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Meet The Team Series: Q&A With Nellie Tan, Business Ops Lead
We discuss Nellie’s experience at neobanks and management consulting, what gave her more conviction in decentralization, the collaborative and humble culture at Portal, emerging trends like cross-border finance utilizing stablecoins, and wallet adoption in Asia.
December 1, 2023
What is your role at the company, and what are your main responsibilities?
Business Operations Lead. I help drive commercial development efforts of our tech here at Portal.
How long have you been working in the blockchain industry, and what sparked your interest in it?
Circa 2020, I was helping to grow the crypto product at Revolut, a big neobank, in the US and globally. You could say that was my first real exposure to the nuts and bolts of crypto at a technological level. I enjoyed learning about the ins and outs of building an exchange product at Revolut. I stayed in the blockchain space because it was fast evolving, there was ample opportunity to build with great teams like Portal, and also because the blockchain industry by nature of decentralisation was global from day 1 - which meant that I got to work with teams globally and now also in my home region of Southeast Asia, which I love!
Can you share a bit about your professional background and relevant experience?
Prior to Portal, I wore hats in Product Management and Business Operations in the US at Revolut, a global neobank. Before that, I was a management consultant with Bain & Company in Southeast Asia. Personally, I'd say the most relevant aspect of my experience is that it has been (thankfully) very global, and I've gotten a chance to work and live in multiple countries. That has given me a sense of appreciation for the blockchain industry that innovates on the basis of removing borders - anyone who has ever been an immigrant understands just how painful it is to migrate, transact, or do anything across borders. That gives me perspective.
Are there any specific crypto projects or developments that have had a significant impact on your perspective?
The FTX collapse gave me more conviction than ever that we need decentralization, at least first in finance. Decentralization isn't the answer to everything, of course, but this incident showed me that systems built on purely trust and process are fallible.
What are some key challenges you've encountered in your role within the blockchain industry?
Trend-wise, we're still on the cusp of adoption across many use cases, and none have scaled to the degree that speculative trading has. Even though we are seeing new use cases emerge beyond speculative trading when it comes to utilizing the blockchain, the sustainability of those business models has not yet been proven at scale. Having blockchain-based business models that are sustainable across various use cases, like cross-border transfers, is crucial to helping the industry mature and growing the size of the market. Other challenges I see in industry: gender disparity when it comes to working professionals! I hope this gap narrows significantly over time, with more people finding it less intimidating to enter crypto.
Can you describe the team dynamic and culture within the company? Are there any core values or principles that guide your work at Portal?
The team at Portal is extremely collaborative, open to new ideas, and humble. I appreciate my colleagues every day. Generally, I try to focus on prioritizing one problem at a time. As a startup, we don't have the luxury of spreading ourselves too thin, so prioritizing impact in one area at a time is very helpful when it comes to working effectively and efficiently.
How do you see the industry evolving in the coming years? Are there any trends or innovations that you find particularly exciting?
So much is happening every. single. day! I'm excited about a lot of emerging trends, like cross-border finance utilizing stablecoins. Like I mentioned previously, having lived in multiple countries, I have experienced the pain of having to transact across borders, so I'm particularly excited for cross-border finance to become more efficient and borderless from day 1. I'm also excited for Asia to lead the way when it comes to adopting decentralized technologies; digital wallets are already a part and parcel of daily life, so I think it's only a matter of time before folks in Southeast Asia and perhaps Asia at large will start using more blockchain-based tech to do things like buying, storing, or sending digital dollars in their daily lives.
Outside of work, what are some of your hobbies or interests?
Does taking care of a pet count? I have a kitten called Simba (pic below) whom I love to spoil and am now working on training. I also love to cook, hike, and catch up on the latest movies.
What advice would you give to someone who is joining a Web3 startup or just starting their career?
To someone interested in joining a Web3 startup: despite the bad rep that "Web3" often gets, there are in fact a lot of high quality projects and teams out there working on important aspects of the blockchain, like improving underlying infrastructure or building new use cases on the blockchain that can impact people's daily lives. When you are researching the nature of the project you'll be working on, look out for those.
To those just starting their careers: find a place where the leadership team is willing to mentor you. Nothing makes a bigger impact on your career (and life) than having a great mentor!