In this instalment of our Ask Me Anything (AMA) series, we're diving in to the world of Blockchain with the Global Head of Engineering for Shareable Asset, David Park!
Read on to find out more about why David thinks that Blockchain will be the way forward in the future, and how he got to his position today.
TLDR - Key takeaways from David Park's sharing
*Parts of this interview has been edited for clarity.
It was very interesting to see how digital assets can be tokenized, opening up opportunities for investors to trade them seamlessly in a very cost effective way leveraging cutting-edge technology such as blockchain.
It was a shock to know how fast this disruptive technology has been changing the world and I wanted to take one step closer to the frontier between traditional financial capital markets and the decentralized world by joining a fintech startup.
I was fascinated by the fact that Shareable Asset was not just a digital asset tokenization platform but a trailblazer that creates digital capital markets services protocols and standards through distributed ledger technology, working with governments and financial institutions.
At some point, especially from last year, I started realizing that blockchain was no longer a buzzword. It is actually technology that can solve a lot of real world problems and get things moving around the world.
In fact, lots of people have a misconception that blockchain is equivalent to cryptocurrency. Blockchain is just the backbone technology for cryptocurrency. By adopting its amazing underlying traits such as immutability, transparency, and security, there are tons of opportunities and areas where this sensational technology can be applied. For example, tech companies, financial institutions and even governments around the world have started diverse projects powered by blockchain.
People tend to think blockchain is a hard concept to grasp but simply put, it is actually a decentralized database in the form of a chain with connecting blocks, so it is literally a block-chain.
Every morning, we start off our day by having a call with the business team where every member of the company attends which I believe provides everyone with an opportunity to understand and learn the business. During this call, all important decisions and visions are shared among employees and I believe this provides a high level of transparency and credibility.
After that, the engineering team has a daily standup call where we share our progress and concerns with others. I take the agile methodology quite seriously and would like to run it well so that all participants take ownership and transparency. Throughout the day, depending on the stage of a sprint, there are other agile ceremonies such as sprint planning, backlog refinement, sprint retrospective and so on.
It is normally packed with meetings with technology partners and project partners where technology support and roadmaps are discussed. When a new feature needs to be introduced, I spend time discussing architecture and design with the team where heated and productive conversations occur.
My next favourite activity is one-on-one catch ups with my engineers where I try to be open-minded by hearing their concerns, feedback or anything they would like to share. I use this opportunity to exchange ideas as well as feedback so that the relationships remain open, healthy and sustainable. No matter what happens, I never skip this catchup.
Having said all these, at the end of the day, I am still a software engineer and the role and scope of the job are not much different from other engineers from this perspective. As a software engineer, I still do coding and drawing architecture as well as investing my time catching up with new technology stacks and concepts. Google and stackoverflow are my best friends as they are to you!
At a growing fintech startup like us, everyone wears multiple hats with voluntary ownership. However, that does not mean they are all alone. We always help each other and at the same time we don’t hesitate to seek help or advice. We are open to constructive feedback and also not stingy in terms of sharing compliments to each other.
Interesting fact - not only does everyone in the team have knowledge of different tech stacks, but they also come from different career backgrounds, such as credit analysis, high frequency trading, legal practice, and asset management, which ultimately moulded their careers as software engineers.
In addition, it is our biggest strength that we always look for better and interesting technology that fits into what we are building, giving every engineer excitement and joy. Everyone in the team is equal and has the liberty to voice out their concerns.
I believe that this kind of diversity and opportunity makes the team culture more dynamic, and a willing-to-help and willing-to-learn attitude makes the workplace much more workable and enjoyable. We never leave anyone behind.
This is where an agile process and culture shines. I am not the one creating and assigning tasks to engineers but rather the one trying to create a culture where everyone can proactively participate in and contribute to the work by letting them take ownership and accountability and self-manage their progress.
Thanks to the transparency of information within the company, everyone understands the business, apprehends, or even writes business requirements and quality codes with robust tests. In this ecosystem, no one is told to do things. We all discuss together and know what and how to do it in the most efficient manner with high quality standards.
I have a strong belief that companies should not assess engineer candidates by their tech stacks or specific language proficiency. I truly believe engineers are smart and can pick up anything new quickly as long as they are willing to learn and have a solid understanding of the software engineering and computer science principles. For example, none of the engineers in the team had relevant experience to the tech stack of what we are building today but everyone caught up and internalized it in no time.
