From Aerospace to Blockchain with Byte Academy
Interview with Byte Academy graduate Stephane Gallet by Emily Hunt
Meet Stephane Gallet, founder/owner of a travel company (specifically, a cycling tour company) and former Aerospace Program Manager, based in Brazil. Recently, he decided to take a break from organizing vineyard tours around Italy and enroll in Byte Academy's blockchain coding bootcamp program, one of the first worldwide.
While studying full-time in New York City, Stephane became very active in the blockchain community and landed a CTO (Chief Technology Officer) job at a blockchain startup before graduation. Read how he did it!
Please provide an overview of your background, both general and career-focused.
I was born in France, came to NY at age 10, then headed to California for University, then after my Masters had the opportunity to join a tech startup. That sealed my path, and I've never considered working outside of startups since.
Six years ago I left my very secure job as a Program Manager for Aerospace projects to start a Cycling Tour Company. We take people from all over the world to discover Europe and Asia by bike. I've been traveling fairly constantly for the past five years, and spending a fair amount of time in Brazil where we've have a branch since 2015.
So why did you decide to take a break from the cycling company you founded (and the travels) to enroll in Byte Academy's blockchain program -- essentially become a student again?
I've been investing in Cryptocurrencies for the last two years, and spending more and more of my time delving into the technology and the questions it raises. Over a few years, I saw a major shift happening and the disruption of businesses worldwide and across multiple markets. If there's anything that starting, running, and growing a small business has taught me, it is to not underestimate macro-economic effects.
Towards the end of 2017 I concluded that either I would switch course completely and immerse myself in blockchain and crypto, or I'd be forced to within a few years (we all will). At the same time, I didn't feel comfortable jumping into the space, starting a business or leading a project, without a deep understanding of the technology. NYC is the world-center for Fintech, and there are not many bootcamps with a strong Blockchain technology curriculum, like Byte Academy.
Moreover, I chose Byte because it's the only intensive Blockchain course I could find. In retrospect NYC is by far the BEST place to do this. There are events 6 nights a week on Crypto/Tech/AI/ML/Data Science, and that's priceless. My goals were to work in the Blockchain environment, and I have fulfilled them. I am currently CTO / VP Engineering @ Blockhous in NYC.
Please describe your studies at Byte Academy, particularly the project work and languages that you studied.
For my final project I worked on the testnet software dev team for SIMPL.network, which is a project that removes electricity costs from Proof-of-Work by implementing Optical Mining. We worked in Python and Bash Scripting, and certainly learned a lot about networking!
My personal project was geared towards understanding the Blockchain ecosystem. I used data aggregated from Github and other sources to map out the social network of developers involved in Blockchain projects, creating a list of Most Valuable Programmers in the Blockchain space (I called it the MVP list). The insight from this analysis is extremely useful at my current position at Blockhous.
Wow - your new position sounds almost like a dream job given your interests. Can you tell us more about the role as CTO/VP Engineering at Blockhous and how your education may have played into it?
I'm in charge of the overall architecture, as well as evaluating partners for our global Working Groups, which will provide research and insight on upcoming Blockchain projects and Frontier Investing Opportunities for our members.
Regarding education, the impact of attending Byte was huuuuuge! Information is free nowadays, but time is money, and there's no way I would have delved so deep so fast without Byte. Byte Academy helped me get a sense for the latest developments in the tech industry, and how distributed teams can work together. Also, access to one-on-one time with very qualified instructors, them holding your hand until you're ready to take off, is very beneficial (as I experienced at Byte Academy)
Tell us about the hiring process after coding bootcamp. How long did it take for you to find a job? Any tips?
Jenna, who is the student career coach at Byte, was instrumental in helping me transition from a very different role, understand people's expectations and learn how to put my best foot forward. After that, I would say networking was the most important part to find a worthwhile project and a team I wanted to join. I presented my final projects at Byte on a Friday, started working the next Monday.
That's great you took advantage of networking opportunities. In fact, you have been very involved in the Crypto community and community in general. For instance, at Byte Academy you organized a "Reverse Shark Tank" developer meetup in which startups pitch to students for development work (under the guidance of instructors). You also hosted a successful "CryptoMonday event."
How do you/can you describe the balance of getting involved with the community and learning to code full time?
For me, learning to code sitting at a desk should only ever be half of what I'm doing...the other half needs to be inter-personal, especially right now. There are so many important questions on the table with DLT(Digital Ledger Technology) and Crypto that you can't possibly be so arrogant as to think you can figure them out by yourself. I've learned by far more about the space, trends, problems from talking to people at Crypto Events than through any other medium. It takes humility, you have to walk into a room and be open to discussing any topic, be challenged, and most of all be open with the immense amount that is "what you don't know".
Did Byte Academy play a role in your community involvement? If so, how?
Byte's always organizing events and getting students involved, Kudos! (their meetup group is just a sample)
You said that prior to the bootcamp program, you invested in cryptocurrency. How did you get into the crypto space? Do you think you think that Byte Academy has changed your investing style?
I got interested because of Bitcoin, in late 2015 (before you ask, my only investment tip is to never invest what you can't afford to lose). I'm definitely much more conservative now that I know more about it! It's much easier for me to gauge a project, cut through the BS, and determine quickly if there is potential.
Will you return to the travel industry? What is the connection to blockchain if any?
I don't see a return to the travel industry as starting a business and growing it was a personal challenge I'd set out for myself, and I learned a lot by doing it. If you're going to start a business, why not start one that allows you to travel 10 months out of the year? So I'm happy with the experience, but I'm a tinkerer, I love to create, and tech is always going to be my passion.
Please share some advice to those who are considering learning blockchain, enrolling in a bootcamp for software development or FinTech (As you've seen some of your peers in the program as Byte Academy offers both those options)
Identify your strengths and weaknesses first. If you don't have an advanced math/engineering background, you will never be able to work on the cryptography / architecture side, designing Blockchain from scratch or entire systems. I think getting involved with Data Science without some serious love for Statistics and Linear Algebra is a mistake. That said, there's plenty you can do with Solidity, Dapps, UI/UX without it. There is a huge demand right now for JS, Python and Solidity programmers, so get coding!
To learn more about Byte Academy, check out their reviews and course information on SwitchUp.