in the blockchain, decentralized exchanges, and digital assets markets.

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

Jeesun: I found out about SDF through! I was really nervous during the interviews because I had zero knowledge of blockchain or cryptocurrency. But everyone at SDF who interviewed me was so kind and smart – I knew right away that I wanted to be a part of the team.

Mercedes: I have a background in telecommunications and finance and have worked for start-ups since 2015. SDF’s mission made me want to join a high growth organization to help drive financial inclusion globally, starting with Latin America.

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

"Representation matters in the blockchain/ crypto industries because we are building the future of money and financial services internationally. The traditional financial industry (and payments specifically) lack diversity – we want to drive positive change and foster diversity and inclusion as we build and evolve the blockchain ecosystem and crypto industry.

The benefits? Diverse cultural perspectives can inspire creativity and drive innovation. And local market knowledge and insight can make a business more competitive. Plus, it’s fun to work with a global team and get to know cultural sensitivities, and people from different backgrounds."
– Mercedes Madanire, Business Development and Partnerships

What’s the best thing about your job?

Mercedes: Working with a talented team at SDF, and the opportunity to be a part of the broader blockchain and crypto community driving Web3 adoption and the future of finance with a focus on decentralization, openness, and transparency. The positive feedback, community engagement, and the drive to make an impact is humbling.

Jeesun: It’s crazy how fast the industry has grown since I joined in 2019. I’m constantly learning new things; not just blockchain, but also what’s going around in the world since blockchain has potential to influence governments, global financial systems, and more. Working at SDF has opened my eyes into the fields such as frontier markets and investments that I wouldn’t have been interested in had I not joined Stellar.

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

Jeesun: It’s not uncommon to find front-end developers who have a design background, but having a design background has been helpful. I understand the tremendous effort that designers take to create, so I do my best at making sure the UI I develop matches the design 100%. Having a design background also gives you that eagle eye. I am able to correct when the design or user interface we develop has inconsistencies. Aside from that, it’s an important skill to have when building side projects so I don’t have to rely on anyone but myself.

Mercedes: My first language – Spanish. My focus at the moment is expanding Vibrant’s presence in Latin America, and I have the privilege to work in a region that is close to my heart and speak my first language on a daily basis.

What made you want to join the organization?

"I was inspired by the talks that were given by the founders on unlocking the economic potential in the developing world by leveraging financial education. I came to the United States at the age of 14 as a student by myself, so I also have first-hand experience on how expensive and slow remittances are.

My parents used to say that if something had happened to me, it’d be faster for them to carry cash and fly over than sending money via wire transfer. When the founders explained how Stellar’s low-to-no-cost infrastructure could help those in the developing world, I knew I wanted to become part of the team."
– Jeesun Kim, Frontend Developer

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

Jeesun: My advice is to stay curious and keep learning new technologies by working on side projects. At my first job in 2014, we used jQuery most of the time, but the web world at that time was gearing towards vanilla JavaScript and the MEAN stack. I am able to understand new technologies much faster and better when working on hands-on side projects, so I decided to work on a Seating Chart for the company I worked for at the time. This side project got me many job interviews because it proved that I stayed curious and learned full stack.

I did similar things at my last job at a creative agency; I worked on multiple side projects involving React library, gaming, creative coding, and 3D design (I might drop some NFTs on Litemint soon!). When I eventually interviewed for SDF, my interviewers mentioned that my wide-ranging portfolio caught their attention. As for what language to learn, I’m glad that I learned JavaScript. It’s so versatile. I initially was brought on to work on SDF's marketing pages, but now I work on the Vibrant mobile app using React Native.

Mercedes: Be proactive – join or create a project that you’re passionate about to show your interest. Sign up for a hackathon, even if it’s virtual – remember that hackathons are for everyone, not just developers. There are different skills needed and it gives you an opportunity to brainstorm, create, and work with a new team. You’ll also expand your network and make connections attending events.

If you’re changing industries, focus on transferable skills such as leadership and communication. Don’t be afraid to explain why you’re passionate about your new focus.


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.