Rather, I am more interested in seeing their problem solving skills and thinking processes over what languages they are familiar with. Someone who can write simple and easy-to-read code is absolutely preferred over one who can write fancy one-liners with showy technique. In addition, someone with a good habit of documentation is preferred as I believe it indicates high attention to detail and the documents eventually become a priceless asset to the engineering team.
Above all, it is always the people who you work with. I look for someone who is open-minded, passionate, empathetic and willing to help and learn. In short, I look for someone I can have a beer with.
I feel blessed to have been working with these amazing people who don’t hesitate to go the extra mile and help others in the team. The team brings to bear it’s diverse set of backgrounds to problem-solve and build the fintech solutions. No matter the seniority, I feel that one should always be able to grow by learning from everyone in the team.
Ironically, the toughest moment was when I was making a decision to join Shareable Asset as I had been working in the corporate world for my entire career. At the same time, I was very fortunate to receive an offer from one of the largest tech companies in the US with a relocation opportunity.
However, I met the management team multiple times and had some quality conversation and from there I really liked the vision of the company and the strong team I met. The Shareable Asset team comprised a mix of top-notch tech and financial services talent, headed by a tech entrepreneur and led by an experienced CEO.
Moreover, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to get exposure to blockchain technology and to build a tech team from scratch - I believed this was actually where I could best utilize my experience and expertise in both the financial and technology domains.
The more I thought about it, the more confidence and belief I gained. Looking back, it was the toughest moment but the best decision I have ever made in my tech career.
David started his career as an Analyst Developer back in 2010, and today he's the Global Head of Engineering for Shareable Asset. This next question is for those who are aspiring to climb the ladder just like he did.
If someone is looking for a position like this, all I can advise is to persistently look out for learning opportunities in both the engineering and business domains and to try to listen to what others say. I believe that with good engineering experience and expertise as well as soft skills, one can increase the chances of succeeding in this type of role.
You need to be a great communicator and be comfortable with translating what you want to build into the overall architecture. At times, the role requires you to take a step back, see the bigger picture, and still think twice or even three times.
I am no more than a person who sets up a stage and ensures everything is well prepared so that our artists (engineers) jump onto the stage and perform their 200%. I am seeing myself as a coder, a painter, a facilitator and a listener within the team.
In this section, we asked David some Blockchain focused questions. Read on to find out more.
For those who are new to blockchain or would like to pursue their career in blockchain development, there is a great book called The basics of bitcoins and blockchains by Antony Lewis. I found the author very kind and patient in terms of explanation and anyone from beginners to experts can have a good insight and firm understanding of blockchain from this book.
Personally I think it is applicable to any engineering subject not just blockchain and I do feel that it is a destiny of software engineers that we always have to invest time on learning and catching up with the latest technologies and their trends and best practices. Blockchain itself is not rocket science but understanding the philosophy and concept and knowing where the technology is applicable to solve a real world problem is more important.
It is true that the blockchain market is growing and lots of blockchain providers emerge in the market but with a solid understanding of the core concepts, anyone can keep up with the latest developments.
If you are a software engineer, once you have the gist of it, I strongly recommend getting your hands dirty by choosing a blockchain provider and starting writing some codes to work on a testnet (sandbox) of the blockchain provider.
One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that it tends to be considered that blockchain is equivalent to cryptocurrency. In fact, blockchain is the technology and cryptocurrency is a new digital currency that is built and distributed upon blockchain networks.
Cryptocurrency is just one use case of blockchain and blockchain has huge potential to be applied to many interesting problems.
Blockchain and cryptocurrencies will be a powerful medium to change the way financial capital markets operate and our daily lives.
In my view based on the experience over the last few months, the greatest challenge is around regulation, compliance and legal matters especially when it comes to applying the technology to the financial capital market.
With the beauty of blockchain, it can be a very disruptive technology to the traditional financial capital market by streamlining complex processes or even removing the existing roles of participants in the ecosystem.
In addition, due to its aggressive penetration into the market with its fast growth rate, it is often a challenge that there are no apparent regulation or compliance rules in place covering new areas that blockchain introduces.
It is quite relevant to my answer above. Around the world, to keep up with the speed of blockchain adoption, there has been active discussion and activity around the creation or amendment of regulations and compliance rules. As a software engineer, from writing flexible codes to designing elastic architecture, having agility, elasticity and flexibility to cope with the changes is a key challenge.
That sums up this interview with David Park. Let us know if you found this interesting!