Sean Goheen (Host) 00:00:01
Greeting scholars and welcome to Following the Gong, a podcast of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State.
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Following the Gong takes you inside conversations with our Scholar Alumni to hear their story so you can gain career and life advice and expand your professional network. You can hear the true breadth of how Scholar Alumni have gone on to shape the world after they rang the gone and graduated with honors and learn from their experiences so you can use their insights in your own journey. This show is proudly sponsored by the Scholar Alumni Society, a constituent group of the Penn State Alumni Association. I'm your host, Sean Goheen, class of 2011, and college staff member. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome back.
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Joining me here today from Ann Arbor is our first IST grad here on the show. Darin Carter. Darin, thank you so much for coming on. Could you start off, as we usually do here on the show, with what originally brought you to Penn State and the Schreyer Honors College as an undergraduate. Awesome
Darin 00:02:22 Pleasure to be here. Really excited to have the opportunity to, to speak to, to some Penn State, you know, students and prospective students. Um, Penn State originally blew me away with the caliber of engineering talent that they had there. And being from upstate New York when I graduated, my field of view was originally pretty narrow. I thought I wanted to go to go to r I T and was just gonna be an engineer. And I remember when I first stepped onto campus for a visit at Penn State and I saw the I S T building and thankfully I was embraced by some amazing faculty and staff. So thank you. Barbara Farmer, Lisa Lens, Olivia Lewis. But really it was the I s T building that sold me, uh, the caliber of engineering and STEM talent that was there and like the opportunity to learn from some amazing faculty and staff.
Sean 00:03:09 Excellent. And then, so what was it about IST as opposed to engineering that really stood out to you here at Penn State? I think it was
Darin 00:03:15 The opportunity to work in an emerging field and I originally came in not a hundred percent certain of what I wanted to do, so engineering was like my best guest, but then my focus was cybersecurity. So as I dove into cybersecurity and started to like foster an interest for that, I wanted to align myself to an emerging field and I felt like it would be fun to be, uh, at the frontier of um, something new. So that's why I dove in I s t and it was like a, a first in class, best in class program and still is. So that was what, what was really exciting about uh, Penn State. And
Sean 00:03:50 The thing about I S T is everything is constantly emerging so there's no shortage of keeping up your stills. And we'll kind of dive into that a little bit later in our conversation. But in addition to being a Schreyer scholar, you were also a Bunton Waller scholar and I was hoping that you could tell us what that program is, why it's so important and what it was like being in it. Yes,
Darin 00:04:12 The Bunton Waller Lent Fest Scholar program absolutely changed my life, um, and is like a huge reason for my success today. So I want to give a shout out to the people who have put that program on all the other graduates as well. It is a, um, a scholarship program for talent of color and it really helped build community while we were here at Penn State and also like affirmed this feeling of belonging while on campus. And I will say that the Bun Waller lent Vest scholars that I spent my first year with in Penny Packer are still some of my closest friends today. So I'm like really thankful for that program, the opportunity to come to Penn State and study as a scholar. And then it also led to, you know, the opportunity at Schrey and then uh, even some opportunities abroad. So it's been amazing.
Sean 00:04:59 So you mentioned Penny Packer, which is obviously in East Halls and a little bit of a walk from Atherton and Simmons where our main honors housing is at University Park. So what was that like living up in East Halls and kind of the traditional first year freshman dorms? How did you find a place in both of those programs when you didn't live in Atherton or Simmons? That's
Darin 00:05:18 Such a great point 'cause I always felt like I was split between the two communities and cultures and Penny Packer had a very like unique culture from Atherton and Simmons. And if I fast forward to my sophomore year, I actually did move to Atherton so I got a chance to like live amongst both communities. They were obviously wildly different east halls before like the refresh and the new Im building and all of that. And I had to walk, you know, I'll call it coast to coast to west campus for I S t, uh, versus the community down in Atherton. But I found that both communities had uh, amazing people and I have friends from both and it was like the Penny Packer environment that gave me a lot of confidence and a true sense of community. And then I always had my scholars and my classmates who were in Atherton, which again is why I chose my second year to live in Atherton because I also wanted to get closer with those friends as well. And
Sean 00:06:12 Speaking of living in different places, you have a really cool study abroad experience that you shared with me in advance. Can you talk about that and particularly how that tenet of ours of building global perspective tied into achieving academic excellence with integrity and how it influenced your thesis experience? Yeah,
Darin 00:06:29 That was core to my whole thesis experience. And again, like the opportunity to travel to South Africa and study at the University of Cape Town was another formative experience, uh, in my life and not just my Penn State career. And to frame my study abroad decision, I was, I'd say two and a half, almost three years into my studies at Penn State. And a lot of times people will choose to take a study abroad their junior year and give themselves a full year for their thesis likely, you know, locally, uh, with a faculty at Penn State. And I had done so much early on in my Penn State career and it felt like study abroad was that one last thing that I wanted to sneak in. So I worked really closely with my advisor and for students out there like, your advisors are your best friends, they can help you structure a schedule that will make your dreams work.
