Working at an emerging tech company — My GECKO Tale
I guess I should start off by explaining who I am and how I managed to end up here working at GECKO. My name is Stephen Kilcommins. I’m currently going into my second year of Computer Science in UCD. I ended up getting an internship here at GECKO through a connection I had made a few years back with Patrick Purcell, who is the Head of Technology and Product Innovation. Just before Summer I was invited in for an interview -if you would even call it that, more like a friendly chat- with the CEO of the company, Shane Brett. Pat had assured me that Shane was easy-going, all the same I was a little nervous. But I needn’t have been as I was immediately put at ease by Shane’s friendly and open demeanor. He sported three quarter lengths and a Carlos Santana t-shirt, not what you’d expect from a man who had had a background in finance banking. During the brief chat Shane gave a concise synopsis of what GECKO does and what he planned for the future — the Crypto1 project. Needless to say, I was extremely excited to get to work. My work would begin almost a month to the day later, after I had returned from Seville, Spain where I would be attempting to polish off my Spanish.
My modest understanding of the company to this point had come from any conversations I had with Pat, coupled with any posts I had seen on social media about GECKO. To my knowledge GECKO was a company which helped in the regulation of hedge fund management and nothing more. It was only during my sit-down with Shane that I had learned about the new crypto side of the business. Having just read ‘The Intelligent Investor’ — arguably the bible when it comes to investment practices — cover to cover twice in the months prior I was at first a little skeptical when Shane brought up cryptocurrency. However, this was purely down to my own lack of education in the area — despite being a “Comp Sci” student. Once Shane explained the Crypto1 project to me, that his plan was to bring increased regulation, governance, and compliance to the crypto marketplace, I knew he was on to something massive. Knowing that the introduction of better regulation and governance in the crypto world could eventually lead to traditional institutional investors entering into the market, and the fact that GECKO was a front-runner in the crypto-compliance area, I saw the enormous potential for the company. I too believed in this vision, which only increased the passion that I had to work for GECKO.
On my return from Spain I was buzzing to finally get to work. I had briefly met the other members of the team before leaving for Spain but had not yet been properly acquainted. On the first day I was shown to my small, humble desk in the corner of the office where the other employees were already at work. I was properly introduced to the team. Everyone was extremely welcoming and open, and I immediately felt the relaxed office atmosphere which brought a sense of calm and ease. (We would later in my stay move into a much larger office — more than double the size of this one, one where I had my own large desk and set of drawers.) I was set up with my own email and was given access to all social media outlets of the company, being informed that it was planned for me to manage the social media accounts — an act which showed me that I was now a member of the team, trusted with these tasks. This trust gave me a feeling of identity and a wanting to help in any way possible to further the development of the company. I was sent on dozens (and when I say dozens, I mean dozens) of articles written by Shane himself, others about GECKO, about the crypto-space in general and the need for increased governance and compliance, and also anything to do with the company and what it does — e.g. marketing decks, and the white paper for GECKO Crypto1. Over the course of the following days I sat, read, and became an expert in anything GECKO.
From the offset it was apparent that office life in an emerging company would be fast-moving, that if I were to stick around there would be a steep learning curve. However, I knew this would be the case, and I didn’t let it deter me. I found that the key was for the first while to observe, observe and then observe some more.
On arrival at the company I only very vaguely knew of Blockchain technology -in spite of my computer science background. On the first day I was sent an e-book ‘Blockchain for Dummies’ which I read in the following days to further my knowledge in the area. I asked which programming languages I should be focusing on so as to be of use during the development of the new Crypto1 software and was met by an answer I was not expecting — ‘Solidity’ — a programming language which I hadn’t even heard of at that stage. I started scouring the web for solidity resources until I found a course on popular website Udemy, a full in-depth course dealing with everything to do with Ethereum, Solidity, and programming smart contracts using solidity and other tools & libraries. Shane thought this was brilliant and had no hesitation in purchasing the course for me to work through whenever I wasn’t busy with other company tasks. I thought it was great that the CEO had this willingness to invest in and educate his interns. This ethos of “If it increases your knowledge in this field GECKO will pay for it” rang through numerous times in my stay at the company. Shane has paid for many courses for each member of the team and actively encourages us to further our education in any way, not concerned by the expense.
