Learning data engineering is only the first step in breaking into the industry – bootcamps like Jigsaw Labs have externship programs in place to help students get real-world experience. And it takes forward-thinking companies like Cred Protocol to hire and train students in those externships. Find out from Julian Gay, CEO of Cred Protocol, what it takes to get a full-time data engineering job and how Jigsaw Labs data engineering students get prepared for Web3 roles!
Curious what the externship looks like for a student? Read our Q&A with Aaron, a Jigsaw Labs alum working at Cred Protocol.
Tell us a bit about Cred Protocol – what problems do you solve?
Cred Protocol is a decentralized credit score and we operate in the Web3 space working with data from blockchain. Essentially, we’re quantifying on-chain lending risk at scale. To operate at scale we need an algorithmic approach to risk scoring, which is essentially a credit score.
Credit scores don’t exist in Web3 decentralized finance (DeFi) yet and we’re pursuing the opportunity to be the first to create a credit score. There are a variety of uses for this work, but the main one is to provide accessibility for regular people and underserved communities to access DeFi-powered financial resources. Loans that make a difference in people’s lives.
How large is the engineering team at Cred Protocol?
We’re a startup with a nine-person team and almost half of the team is in data engineering. The rest of the team is Machine Learning Engineers and Full Stack Engineers. Right now, the only non-technical/product team member is our Head of Operations.
As the CEO of Cred Protocol, I’m effectively the Product Manager so I work closely with the team – including Aaron, who we hired from Jigsaw Labs. It’s a tight feedback loop and a dynamic environment which means being responsive to customer needs and the discoveries we make for implementing credit scores and accessing blockchain data.
Cred Protocol is part of the Jigsaw Labs Externship Program – what does that look like for bootcamp grads?
We’re a remote-first team, but we do have three hubs in San Francisco, New York, and London because that's where we’ve found talent. One of our investors is an advisor for Jigsaw Labs and she knew we were looking for data talent since it’s core to what we do. She connected the dots and put us in touch with Jigsaw Labs, which is how we got Brian and Aaron as externs.
The externship is about four months long. With us, everything externs work on is genuine work, which I think is appreciated. It also allows them to participate properly in team dynamics like stand-ups and check-ins. Externs have the space to make mistakes, which is important for them to learn as part of the culture. We need to move fast and startups are about addressing a timely opportunity.
Does the data engineering curriculum they teach line up with the skills you’re hiring for?
It isn’t a checkbox of skills. The key thing is that Jeff is available to support the externs. He talks with them behind the scenes and they continue their program with Jigsaw Labs while they work with us during the four-month externship. Aaron quickly applied what he learned in the Jigsaw program because he was working in production data environments with seasoned data engineers. They had the context from Jigsaw, but Aaron sucked up all of the information that could be provided.
What types of students do you accept into the externship?
Our environment is dynamic and uncertain so the key things we look for are attitude and aptitude. It’s up to the individuals with a little guidance to orient themselves and get the most out of the experience. Some people want a more structured approach and that’s just not possible in our environment. Even with more experienced individuals, if the startup environment isn’t right for them they won’t make it even if they have the skills.
How do you train Jigsaw Labs students in blockchain during the externship?
We have a ton of stuff to do so we don’t create fake work. The work we assign might not be on the critical path for us, but it’s always necessary, we don’t want to put too much pressure on someone finding their feet.
We’ve created a culture oriented around action and moving quickly doesn’t mean you’re going to get it right every time. That’s okay, we get feedback and adjust. There’s a tendency to think things have a single right way and they must be done in a specific way. When you work with real data, things are messy and that’s inherent. Getting comfortable with that mess is part of the journey.
What stood out about the Jigsaw Labs externs that you actually hired on full-time?
We’ve had two Jigsaw Labs externs on the team and what stood out about Aaron was his hunger for knowledge. There’s a steep learning curve in the industry, not just for data engineering, but also with blockchain data and the DeFi protocols that generate the data.
All of these aspects came together with Aaron and he has an amazing can-do attitude and energy. He was also adaptable, which is particularly necessary in the startup environment since we won’t necessarily have a roadmap for the next six months. Aaron demonstrated that he had the energy and appetite to thrive in that environment.
Cred Protocol wants to be the bridge for traditional Web2 data engineers to make the move to Web3. Even if the externs don’t get hired, the job experience is valuable. Not many people know about Web3 or working with blockchain data and it’s a unique and valuable experience even within the world of data.
What roles could a Jigsaw Labs externs fill on the Cred Protocol team?
The main roles we have for the team are data engineering, data science, machine learning, and full stack engineering so those are the main skills we look for.
What is Aaron working on now at Cred Protocol?
Broadly he’s working on blockchain data pipelines and market data acquisition, specifically focused on Ethereum. Someone might have bought 2 ETH a year ago and we need to know the market value on that day. That means building tools to look at the historic market prices of ETH across different exchanges.
Why does Cred Protocol put the time and effort into onboarding programs like externships instead of just recruiting senior blockchain engineers?
Blockchain is a great space in particular for people starting their careers because you can establish a body of knowledge equal to anyone out there. A so-called “expert” might only be six months ahead of you in terms of understanding blockchain.
If you’re an ambitious person who wants to maximize your potential, we want to be your destination.
Attitude trumps a lot of things and you can get a lot from the externship if you come in with an appetite to learn and engage. We also get a lot out of it if the externs are engaged, exploring the space on their own time, and coming back to us with ideas, particularly in the Web3 space.
Bringing people earlier in their career into the mix doesn’t come without effort on our side. One of the aspects of Web3 businesses is they’re operating in a decentralized world. The businesses themselves are decentralized. Cred Protocol is remote-first and that’s not uncommon. We have a dynamic workforce where we have full-time employees, full-time contractors, part-time contractors, vendors, externs, and interns. We want to create an environment where we can tap into that energy and talent wherever it is. We’re also distributed between San Francisco, New York, and London so we cross 8 time zones. We want to be able to leverage those time zones effectively in a remote environment.
Find out more and read Jigsaw Labs reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Jigsaw Labs.
Jess Feldman is the Content Manager at Course Report. As a lifelong learner, Jess is passionate about education — She loves learning and sharing insights about tech bootcamps and career changes with the Course Report community. Jess received a M.F.A. in Writing from the University of New Hampshire and lives in southern Maine.
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