Darin 00:07:24 And for me, because time was running out, I didn't know if I was gonna have the opportunity to actually study abroad. And thankfully, uh, my advisor, Jeannie and I had put together a plan that satisfied minor in entrepreneurship major in I S T with a focus in cybersecurity and this amazing opportunity to go study abroad at the University of Cape Town and work alongside Gary Marson, who was one of like the renowned H C I professors of the time. So that was like phenomenal. I'm also really thankful for, uh, John Carroll, Mary Beth Rosen, who also supported the idea of my first semester, my senior year abroad, still working on my thesis.
Sean 00:08:04 So I have to ask what exactly was your thesis project?
Darin 00:08:08 My thesis project was around mobile applications for civic engagement. So if I zoom out when I, I landed in South Africa, I learned a lot about water scarcity and water resource management and it became solely like a, a passion project or like a, a problem that I felt like was impactful to solve. So I linked up with a PhD student at the university who was already planning a large scale project around this and I carved out a small user research study around how mobile applications can help influence user behavior positively to conserve water for your community. Awesome.
Sean 00:08:45 And did you actually end up building an app out of that or was it influential in somebody else building an app? Tell us about that.
Darin 00:08:51 Yeah, it was, um, I was able to give design feedback on an app that was already built and like study some of the pain points of the app itself. So I would say, oh, it looks like people are really excited about the opportunity to visualize their impact, right? Or their water consumption. Uh, that's one of the most used features. That's some of the feedback that we're seeing. So although it wasn't my opportunity to build an app myself, I learned a lot about how to design for communities just by like studying the app itself.
Sean 00:09:21 That is excellent. And how do you feel like that has influenced your work since, maybe to jump ahead a little bit, but if you can think about what the long-term impact of that thesis learning was on your career so far?
Darin 00:09:32 Yeah, more than a few things, right? Like from that point forward I had a global perspective and a lived experience of being an American abroad and understanding how foreign currencies had worked. That was actually my, you know, like my first real lived experience with the power of the dollar abroad, right? And that would set me up for success years and years later in my role today at Coinbase. But even before that, it sparked this enthusiasm to work in tech and that's what originally brought me from Philadelphia to San Francisco to dive in with a tech company to learn more about that. And then today on the side I still love like designing apps and and solving problems.
Sean 00:10:09 And before we go into the first stage in your career, again, you're the first I s t grad scholar alum that we've had on the show and it's a newer college at Penn State compared to some ones that are a lot older like engineering, agricultural sciences and liberal arts. So what are some advice pieces that you might share with scholars who are in I S T or prospective students who are thinking about being a Schreyer scholar in I S T particularly?
Darin 00:10:32 That's a great question. I will say that prospective students who are in this field, like you are still early in the possibilities are endless. And I think what's amazing about the college of I S T is that like we have alumni who are always willing to reach out and help you along your career. And also some amazing alumni examples of people who have gone on, started their own companies, like really took something that was a dream and like made it a reality. So you're gonna be learning from some of the best professors and you have an amazing alumni network to support you. I would say lean into all of the resources that are on campus, whether it's a hackathon interested, classmates, professors, alumni, like there are so many resources at your fingertips and you truly can't take it for granted because once you go out and you work within a corporate environment, you realize how amazing your environment was at Penn State.
Sean 00:11:25 And speaking of those resources, if you are an I S T scholar, obviously you have the resources in the honors college, you have the resources of being a student at Penn State and any kind of special options and resources for I S T students in the college of I S t, Darin, did you use any of those as you figured out what your first role was going to be After graduating
Darin 00:11:44 A hundred percent the career services support that I received from the college of I s T was phenomenal and it made the transition into the working world, working world really easy for me. So it started out with an internship and we had our, you know, our career days at at I S t and Ernst and Young had come in to give a presentation, they sold me on this dream of becoming a consultant and uh, I would later find out I'm an auditor, but it's, it's all right. But Penn State did an amazing job of uh, helping me review my resume, pairing me with the right recruiters and getting me an internship opportunity of a lifetime at Ernst and Young in Philadelphia for that summer. And I didn't even realize how important the internship was until it was time to like graduate and get a full-time role. And I realized that I had already had an opportunity that I had an amazing experience at and they were looking for full-time hires. So it made it really simple to just kind of like roll forward that opportunity, say yes to that as like, you know, the best place to launch my career instead of like just trying to find a job starting from scratch, not really knowing what I was diving into.
Sean 00:12:49 So you mentioned EY Ernst Young and obviously if you're a student listening to this and you're in the Smeal college business, you know who these groups are, you know Deloitte, you know McKinsey, EY P W C, but for students who are outside of the Smeal sphere, if you will, can you talk about how you approached working in one of these big four consulting firms and that internship process and some of the unique recruitment <laugh> and process with, you know, case studies and these things as a non-business student?
