DeFi(nitely) Hiring

Coming to America – Durlston Partners Edition

We are opening a New York office next month and are searching for the best tech recruiters in NY to help us grow a team of NY based head-hunters who have the Durlston Partners standard, ethos and professionalism. This new team will increase delivery to current clients based in the US, and build the business stateside.

Over the last 11 years, Durlston Partners London has built start-up hedge funds into $10BN+ industry leaders, and AI Machine Learning FinTech innovators from founding team members to 100+. Many of the clients we partner with have a global presence and we have been consistently delivering and placing candidates internationally for many years, predominantly in the US.

Durlston Partners’ Founder, Vax Braham and the team are in New York on business from the 24th to the 29th of May, so please email if you’re a Crypto / Software Engineer recruiter in the States and interested in an opportunity with us and we’ll arrange an introduction.

📅 This Week in Crypto 📅

  • NFTs ExplainedAn easy to digest article for anyone trying to fully understand Non Fungible Tokens

An insight into the mechanics and terminology behind the NFT phenomenon and a warning not to get involved without plenty of prior knowledge about the pitfalls

A great article summarising the recent troubles faced by TerraUSD (UST), and algorithmic stable coin. One of the largest crashes in crypto to date was a classic death spiral scenario sparked by UST trading below the peg

Blockchain company Ripple has allocated $100 million to accelerate carbon removal activity and aid in modernizing such markets with the help of investments in innovative carbon removal firms and sustainable financial tech platforms.

📰 Digital Take Away 📰

DeFi(nitely) Hiring

“DeFi” is one of the most popular keywords-du-jour in crypto recruitment, however what does hiring for DeFi entail? Well, I thought I’d lift the lid on some analysis we ran as a team recently. Not that analysis is particularly avant-garde in recruitment, but more so to understand the change in volume of roles we recruited for (Feb 21 to Feb 22).

“DeFi knowledge” in this instance will largely have some relation to trading, either because the clients in question are engaged in algorithmic proprietary trading or because they are building cutting-edge protocols of instruments previously seen in TradFi. From Solidity through to Sandwiching, it’s a good time to know what’s what in DeFi.

In late February of this year, the 12 months that preceded it at Durlston Partners had seen:

  • 600% increase in trading roles where “DeFi Trading” is listed as a primary focus
  • 700% increase in engineering roles where “DeFi” is listed as the primary focus (i.e. programming of smart contracts/building trading systems that interact with them)
  • 600% increase in non-trading OR engineering roles (e.g. Product Management, Customer Support etc) where “DeFi”/”Blockchain” is listed as the primary focus
  • 350% increase in consultants covering crypto-native clients at Durlston Partners

Growth is good, right? Well as with the intricacies of DeFi trading itself, the hiring and onboarding process is not immune to difficulty for many of these companies. So what hurdles are there?

  1. High demand, short supply. What does this mean for comp?
  2. Hiring for decentralised skills at a centralised institution. What do you have to offer besides money?
  3. Who evaluates the skill-set if it’s the first hire? Is this FOMO (fear of missing out)?
  4. How quickly can you hire someone with DeFi skills?

For those of you that have good attention spans (unlike me), let’s do a miniature deep-dive into those points.

1. High demand and short supply has had a very measurable impact on the amount that engineers are being paid for their DeFi knowledge. This link backs up what we’ve seen internally. In some instances, programmers without Solidity (who move into a team that can teach it to them) earn over $300k cash for their first year out of Uni.

  • Protocols may lean heavily on token allocation for their comp model as a way to entice engineers, however, when many of them are backed by multi-billion dollar VC funds, some of whom have funds explicitly dedicated to blockchain startups, the guaranteed cash component isn’t far off.
  • Algo DeFi Traders are often offered PnL splits. Whilst this can be great for preserving immediate cash flow, they may go in the opposite direction to how some comp models work at those firms in question. What may result is a three-way Mexican standoff between the candidate, hiring manager and business owner/CEO. In this instance, make sure everybody is on the same page before signing off the headcount.

2. The irony of hiring for skills in “decentralised finance” to bring engineers and/or traders into a brick and mortar centralised office can, unfortunately, be lost during the hiring process. True DeFi idealogues may not even entertain conversations with companies that are not explicitly remote-first in the first place.

  • If however, you are a company that is lucky enough to speak to a DeFi enthusiast that values in-person collaboration, what are you able to offer them that they can’t find elsewhere? A few people I’ve recently spoken with may jest by saying “money doesn’t solve the problems I’m looking to solve” however there is an element of absolute truth there, especially concerning scaling limitations of automated trading strategies in DeFi currently.
  • So what would an engineer or trader likely place strong emphasis on? Well, a typical talent attraction trifecta may consist of; great infrastructure, intellectual freedom, and exposure to colleagues that may have expertise in areas they don’t.

3. You want to hire for DeFi skills but it’ll be your first hire, so how will you be evaluating a candidate’s skills?

  • In an industry that some TradFi institutions will have the general public believe is solely home to snake-oil salesmen and charlatans, bulletproofing your business with a solid first technical hire has a ripple effect far beyond ensuring both software and operational security. Institutional investors will often be looking at the “intellectual integrity” of this first hire, however, the good news is that that looks different to everyone and gives rise to the famous grudge match of; PhD(s)/Theoretical vs. Practical experience (e.g. amount of products shipped).
  • Solution? Leverage the knowledge of industry experts and seek their counsel *insert shameless pitch where #DPCrypto can help facilitate this*.
  • Is the addition of DeFi trading/engineering skills a “value add” to your business or are you hiring these skills simply because your competitors are? FOMO not only applies to the trading aspect of hiring, but it also serves to be a very apt description of some of the live roles we see advertised as a team. As a general rule of thumb, if you think you need to hire DeFi skills now, I would say you may run the risk of already being 4-6 months late for the best talent in the market.

4. “Time to hire” is quite the Achilles Heel for a number of firms across TradFi and in some instances CeFi as well! In the same way that people will talk about “mirror matching” to build rapport from person to person, the speed of the hiring process should correlate directly with the priority of a candidate’s skills within the existing setup.

  • Put simply, hiring an engineer or algorithmic trader with DeFi knowledge (i.e. programming smart contracts or running MEV strats) should be done in a max of around 3 hours. For suggestions on how to optimise this, we can help!
  • 3 hours may sound far too short when some hedge funds spend 10+ hours interviewing programmers, however it may be worth noting that the firms who overcomplicate hiring DeFi skills, will regularly miss out on the best talent because a direct competitor understands that speed is of the essence.
  • From a candidate’s perspective, speed and moving to offer quickly also show that a business: values their time and knows what they want. Quite a powerful combination when it approaches closing time!

There are naturally many other aspects to consider when exploring how DeFi may or may not add value to your business/trading team, however, this should hopefully serve as an amuse-bouche for how the 10 of us here in the #DPCrypto team are positioned to offer a consultative approach to solving this problem.

Written by Warwick Poelman