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People of Web3
Will Lawrence

Will Lawrence

Product Manager at Paxos

Will writes about product, frameworks for life and early career growth.

What is your background?

I studied Economics in university and did my thesis on M-PESA (the largest mobile money network in the world) and its effect on household spending in Kenya. Since graduating, I’ve worked as a product manager at Facebook (now Meta). During my time there, I led teams in the growth, revenue and payments spaces. I grew up in Toronto, worked in San Francisco and now live in London.

How did you become interested in web3?

I had the chance to be a PM on the WhatsApp Payments team at Meta. During that time, I led teams focussed on two areas: launching WhatsApp peer-to-peer payments in Brazil and scaling our compliance platform to better support anti-money laundering (AML), counter-terrorism financing (CTF), and risk screening.

During this time, I kept bumping into the limitations of payment “rails”. This is the infrastructure (or plumbing) that allows money to move from one account to another. An example of this limitation is how regionally focussed it is -- it's infinitely more challenging for money to move between countries than within countries. This has many consequences, including 1) the need to customize/re-build payment products in each country, 2) many emerging markets missing out on financial infrastructure, 3) use cases limited by old infrastructure.

I shared some of these learnings on Twitter in December 2020 and multiple people suggested that web3 solutions and infrastructure could be a solution. Digital currencies move instantaneously on infrastructure not owned by oligopolies and could allow people in Nigeria, Peru, and Japan to all access the same financial products. This got me excited and I started to explore web3.

How did you approach your web3 job search?

I asked myself three questions:

  1. What stage of company do I want to be at? Did I want to join a 3 person team building a prototype, a company that was growing fast post-product-market-fit or a large player that was expanding into new areas (ex. Coinbase). Given my skillset, risk-tolerance, and desire for more ownership, I opted for a hyper-growth company with traction.
  2. What area of web3 am I most bullish on?  Web3 includes a ton of very different areas (united by the fact that they use the blockchain). These areas include creator monetization, NFT marketplaces, DeFi, social metaverses, DAOs, L1/L2 infrastructure, consumer wallets, and many more. But given my experience with WhatsApp Payments and mobile money, I was most optimistic about using blockchain infrastructure to modernize the world’s financial plumbing. This will help companies more quickly deploy financial products globally, bring products (like remittances, loans, banking, etc.) to emerging markets, eliminate risks associated with the current ecosystem and allow new services to emerge. 
  3. Which team will push me to grow fastest? I used to play basketball as a kid. One mantra I picked up is the need to be on the best team possible, even if it stretches you to your limits just to keep up. This is the type of environment I thrive in. For jobs, this translates to 1) finding the most talented team, 2) finding one with great growth potential, 3) great leadership and a great manager.

What was the hiring process like?

After doing my research, I reached out to the head of product on LinkedIn. I asked for a quick chat to learn more about the team and some of the open roles. Our chat was great and we had another one to talk more about the strategy of the company and an area that was particularly exciting to me. After this, I had a chance to meet my counterparts on the engineering and business development side. I spoke with both of them in the same week and was even more fired up about the opportunity afterward! I reconnected with the head of product and said I’d like to formally interview for the role.

The process involved 5 interviews: a product case with a PM director, an engineering case with an Engineering Director, a stakeholder interview with a Customer Success Director, a second PM case with the head of product, and a behavioral interview with a strategy lead. After this, I had a chat with the CEO.

Any tips for people looking to make a similar transition?

  1. Build a decision-making framework: in an area like web3, it can be easy to be swayed into a wrong decision by FOMO, noise, or hype. Instead, decide at the outset what is important to you and make your decision objectively using these criteria. For me, this was a 1) hypergrowth company with traction, 2) infrastructure focussed, 3) a really strong team. Note how many companies a simple framework like this rules out! This allows you to focus on a handful of companies rather than the entire industry.
  2. Find growth: a rising tide lifts all boats. Choose to be in an area and/or team that you believe will grow for at least the next 5 years. Growing areas will afford you the most opportunities for your career, expose you to in-demand skills and help you build a valuable network.
  3. Sense check with people in the industry: I was lucky to have a few people who could give me honest takes on companies, areas, and trends. These helped me rule out companies (“Those guys are all hype”), understand risks (“This will be obsolete with ETH 2.0 becomes real”), and growth prospects (“They are raising their Series B now”). This type of info feels easier to get in web3 given how collaborative and transparent the ecosystem is.

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