Darin 00:13:18 Yes, that's a great point because as a non-business student, obviously there's like a spectrum of companies that that you're really aware of. And for me, Ernst and Young or like those big four opportunities were the perfect blend of both tech and business that I was enthusiastic about. So I had a minor in entrepreneurship and always had like an enthusiasm for the business side and for startups and I felt like Ernst and Young was a great opportunity to go learn how businesses work while also still working in like a very technical field and feeling like I'm an expert in my, like my particular domain. So it was, um, a nice blended opportunity. And I will say that those structured big four opportunities are a great way to like sharpen your professional skills and prepare you for whatever opportunities may come next because it just instills so many good business practices and you're learning from some amazing business leaders and you're getting exposed to industries that you likely wouldn't, you know, get exposure to in just a traditional role. So I'm thankful for like the breadth of opportunity, the professional discipline really like the travel opportunities as well. There are a lot of amazing things that kind of come with diving into that big four opportunity, but it's definitely like an earned opportunity, yet it's a work hard, play hard culture, so be ready to track your hours.
Sean 00:14:36 Absolutely. And I know pre pandemic there was a lot of travel involved that may look a little bit different at those firms now with kind of the hybrid world that were is emerging, but Darin, uh, you mentioned earlier kind of you had a role as a consultant also kind of as an auditor. Can you you talk about what those differences are and what kind of work you actually did in job number one? Yeah.
Darin 00:14:57 Uh, so I'll say company number one had two jobs. And that's another amazing part about working at a firm like EY where if you ever want to try and transition into something, you should look internally first. But my mentality or my thought process going into it was do the best you can at whatever can help the team the most. And if you can establish yourself as a reputation of someone who can take something that nobody wants and do it with excellence, then you've earned the opportunity to do whatever you want. So my first two years as an auditor, I spent a lot of time on either water services, ironically like water services kind of came back into my professional career. And then also technology services. So like visiting big data centers for large telecom companies, you know, that audit opportunity was mainly evaluating risks in their, in their business controls and their business environment.
Darin 00:15:51 And then, you know, determining if the controls are effect effective enough to meet the risk, uh, if there are any opportunities for improvement that we would recommend. And then ultimately producing a report that the industry can rely on that has our stamp of approval to give the industry confidence that all the controls are working appropriately, that they're addressing the right kinds of risks and that, you know, like it elevates trust within the industry. I, I actually enjoyed doing that for the like the first two years, but I would say I moved closer to a consultant role as a senior when they gave me the opportunity to work on the innovation team and that's where I felt like I had a true blank canvas to bring some of my, my ideas to life and I would host in-person demo days for executives. And it's really centered around the art of a possible, so any emerging technology from drones to crypto to, you know, chat bots and ai, like we just try to make that tangible for executives so their understanding of how this may transform their industry.
Sean 00:16:48 Very nice. And I think that probably ties in with your entrepreneurship minor it sounds like, right?
Darin 00:16:52 Absolutely. I feel like, um, entrepreneurship is a spirit and um, I really enjoyed, uh, all the classes and the experiences I had at Penn State within the, uh, the entrepreneurship track. It just kind of like carries forward into your next opportunities. Just because you're not starting your own business doesn't mean you can't start your own something.
Sean 00:17:10 Absolutely. I've, I've heard the term entrepreneurship used to describe that, but Darin, you mentioned that you kind of took Job one and stated the company for Job two, but eventually you moved on from ey. So what drove that interest and where did you land and decide to take your talents to next? Yeah,
Darin 00:17:26 <laugh>, that's a great way to phrase it. I wish I did Miami, but that's a future chapter at this point in my life. I had spent maybe three or four years working in Philadelphia and largely centered in Philadelphia. And being from upstate New York, my entire experience had been on the East Coast and there was a window in my career where I said I could either make a transition and go to a city like New York or DC or I could take a bigger risk and get a little bit closer to the epicenter of tech and move to San Francisco. And originally I wanted to do that with ey. Thankfully Salesforce came in like right at the right time with an amazing offer and a field that I was excited about and it aligned with my skills a friend had referred me as well. So it just felt like the right leap to take at the time. And I didn't know what I was getting into when I moved to San Francisco, but I am so happy that I made the leap because the next five years of my career were like drastically different just because of proximity to, you know, emerging tech. So
Sean 00:18:23 For the uninitiated, can you explain what Salesforce is?
Darin 00:18:27 Yeah. Hey, it, when I moved to San Francisco, I honestly did not even know what Salesforce was. This was before the tower, so on and so forth. So Salesforce is a software company that builds c r M software, so customer management, but they've built such a sticky platform and such an amazing brand that you could ask a lot of people. They would give you different answers about Salesforce. So in San Francisco, like Salesforce is a staple of the community. Uh, the c e o Mark Benioff has like, has created Dreamforce and has done so much for the city locally as an ambassador, as a community organizer, and as a leader that like Salesforce is more than just software and they've been able to translate their vision into like buildings all over the world. So whatever city you're in, there's likely a Salesforce tower and a blue cloud somewhere in there.
