Interview with Clement Oh, Former Engineering Manager at Immutable

Clement Oh is currently an advisor to several web3 projects, based in Sydney. He was previously an Engineering Manager at Immutable, one of the world’s fastest growing web3 startups. He led the team behind the launch of the IMX token, which reached a market cap of $18 billion USD within the first hour. He played a key leadership role in taking a startup from a market cap of $80 million AUD to $3.5 billion AUD within a single year. I sat down with him to chat about his journey and advice he has for finding a job in web3, crypto or blockchain. Find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Table of contents

What’s your background and how did you get interested in web3?

What really got me excited about web3 was Ethereum and smart contracts back in 2016. I thought the idea of decentralised distributed computing was amazing and I decided to dig a bit deeper. I did several blockchain courses – one was on the theory and business side, and others on the developer side.

I was working at a media company in New Zealand called as a developer, but there were no web3 jobs in New Zealand. I decided to quit my job and move to Australia. Immutable actually reached out to me for a lead engineering role, and at the time no one really knew who they were. I also had a competing offer from a large tech company, but I went with my passion and I think I made the right decision. 

How did you learn about web3?

A lot of people say to jump on Discord, Telegram, Twitter etc., but there’s too much noise and a lot of it is not credible or helpful. So you gotta sift through lots of content, and it’s not the most time efficient method to learn, especially if you have a day job. The most efficient way to learn is to consume curated and well-put-together resources such as Medium articles or polished YouTube videos. I highly recommend Whiteboard Crypto.  

What’s different about working in web3?

The pace is much quicker. One day, you have an advantage, maybe a week later someone’s already come up with something that’s destroyed your competitive advantage. In traditional big web2 companies, you might have had an advantage for 10 years. In web3, you have to balance defining a long-term strategy and being adaptive to short term events. 

The other thing is that the connection with the community and clients is much stronger. In web2, you might schedule a few calls, but in web3, whether you’re small or huge, there’s this constant daily interaction with your community. This is true whether you’re new to the company or whether you’re the CEO. And this community aspect really did change my day-to-day work. I was talking directly with users, and explaining why certain issues were happening, what our roadmap was etc. In other engineering jobs, I just needed to build, but in web3, I also had to manage a community. 

Did anything surprise you about working in web3?

It’s surprising how much faster you pick things up when you’re surrounded by crypto information every single day. Even if you’re not thinking about crypto, someone next to you is. There’s a difference between reading an article and being in the absolute centre of it. 

What are some things that you would look for in an employee in web3?

I would say there are a lot of characteristics that are similar between web3 and web2 in terms of what I would look for. One is a constant desire to learn, dig deeper and think about how it can be applied to create a better solution or even better world. Another is being able to think critically and reason. I don’t want people who just follow, I want people to be able to challenge. I’ve seen a lot of people who do things the way they’ve always done it before and they don’t think: “How can I do it better?”

What skills do you need as an engineer in web3? How does it differ from web2?

For engineering specifically, understanding the trade-offs between different technologies and solutions. There’s no perfect technology so you need to understand when to apply them. Too many times I’ve seen people come in and brute-force apply what they already know. I’m okay with the fact that you don’t know this technology. I’m willing to give you time to go and learn it. But don’t treat it like you have a hammer and everything’s a nail.

In terms of languages and frameworks, JavaScript or TypeScript is helpful. You can’t have a stack without it, especially if you’re doing front-end stuff. If your web3 project only works with back-end systems and interfaces, you could get away with not using JavaScript or TypeScript. But it’s really company-specific, I’ve seen languages vary from TypeScript, to Golang, to Rust. 

What about smart contract languages like Solidity?

I’d say that learning smart contract languages like Solidity is not that important. The reason why I say that is because in a lot of web3 companies, there are probably only a handful of contracts. In a larger 100+ people company, sometimes they only have like, five or six contracts? And in some cases, such as PFP projects, it’s a single contract. So companies won’t hire lots of smart contract devs, they might hire one really good one. For the most part, web3 still uses a lot of web2 infrastructure and frameworks behind the scenes; think cloud services like AWS and frameworks like React. Even if you’re working for a company that is building an L1 chain, you would be using traditional languages like Rust, Golang, or C to build the chain. So the specific smart contract languages and patterns are a very small part of the entire ecosystem. 

So don’t try and learn everything. My best advice is to figure out which area of web3 you want to focus on first, and then learn the technologies that are commonly used in that discipline instead of trying to learn a language and then going backwards to find a company that uses that language.

How would I go about finding what frameworks or languages are important to different areas?

A big benefit to web3 is that a lot of the key repositories are public. So if you want to work at Polygon, go straight to the Polygon GitHub repo and just look at what they use. Then when you interview at Polygon, you know exactly what stack they use. You can even modify their repo a bit and think about how to make Polygon better. This is not something you can do for most web2 companies, their repositories are mostly private.

How to decide what company to work for?

If you’re focused on learning over maximising the value of your equity of tokens, then every web3 company is a stepping stone. Even if the company fails, you’ll still have learned so much from the entire experience that you can go on and do something greater. The hardest part is getting into space, but once you know a bit, you can move around different projects and companies fairly easily. Don’t be too picky with that first web3 company.

But there are a lot of scams in the space. How do you avoid those?

Avoid projects with questionable utility. Look at what the community is saying. Read their whitepaper – it’s a huge red flag if they don’t have a whitepaper or roadmap. Check the advisor lists, even contact some of them. Stay away from short term projects that have a singular short term purpose. Check that they have a long term vision. Check that they have notable people on the team. Read a few articles about the company. Ask yourself: is it too good to be true? Generally the top 100 token companies won’t go wrong, but of course a company like Luna crashed and they were top 10. 

Gary Liang is the Founder of Apollo Jobs, a web3 and crypto jobs platform. FInd him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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