Throughout the office there was an obvious admiration for Shane, for not only his intelligence but also the way he ran GECKO. He was laid-back, approachable, and genuine, yet stern in his business dealings. It was clear that he wanted the best for his employees, and he valued everyone’s opinion — even mine. This mentality carried down to all employees and has created an engaging office atmosphere — where your co-workers feel more like your friends than they do co-workers. This mutual respect between employer and employee created a drive within employees to work diligently for the vision of the company.
WHAT DID I ACTUALLY DO?
So, what does an intern at an emerging tech company do? Well, many things. In my case the main thing I did was learn — both through observation and doing, of course. It has really been priceless being involved in a company at this early stage, getting to see how Shane runs the company, being present through all stages of the Initial Coin Offering (ICO), and being able to see all the cogs in the enterprise machine in full swing.
I also learned how to deal with clients, responding to messages and emails from both current and potential investors. I even got to practice a little Spanish in the workplace replying to a potential investor’s email in Spanish, albeit not receiving a reply — mi corazón roto.
As I mentioned earlier, one of my principal jobs was running the social media platforms of the company. This involved finding content to post, keeping track of everything posted, where it was posted, if it was a paid advertisement, and the analytics involved, in an excel spreadsheet.
One stereotypical dull Irish Saturday I got to be part of a panel for an hour long Ask Me Anything (AMA) pitch from Shane to a pool of coveted investors — another invaluable experience.
Of course, It hasn’t all been important jobs I’ve been doing, and I’ve had my fair share of ‘intern-style jobs’. Since my arrival I’ve spent many an hour sorting and taking pictures of the teams’ receipts to send on to the taxman — a less than glamourous assignment, but hey, someone’s got to do it.
I’ve gotten to partake in small tasks applying my programming knowledge helping with the new software.
I’ve began developing many priceless connections within the crypto-space, and creating an identity for myself in the industry. One of the most important things in this nascent crypto/blockchain industry is networking.
I was even given the task of creating a WordPress website for a new non-profit venture involving GECKO. As something of an ‘HTML/CSS-purist’ I was at first a little disturbed having to use a website framework such as WordPress, alas I powered through.
I remember one day Shane bringing us into his office and showing us a marketing problem he had. I naively blurted out “I could write a script to do that” assuming it mustn’t be too difficult to write an automated script to do so, meanwhile having to rush off to teach myself a new programming language just to get it done.
In conclusion I’ve learned many things even in my short period here at GECKO. I’ve learned about the art of improvisation — that not everything needs to be perfect, to keep moving and doing, and things will get done,
proper etiquette speaking to and dealing with clients,
software development on a large scale — creating professional grade software to be used by huge companies.
I’ve learned all about blockchain technology, its disruptive qualities and its place in the future, as well as how to develop blockchain applications or decentralized apps,
and, of course, I’ve developed a slew of knowledge in cryptocurrencies — everything from methods of storage and wallet types, the various exchanges, its volatility compared to traditional markets, as well as the entire life cycle of an ICO — the regulation, legal procedures, KYC/AML, token economics, white paper creation, marketing strategies, and the actual token sale.
As someone who has wanted to be an entrepreneur from a young age it really was a dream come true to be involved in an emerging tech company. Every morning I would be excited to come into work and see what challenges would be faced during the day ahead. It has been thoroughly enjoyable and eye-opening seeing how an emerging company is run — how each cog moves in the greater machine. It was also invaluable learning and witnessing how a start-up obtains funding from VC’s, or in the new case of crypto, through an ICO.
I am delighted to say that I will continue working with GECKO after Summer through the college term, balancing my college workload with company endeavours. The experience I’ve obtained here in such a short time period has been nothing short of extraordinary, and I cannot wait to be part of GECKO as it transforms from an emerging start-up into a recognised global brand.
Stephen Kilcommins September 8th, 2018