Sean 00:19:17 For students who maybe haven't touched something like this yet in their career, what exactly is a C R m A customer relationship manager program? Why is that so important for a business in the 21st century
Darin 00:19:29 Tangibly, like, I actually haven't used, used the product in the way that a lot of our customers likely would, but if I were a customer, I would say it's powerful to capture data about your leads and your sales to also layer on other services or get data on how you can serve your customer better. It's a more organized way to do business and it'll just, it'll, it'll help amplify and mature your business.
Sean 00:19:55 Absolutely. And what were your roles that you had there to support those kind of developments? You said you were there for five years, so I'm sure you did some cool things if you wanna share. Yeah,
Darin 00:20:04 <laugh>, there's so many amazing things to say about Salesforce. 'cause I, I had bounced around between our information security team and then like our technical security team, but all in all my role was to build our security compliance program and I worked on a lot of our new acquisitions and if anyone looks into the history of Salesforce, you know that there was an acquisition spree that they went on. I think one of the largest ones would probably be like MuleSoft recently or um, there's a bunch of tech platforms that they've, they've gone on to acquire and that would kind of fall within my scope, similar exercise to what I was doing at Ernst and Young as far as like identifying risks, managing audits, certifying particular reports that relate to GovCloud or government industry or a healthcare industry. If it's high trust is the framework that you're using. So there are a number of security frameworks that I got to work on. I also see it as a cool role because I got to work on a number of, uh, acquisitions and then Salesforce was just such like a large and growing company that I really appreciate how they manage their culture at scale and how they created like an environment that invigorated all of the employees and it was just like this positive aura that he, that you could feel radiating from the Salesforce tower.
Sean 00:21:15 Can you talk a little bit more about that idea of company culture? Because that's maybe something that for a new alum, you know, or a a last semester student they're graduating, they're looking at the nuts and bolts of the job descriptions and you know, do my skills match up? Maybe they look at the mission statement for the company, which you should and things like that, but culture is a little bit more of a nebulous concept. So how did you identify early and maybe even in the interview process that that was a culture that you wanted to be a part of and how can students look for that as they're applying for their first jobs?
Darin 00:21:45 Yeah, I think culture is such, um, an underrated element of business. I see it as a force multiplier for whatever you're actually producing. There are the nuts and bolts, the nuts and bolts matter a lot like your product really, really matters. But what I see, 'cause Salesforce is just c r m software, right? And that's typically as easily replicated. But I found that Salesforce's culture and their commitment to their 1 1 1 model, which I'll explain a little bit later, but their commitment to their 1 1 1 model and the tone of the top that leadership had and how they like really showed up in the community acted as a a force multiplier that made the employees want to go the extra mile that made people feel good about like using Salesforce and like following Salesforce on their journey, likely being patient with all, you know, any Salesforce frustrations. But at the same time Salesforce was producing amazing products. So culture is a force multiplier. It will help you bring out your best self and it'll help make sure that your career progresses in a way without any unnecessary invisible blockers being the friction point for you to try and like transition out of that role. And if it weren't for like a cool startup opportunity, I would definitely still say amazing things about Salesforce and continue working there.
Speaker 3 00:23:04 Calling all Penn State alumni, students and friends, join TH's College gives back campaign from November 28th to December 8th. During this time, students and alumni are invited to make in-kind donations to the Hershey Holiday Toy Drive gift registry. These gifts and toys will be directly sent to the Penn State Health Children's Hospital to help our incredible four diamonds families this holiday season. To access the gift registry, go to toy drive dothan.org. From there you can select any gifts that are still needed and have them shipped directly to the th office address in the registry. Any alumni who donate gifts from the registry will automatically be entered into a lottery for a chance to win a th gift basket. Be sure to include which academic college you're supporting, including the Schreyer Honors College in the gift message so you can be entered. Any questions can be emailed directly to alumni dot [email protected]
for the kids.
Sean 00:24:04 So you mentioned that you went to a startup, but I don't think we would think of them now as a startup. I think they probably moved past that stage. Yes. And uh, you've mentioned you work at Coinbase, it's obviously in the episode description that you read before clicking play hopefully, and you the listener and obviously you're in crypto. So for the sake of our audience, let's just assume some folks already know what it is, bear with us here, but others may not. And so if you could just give us, I'll leave the definition of this up to you, but a quick crash course on blockchain technology and the related platforms like NFTs and cryptocurrency before we get into your current role so that we have a nice benchmark to then talk about your work at Coinbase and potential opportunities for students in this emerging field.
Darin 00:24:50 Absolutely. This is actually what I love to do. I love to teach about these emerging technologies and later I'll probably likely have to create like a full course about this just because there is so much to dive into when it comes to crypto and all the related terms. So if you're, you know, an audience member, member listening now you've likely heard of crypto, you've likely heard of NFTs, you've likely heard web three. And these are all terms that are thrown around all in like the universe of blockchain. So I'll just start with blockchain and then I'll move to like crypto and I'll try to kind try to keep it pretty quick. Blockchain is this new ledger technology where instead of having one centralized database that you rely on and your central trust is there, you have computers that can algorithmically coordinate to create a distributed ledger where the source of truth is shared across a bunch of different computers.
