DeFi Recruitment – Coffee with Finematic

DeFi Recruitment – Coffee with Finematics

DeFi has remained an area of mystery for many in the financial world, with some divisions of investment banks being told they’ll be replaced by protocols by the self-appointed Degens of Decentralised Finance. Replace a bank’s role in issuing loans with a smart contract? Ideologically, this appeals to many people as they still have a bitter taste in their mouths after the 2007-2008 crash which saw no banking executives go to prison in the US, disproportionately affecting the poorest in society.

On the subject of prison, many people confuse the fact that, because Sam Bankman Fried worked in crypto and that the Bitcoin blockchain is decentralised, this must be DeFi, which isn’t necessarily the case. Centralised mismanagement of crypto companies / lending desks has been the primary reason for a number of companies going bankrupt.

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The frauded become the fraudster!

Without getting into the semantics of definitions in crypto, if we assume for the purpose of this article, DeFi = Protocols & AMMs (Automated Market Makers), no major protocol has ever used traded customer funds or been insolvent, which is however not to say that the DeFi industry is without its share of scams. If it’s truly DeFi, what you see is what you get, because it’s “all on the chain baby”.

For a quick litmus test on skills and characteristics needed in DeFi engineering & trading at the moment we recently caught up with Finematics, a well-known YouTuber who has amassed almost 350k subs to his channel. Some of his videos are currently sitting at as many as 800k views.

We’re also fortunate enough to have known him since 2018. Since then, his rise from a retail brokerage to the leading DeFi engineering has been nothing short of amazing, growing in every sense alongside the industry in which he works. He’s seen his team grow from 1 to 5, 5 to 10 and then back down to 3. Why work in DeFi though and what will you be evaluated on to enter the industry?

The “why?” (besides pay in many instances) may well be due to the novel nature of many of the problems currently being encountered by many DeFi teams around the world. In this sense, there are 2 common optimisation challenges faced by engineers (relating to DeFi Trading specifically) according to Finematics, namely;

  1. Lowering the processing time of blocks
  2. Decreasing gas costs in Solidity

In example one, this may be closest to the types of optimisation that classic HFT engineers are familiar with. Lowering the processing time of a block might be akin to bringing down the tick-to-trade latency, however different enough to be unique to DeFi. Here, the optimisation done will not necessarily need to be accelerated on an FPGA and then communicated by line-of-sight microwave towers, but done at the Node (client) level, with one of the most popular ways of doing this being Ethereum’s Go implementation, commonly known as GETH.

In example two, this type of optimisation might come as counterintuitive to purists in that to decrease the gas costs of solidity, you may in fact be sacrificing the readability of the code. I can hear you shouting “Philistine” from the back, however, it’s not just in Solidity that you may find performance vs. Tradability trade-offs. In this sense, you are optimising cost, not necessarily the code itself.

A quick look at HFTs programming job specs will show you that this is a skill set they look for in their engineers, especially in the case of one HFT who does the opposite of “sit”. Ultimately this means that you should be hopefully paying less for your swap, but when you introduce elements of game theory and “sandwiching” you might not be high and dry just yet. With the comparison of the aforementioned skills, one could well make the assumption that diving into DeFi could well burn any sane engineer out. In any case, there are some who dedicate whole careers to mastering how to play L1 and L2 cache like a symphony in traditional finance for example.

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So, logically, where do you start?

Well if you’re lucky enough to be hired by an engineering leader as strong as Finematics, you’ll likely be evaluated on 1 of the 2 areas where cost or code can be optimised. When Finematics builds a team, they look to facilitate a much greater degree of cross-pollination of skills vs. too many cooks spoiling the broth. As some of these problems have rarely been encountered before however, coding chops on their own might not be enough to determine long-term success in DeFi Engineering.

Over the past 4 years, Finematics has noticed that the following attributes in engineers tend to be fairly strong indicators for succeeding in the industry. Having personally recruited for the best HFTs in the world, as well as crypto for the past 6 years, Finematics shares many philosophies with the best Engineering teams in the world.

1. PMA / Hire Optimists

  • A positive mental attitude is a big thing for DeFi. The relative speed of rising and falling markets in crypto means that you don’t have the luxury of having enough time to do things perfectly when the bull is running at full speed. “I think I can do this” vs. “it can’t be done” is a particularly powerful difference, yet not one that is confined to the realms of DeFi.
  • Complainers kill morale and complaints don’t solve problems. The optimism of an engineer who keeps trying to attack a problem and solves it through trial and error has a great effect on their own motivation as well as that of the team.
  • Some engineers come to a project and spend more time discussing the code that was written before they got there rather than focusing on what they could do to improve it. Unfortunately, negativity will often breed negativity, which has disastrous consequences when encountering problems for the first time, so avoid this by hiring the opposite.
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Are you an optimistic or pessimistic developer? Click the image to find out.

2. Proactivity

  • A lack of proactivity will often translate directly into lack of productivity. From a very practical standpoint, the working arrangements of engineers for DeFi tend to be the same as the type of finance they work for – Decentralised. This means you’ll want your engineers to be forthcoming when they’re stuck on problems as hours quickly become days and that could have disastrous consequences when it comes to things like security for example.

3. Discipline

  • A financial market that never sleeps, still needs the involvement of human beings who do which, being accompanied by remote working can often mean that there can be a delicate balancing act for how engineers manage their days, especially in markets with high trading activity. Discipline will help to mitigate the effects of impending burnout and actually translate to higher levels of sustained productivity over longer-term horizons.
  • Sure, there’ll be some days that might require engineers to be “all hands on deck”, however, it’s important to make sure that those days are balanced out when dramatic trading cycles subside. After all, it’s tough to predict when those days might come around again, so it’s best to be well set up for when they do.
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4. Clear communicators

  • This tends to be found in the engineers who are proactive as they will tend to be most familiar with breaking down concepts into digestible pieces of information, either for their team or the person paying them to do their job. There will tend to be an expectation that engineers can clearly answer questions like; “How do you anticipate solving that problem?” and “What would you have done differently?”. For those familiar with being awarded marks for showing their working during exams, there’s certainly a parallel to be found here.
  • Whilst English is also the common language of many DeFi engineering teams, it’s worth offering the disclaimer that whilst clear communication and language fluency tend to be directly correlated, most teams will not require ELTS C2 fluency in English and may have fantastic engineers with B1-B2 fluency.

Decentralised finance is constantly evolving and challenges the use of centralised financial institutions and third parties that are involved in all financial transactions. Check out Finematics’ page and YouTube to learn more about Decentralised Finance!

Written by Warwick Poelman

📅 This Week in Crypto 📅

United Kingdom-based neo-banking platform Revolut, which boasts 25 million customers globally, has introduced crypto staking to its U.K. and European Economic Area (EEA) customers. At present, the staking feature is available for Polkadot’s DOT, Tezos’s XTX, Cardano’s ADA, and Ether, with yields ranging from 2.99% to 11.65%. However, these yields are not guaranteed during the “soft testing” phase.

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance has introduced a tool to help users calculate the tax obligations on their crypto transactions as governments increasingly look to ensure they don’t miss out on revenue from the industry. The free tool can support reporting of up to 100,000 transactions and is available initially to users in Canada and France. The exchange has plans to extend it to other regions, it said in a blog post-Monday.

Along with pro-crypto regulations, mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies requires a supporting infrastructure that can allow the general public access and exposure to the ecosystem. When considering eight key indicators around taxes, ATMs, jobs and events in crypto, London stands at the top as the most crypto-ready city in the world for businesses and start-ups. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s vision is on the right path.

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