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People & Culture

Meet The Team Series Q&A With Blake Williams, Portal Software Engineer

In the latest edition of our series, we get to know Software Engineer, Blake Williams. Blake shares incredible advice from his extensive 20-year experience, his creative hobbies, and why it’s important to think like an outsider.

February 16, 2024

Meet The Team Series Q&A With Blake Williams, Portal Software Engineer

What is your role at the company, and what are your main responsibilities?

I'm a Software Engineer, mainly focused on our SDKs.

How long have you been working in the blockchain industry, and what sparked your interest in it?

This is my first job in this industry, and to be honest, I'm a bit of a crypto skeptic. However, I am particularly interested in a few key areas of blockchain technology: solving developer and user experience problems to bring the technology to a critical adoption point; the potential for blockchain technology to solve a lot of real world problems (particularly in emerging markets), and the potential for decentralization to unlock global finance in a way that wasn't possible before.

Can you share a bit about your professional background and relevant experience?

I've been working as a Software Engineer for nearly 20 years, and I've gotten my hands on just about every type of emerging tech during that time. Most recently, I worked as the founding member of the Growth Engineering Team at Segment (acquired by Twilio), working on various aspects of developer experience optimization, data pipeline, and sales pipeline. I tend to lean toward early stage companies, as I love ideating and building new technology from the ground up. My work history definitely reflects this.

Are there any specific crypto projects or developments that have had a significant impact on your perspective?

There's not a specific project, but I definitely take a lot of interest in the fact that the crypto community at large seems to be doggedly focused on two key things: obfuscating "the Web3 of it all" from the user experience in an effort to make the technology more approachable, and finding fast, secure, and usable ways to implement Web3 in an otherwise Web2 world. These two frontiers help form a lot of my perspective and take up a fair amount of my thoughts and ideas around the space.

What are some key challenges you've encountered in your role within the blockchain industry? 

I think the hardest part of building tooling for the blockchain industry is striking the balance between familiarity (writing APIs and SDKs that feel like non-Web3 tooling) and robustness (including all of the levers afforded by blockchain technology). This is a delicate dance, and I've probably spent more time at Portal concerned with this balance than anything else.

Can you describe the team dynamic and culture within the company? Are there any core values or principles that guide your work at Portal?

I think at the core of our approach is humility. We're pretty focused on collaborating to get the best possible outcomes, regardless of how we get there. I think this also drives our willingness to fail a bit along the way. We've definitely tried a number of iterations of various features, and not all of them have worked out. Ultimately, I enjoy the freedom to take these chances, and I love the folks I'm on the journey with!

How do you see the industry evolving in the coming years? Are there any trends or innovations that you find particularly exciting?

I think over the next few years, we're going to start to see Web3 technology get buried in the background a bit more. While it will likely become the driving force behind a lot of how we interact with the web, I believe we'll start seeing less of the specifics. A lot of folks will likely be using Web3 wallets without even knowing it! I'm pretty excited about the prospect of this happening, as I think it's the key to unlocking adoption and bringing blockchain technology to the next level. Separate from that, I think there's serious potential for blockchain technology to have a reasonable impact on global and governmental finance (particularly in emerging markets). The adoption of crypto as a means to perform daily financial tasks will likely start to spike in the coming years as the learning curve is curbed for everyday users. I find this particularly exciting as well.

Outside of work, what are some of your hobbies or interests?

I'm an avid snooker player (though I'm not very good). I try to set aside at least two Sundays a month to play snooker with friends. I'm also a pretty consistent chess player (though I'm also not very good). However, my main hobby is music. I've been recording and producing music since I was a teenager, and I have a fairly advanced home studio (you're likely to see a lot of instruments and records in the background if you're ever on a video call with me). I spend a fair amount of time producing my friends' projects and recording and releasing my own music.

What advice would you give to someone who is joining a Web3 startup or just starting their career?

Think like an outsider. I think one of the hardest parts of working in a space that is so new and so complex is that it's easy to lose sight of how people outside of—or unfamiliar with—the space engage with their tools. There's a different set of understandings and expectations that need to be recognized when building tools for the masses. I think that taking a step away from hex strings and transaction hashes from time to time is the best way to bridge this gap.