Darin 00:25:40 That's the baseline of blockchain. If I move a step beyond blockchain and I'm talking about crypto, I think the easiest way to understand this is that crypto can be a new financial system that leverages blockchain for greater inclusion opportunities, higher efficiency, greater transparency and trust. So crypto is important for the world for the sake that it can make financial services more available to people all over the world. You can talk more about the barriers to that. There are certain crypto tokens such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, big ones that you may have heard about that are important for different use cases and purposes. So Ethereum would be like a broader platform for smart contracts and for coded execution of certain things. Hey, when Sean starts the podcast, send Darin a Bitcoin, that would be great. And then speaking of bitcoin, Bitcoin is a application of blockchain that is meant to solve for, I'll call it sound money.
Darin 00:26:38 The easiest way or the easiest analogy may be digital gold, something that is verifiably scarce and you use blockchain to prove who has what amount of Bitcoin and it's a permissionless blockchain so anyone with a wallet is allowed access into this new financial system. So it, it challenges this idea of sound money, which in the context of today's economic situation may be a very important conversation to have as governments scramble with, you know, excessive economic stimulus and then also try to like use monetary policy to fight inflation and it, it like creates these friction points. My lived experience in South Africa helped me understand how foreign currencies and like those friction points can really translate to very different outcomes for people on the ground. Also shout out to the the study abroad program, but in that description we've covered blockchain, we've covered crypto and then other elements of that would be web three, the future of the internet reimagined based on blockchain based technologies. And then finally NFTs, which are just like a fun flavor of crypto ownership.
Sean 00:27:45 Absolutely. And so obviously if you were familiar with this, thanks for bearing with us, hopefully for those of you who weren't, you just learned something new. And I think there's obviously some interesting cases here. You mentioned NFTs are the fun version of crypto with digital artwork and memes and, and sneakers and probably some applications in the metaverse as that develops. But I think there's a lot of real world practical applications, right, in terms of even supply chain and origination of goods and transfer of ownership and you mentioned Ethereum and smart contracts and I wonder before we dive into crypto, if you could talk a little bit about what that means with the, that particular example. Yeah,
Darin 00:28:19 I, so those are amazing real world use cases for crypto and although they don't make the headlines like, you know, a a $10 million jpeg, right? Like those are probably the more important applications of blockchain technology and they may not necessarily need to have the same features of like completely open and transparent and permissionless. Those can still be enabled by blockchain, but that's a powerful use case in that sense. Smart contracts are a way to put conditions into code so that they're visible and transparent and executable without the need for an intermediary like me or a bank to execute X, Y or Z. So Sean, if you and I wanted to execute again in a very simple smart contract, I could say like, Hey, you know, for this particular podcast I want to give you the podcast creator rights to revenues, right? And if this is streamed a hundred times, then we can say we will send one Ethereum from a wallet to your wallet. So it's like you code in the creator rights and then you allow the smart contracts to, to do all the execution. So whatever you agreed upon and negotiated upfront that will automatically be executed and then it just like reduces some of the risk that might happen if I say, Hey, you know, I promised you X, Y or Z, but as the intermediary I have the power to change the terms or decide that I want to accrue a majority of the value or you know, do whatever I really want to. So
Sean 00:29:44 First I just wanna clarify for the record, every guest on the show volunteers their time. There is no compensation either way. We have had some folks who are donors for sure, but it is uh, all of our guests give of their time and talent to benefit you, the scholar. So these are all just examples from Darin,
Darin 00:30:00 Sorry, I I work in the the crypto finance space. So like the transfer of value across internet is like what I'm talking about. But yes,
Sean 00:30:08 But let me throw this one out as an example of maybe, you know, the way royalties typically work for books a publishing company gives the author in advance and then any additional sales beyond that advance, they get a certain cut. So theoretically as a book is registered as sold, they could be paid as each book is sold, their $2 or whatever they get per book and lots of little increments instead of waiting for a monthly royalty check. Would that be an example of where that could expedite that for an author? Exactly.
Darin 00:30:34 That's a great example. 'cause you're taking a normal contract and you're coding it onto a platform that's transparent and then now it's a smart contract and it'll execute by itself on that
Sean 00:30:45 Platform. Awesome. And I'm sure you are probably have your own examples that you're thinking of and applications for this in terms of business, in terms of civics and that sort of thing. So there's plenty of use cases for this in the coming years. Now we have that benchmark of blockchain, which is really the under, like you said is the part that's not talked about. Crypto gets all the headlines, but the underlying blockchain technology is really what is underlying all of that. But what is Coinbase and what is your role at that company? So
Darin 00:31:12 Coinbase succinctly coin wants to be the most trusted exchange and platform for crypto. And I say exchange first because our thesis is originally you need to get people comfortable with this idea of transitioning from fiat money to money that is like completely digitized and tokenized. So right now I'd say society is in a place where we're comfortable with digital money. Like I'll go and I'll send money to a friend via Venmo, I will tap and I'll pay via Apple Pay and I understand that, you know, I deal in fiat dollars and those fiat dollars can be digitized. Now tokenization is just putting them on chain. So we're helping transition as an exchange. You say you have money and a bank account, but you want to get digital assets like Bitcoin or Ethereum. We help make that process really easy. It's like pretty much checking out at Amazon.
Darin 00:32:02 You go in, you say what you want, how much you check out, and then we'll help with that exchange. So we exchange fiat for digital assets and vice versa. It's extremely liquid. So anytime that you wanna get out you can also get out and that's what makes the markets efficient and quick. Uh, and they're 24 7. So that's the exchange piece of Coinbase. Now moving forward, I would also say we're a platform because we have a number of other products that help people experience other parts of crypto that have nothing to do with finance maybe. So if you want to have an N F T, you need to have your own wallet. Think of this as, you know, the wallet that you would keep money in. But you can also keep, you know, family photos and other business cards and all of that. A digital wallet can do the same thing. It can hold money, but it can also hold your NFTs and your NFTs can be government issued identity or it can just be a picture that you like.
Sean 00:32:48 Awesome. And what is your specific role that brought you into Coinbase from Salesforce?
Darin 00:32:54 Yeah, so my excitement about Coinbase initially was the opportunity to build a security compliance program, taking a lot of what I had learned at Salesforce, bringing it to Coinbase to a startup and like building that from the ground up. I was also really excited about the opportunity to advance economic freedom, which is the company's mission that my first two years at Coinbase we're building our security compliance program. And then after the company went public, they made the public commitment to pledge 1%, which was 1% of our time, 1% of our equity, uh, 1% of our profit towards social impact and social good. So then I had the amazing opportunity to start that program as the first program manager for Coinbase giving help build the program, distribute funds to help support people all over the world who are using blockchain for social goods. So whether it's decentralized identity for refugees or like funding education or even just like developer programs, it was and is an opportunity to good and use our dollars for impact while as you know, continue to build an amazing company.
Sean 00:33:55 And so you got to stand that team up, correct. So what was that like taking, you know, being in and said, Darin, we want you to do this and go, yeah, what was that experience like? How did you go about doing that? What was your mindset? What kind of tools did you use? Uh, you know, in terms of like leadership skills and, and organizational planning a little bit different than coding. So how did you go about that
Darin 00:34:16 Exactly, and I've, I've always felt like, um, like a renaissance man in my career, like a, a master of, of many different trades. So I wasn't just a coder, in fact I had just enough coding skills to be dangerous but not like, you know, a dev. And obviously this is my first time getting my feet wet in like building a formalized social impact program. I've had, let's say seven plus years of experience in information security. But you know, i I just have a passion for impact, like what do I do? So it was myself and a director, thankfully, I, I sought out career coaching and that was like hugely impactful for my career because it helps kind of quell the imposter syndrome of oh my goodness, I know this one thing with nothing about this and how am I gonna be able to like lead an entire team and build a program that does amazing work.
Darin 00:35:01 So I definitely encourage anyone who's going through like a large transition to just get career coaching, to like, you know, again, give you the confidence and resources that you can actually do this. And that's been wildly helpful. In my career I sought frameworks for how to evaluate useful opportunities and also wanted to start with like first principles for the program. So we fund programs that are programs and partnerships that are leveraging blockchain for good. There's so much good that we can do out there in the world, but we also had to be disciplined and core to our mission around, you know, using blockchain for social impact. So that was like one of our organizational principles and then we kind of thought about four other pillars and like outcomes that we wanted. So people don't understand crypto, right? There's a whole zero to one exercise that we're gonna need to help stimulate.
Darin 00:35:48 So there's one end of the spectrum that funds that zero to one education opportunity. There's also another end where, hey, we have a bunch of people who understand coding and you know, basic web two concepts, but we want to like diversify and expand the pool of talent who are moving to web three. So investing in web three accelerators that aren't only based here in the United States, but in places all over the world, um, that are also covering different racial and gender identities that we know are already likely not well represented in the industry. And then to speed it up, open source development, these are things that deserve to exist. However, they don't have an amazing business model. They're useful for the crypto industry, but someone needs to fund it. So our grants program would help fund open source development. And then finally we aligned to the UN sustainable development goals. And then that's again where water kind of like comes back in. But think about like climate action, reducing poverty, financial inclusion, lowering the cost of remittances. Those are like things that are within our portfolio.
Sean 00:36:45 Awesome. I really like that you set a framework for like, okay, we wanna be fair upfront, this is how we're gonna define these things. But something that jumped out at me, I think that would be really helpful for students is you mentioned finding a career coach and when you're a student at Penn State, it's pretty straightforward. If you're in schreyer, you come talk to our Office of Career Development. If you're at University Park, you go to Bank of America Career Services. If you're at a Commonwealth campus, you go to your campus career office and you go to your college one, whether that's I S T or Earth and Mineral Sciences or H H D or wherever on campus you are in your college specific one. Once you're out in the real world. What does that mean? How did you go about finding career coaching?
Darin 00:37:20 Finding the right career coach is critical, right? You don't want just any career coach, you want a career coach, you really feel like you can share your whole self with who's like, got your best interests at mind and like knows how to motivate you in the right way. I'm thankful that internally we had a program, it was like an accelerator program to like help fund career coaching for a cohort of employees. And I'd say like if you're a student out there who's just entering the workforce and you want career coaching, I'd say ask your business what, what is currently available. Likely they have some mentorship program already and mentorship's a little bit different, but mentorship is a great place to start. You're gonna find those internal resources who can give you knowledge about how to navigate the business, be advocates for your career there internally. And I'd say the power of a career coach, which is, which is the next step further, would be that you have someone who's like untethered and completely independent from your work situation and who can just give you really objective feedback on how to build a better situation for yourself for like what you should do in certain scenarios.
Sean 00:38:20 I think that's really helpful. And obviously once you're an alum you can take advantage of resources from Penn State alumni career services through the alumni association, but certainly look into those kind of independent voices that, uh, Darin is suggesting. So Darin, what skills should scholars be looking at developing now if they're interested in working in any of the kind of industries that you've mentioned so far, even if they don't major in something in the college of i s t?
Darin 00:38:44 It's a great question. So hard skills wise, technical skills wise, I think that there's gonna be a huge demand for people who understand languages of the future. And when I say that in, in the crypto context, that would be like solidity and rust, which are popular coding languages for web three developers right now. And the reason I kind of put that bug in the students here is just to be really aware of it because these are high paying remote first roles that I see emerging and a lot of times students just don't know what's out there. And I just want to like kind of keep that on our radar. I would say communication skills are always really, really valuable. How you communicate in a business context determines your trajectory. So understand how to communicate upward with leadership teams, understand how to communicate impact, not only like the what are you doing, but as a result we've seen these particular outcomes. And like those two things will really help you in your career because you might be doing all the right things, but you're not communicating them in a way that like, is that, that it bites with the right audiences. So communication and then on the hard skill side, like rust, solidity, some of your, your technical skills.
Sean 00:39:57 Awesome. And I'm sure there's great resources here at Penn State and elsewhere for you to learn how to code and learn some of these new technologies, if that's of interest to you. And finally, Darin, before we get to our last kind of wrap up questions, you mentioned remote roles and you had shared that you're, you've been a bit of a digital nomad for a bit. You have been in San Francisco. If you paid attention at the beginning, you, I said that you were in Ann Arbor nowhere near each other. So how can scholars or alumni be successful in a purely remote role, especially if they're starting out remote and taking advantage of, you know, being able to travel and work at the same time like you did?
Darin 00:40:30 Yeah, that, this is a great one because I feel like this is new for a lot of people. This remote first thing was really hard for me to adjust to because I'm a people person and I feel like I unlock these hidden opportunities when we're all like in a room together and can just have like very high, high caliber collaboration opportunities. So tips for remote first work. I would say the first tip is try to find windows or like a cadence for high fidelity conversation and communication. So what that looks like is your immature remote first situation. It might just look like slack, everything, email, everything. Every single thought you have is typed on on a screen. And I don't think that that's scalable and I feel like that's exhausting for people. So if you need a 15 minute standup per day with your team just to feel like you can have that full conversation and every, like, everything that you wanna say is widely understood, then you know, find your 15 minutes.
Darin 00:41:25 If it's just, you know, a biweekly 30 minute meeting with some key stakeholders, that's fine too. But like find your cadence is one. And then the second one is get comfortable with written asynchronous communication. A lot of times you can't have the same conversation with all the right people. If you can hone your communication skills and write really crisp documentation that can be read anywhere at any time, then you've answered a million questions with one document and it'll make your life a lot easier. Because one of the challenges of remote work is that the lines are blurred. You used to have this like very crisp nine to five, you work when you're with your coworkers and now it's like blurred lines, consistent messaging.
Sean 00:42:04 And if you are going into a remote role, I hope you take that advice to heart. You know, not every job has the ability to be remote. There are plenty of roles that require onsite work, but if you have the opportunity, you know, maybe reach out to Darin afterwards and get his advice on being a an Airbnb VRBO surfer. Now we're gonna rapid fire through this 'cause I know Darin you need to get going. What would you say is your biggest success to date?
Darin 00:42:26 Uh, I'd say my biggest success to date has been in this latest phase of my career where I've flipped from just like doing work to like focusing on impact. So as a result of our grants program, we've been able to distribute over $10 million. We've helped over 20,000 people help advance economic freedom. It's really fulfilling to feel like I'm helping Bank Dion Bank and like using crypto to solve, uh, real world problems. So a lot of my job isn't focused on the price of crypto at all. It's actually like focused on like crypto's impact.
Sean 00:42:55 On the flip side, what would you say is the biggest transformational learning moment that you've had throughout your career and what you took from that? I
Darin 00:43:01 Will say that you really need to build a like, resilient mindset. Like these past couple years have been tumultuous and also like amazing. So it's been the best of times and the worst of times. And like cultivating a mindset to be steadfast regardless of the circumstances is really gonna be good for not only your career, but just like your health in general, right? You're gonna be so much more resilient when these things happen. You
Sean 00:43:27 Mentioned mentorship a little bit earlier in our conversation. How do you suggest that students approach being a mentee and then as they grow in their career, how do you suggest they also be mentors to others?
Darin 00:43:38 I think it's wildly important. I call my mentor probably at least once a month just to check in. I think I try to be a good mentee by giving them quick updates on how everything is going, a really clear idea of like what problem I'm trying to solve or like where I'm finding friction. Um, and then like a clear idea of how they can help me. Maybe they can help you by introducing you to someone in their network or like, you know, giving you career advice or just, you know, giving you the affirmation that you're, you're doing the right thing. And then when it comes be, comes to being a mentor, I'd say the best thing is to be patient because, uh, a lot of people have different circumstances and may not like approach career growth in the same way that you did or like be afforded the same opportunities that you had. So you really need to be patient as a mentor and just like lend everything that you have from your advice to your network. Uh, and sometimes like, just even additional time. But it is, it is definitely a true commitment to be a mentor. Mentor. You've
Sean 00:44:31 Mentioned quite a few folks along the way, but are there any additional professors or friends from your days on campus that you wanted to give a shout out to? I
Darin 00:44:37 Hope I shouted them out earlier, but I definitely wanna give a shout out to, uh, Dr. Lisa lens and Dr. Barbara Farmer who from day one have helped like support me in my Penn State career and my Penn State journey as well as Olivia Lewis and then obviously Dr. Carol and this is Mary Beth Rosen because they really helped me in my thesis. So I never would've hit the gong if, uh, if it were not for them. There are so many other Penn State friends and family that I want to thank, but like the broader community has been really supportive. There's also peers that I look up to, I'll say Corey Lee is another one who I wanna shout out. I believe this year he started his own scholarship and that was something that was like inspiring to me. So we literally just hopped on the phone. We probably hadn't talked since I had moved from Philly and then we hopped on the phone and we were actually able to make a few things happen. So I'm inspired by a bunch of, uh, Penn State peers and alumni as well, but I think I've given out the, the shout outs to a majority of the faculty.
Sean 00:45:28 Excellent. As we're wrapping up, are there any final pieces of advice that you wanted to share with students that didn't organically come up in our conversation and the questions that I've asked so far?
Darin 00:45:37 Yeah, I would definitely say, you know, closing thoughts for the students is to just continue to have faith in your abilities and like the people around you and like ask for help when you need it because there is like a wide network of Penn State community and family that really wanna help you and see you succeed. So if you know, if that's what you desire, we got you. We are
Sean 00:45:56 Penn State. I love it. <laugh>. Now if scholars wanna reach out to you and, you know, learn more about crypto, about blockchain or any of your experiences in South Africa or other great stuff we've talked about today, how can they connect with you?
Darin 00:46:07 The best way to connect with me is on LinkedIn. Um, I'm starting to build a really big following there and I've heard that a lot of people want a crypto education course. So very soon I want to actually put together something, a cohort where I can just teach people and have these open conversations about crypto because I want at least people to be aware enough to make an informed decision about it. Especially, you know, as we're at the foundation of crypto. So you can follow me on LinkedIn, Darin Carter, and then if you also wanna follow me on Twitter dare d a r eCore Carter.
Sean 00:46:36 Excellent. And you know, I actually want a quick thing there. You mentioned your, your name and Twitter handle, but I think you said you have a pretty fun nickname that you got.
Darin 00:46:45 Oh, crypto Coach Carter. Yes. That's, uh, <laugh>, if you're ready for that.
Sean 00:46:49 I love it. I saw that in your questionnaire responses and I thought that I got a good chuckle outta that and I hope you did too, listening. And finally, our last question as always, Darin, if you were a flavor of Burke Creamery ice cream, which would you be? And most importantly as a scholar alum, why would you be that flavor? Wow,
Darin 00:47:06 I would be the scholarship because if it were not for the scholarship at Penn State, uh, I might not be here speaking to us now. So I definitely feel like that's, that's my flavor and one day I hope to like give back to increase the scope of impact that scholarship can have and also grab some ice cream.
Sean 00:47:23 Well, we certainly appreciate all of that, Darin, and you know where to find us when you wanna make that happen. Darin Carter of Coinbase, thank you so much for joining us and giving us a quick crash course on all things blockchain, crypto, NFTs, and the future of the web and what students can be looking for for careers and skills in that space. Thank you so much for joining us here today.
Darin: Thanks Sean.
*GONG SOUND EFFECT*
Sean 00:47:52 Thank you Scholars for listening and learning with us today. We hope you will take something with you that will contribute to how you shape the world. This show proudly supports the Schreyer Honors College Emergency Fund, benefiting Scholars experiencing unexpected financial hardship. You can make a difference at raise.psu.edu/schreyer. Please be sure to hit the relevant subscribe, like, or follow button on whichever platform you are engaging with us on today. You can follow the College on Instagram and LinkedIn to stay up to date on news, events, and deadlines. If you have questions about the show or are a Scholar Alum who'd like to join us as a guest here on Following the Gong, please connect with me at [email protected]
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