I Left My Executive Job at AWS to Build an Equitable Web3 Future

As the Web3 experiment gains traction, diversity must be a priority instead of an afterthought.
Headshot of author Sandy Carter
Sandy Carter
Expert Contributor
April 5, 2022
Updated: April 29, 2022
Headshot of author Sandy Carter
Sandy Carter
Expert Contributor
April 5, 2022
Updated: April 29, 2022

When I began my tech career, being on the “cutting edge” meant something quite different than it does today. 

We were still in the Web1 era, characterized by static websites that could only display words and information. During my time at IBM in the early 2000s, we were just wrapping our heads around how we could reach audiences through brand-new concepts like digital marketing and e-commerce. In fact, I worked on an early campaign using TV to route to a social media site, and we brought down the internet! 

Flash forward a few years to Web 2.0, and new programming languages unlocked user-generated content and improved interfaces. This led to the creation of blogs and social media platforms. I jumped on this quickly, joining Twitter in early 2009 and being the first to do a drive to Twitter during a major event. Web 2.0 placed more emphasis on engaging content, and it gave us the vast network of connected websites and resources that we’re familiar with today. A lot of these sites are powered by Amazon Web Services, where I spent nearly five years of my career starting in the late 2010s — the peak of the Web 2.0 evolution. 

Last year, the world began to see what was truly possible for the next iteration of the internet. This shift, the Web3 revolution, is still being ushered in as we speak, leveraging blockchain technology and open-source applications to decentralize data and information. 

Web3 aims to remove control of the internet from monopolistic technology companies and return ownership of data and content to its users. 

As I started to fall down the rabbit hole and learn more about cryptocurrency, NFTs, the metaverse and all of Web3’s tremendous potential, I knew I wanted to be a part of the movement. My aha moment happened when I discovered that in Web3, your digital identity can travel with you no matter where you go on the internet. It’s your wallet, your healthcare data, your education records, your KYC credentials and more. In the future, digital identity is going to become even more important than it is today. It will be used in all sorts of apps we can’t even imagine now. Stay with me; I'll share more on that in a moment.

 

Jumping in With Both Feet 

There were three major opportunities I saw that inspired me to leave AWS — a company I love, where I learned leadership principles I’m still using today — and make the leap to a Web3 company in late 2021.

First, living and working at the forefront of innovation has always been my fuel. From those early days of digital marketing and e-commerce, to the later days of embracing social media and blogging, I have thrived most in the company of like-minded people who embrace the future and have the skills and drive to build it. Nowhere is that energy (and talent!) more present right now than it is in Web3. 

Second, it’s no secret we’re spending more of our time online as each year passes. From Zoom calls to the metaverse, the digital world is where we work, learn and connect. That’s why I was so inspired to join Unstoppable Domains, one of the earliest leaders in digital identity. Digital identity and ownership is at the core of Web3, where the rise of decentralization has made it possible for us to take back control of digital lives.

More on BlockchainWhy Web 2.0’s Time Is Up

 

The Chance to Redesign Digital Identity

Believe it or not, our digital identities are becoming just as valuable as our real-world personas. In 2020, when life went remote for many of us, global online content consumption doubled. Now people flex with things like NFT profile pictures and gaming skins. 

It’s important that we help onboard people to this new reality in a way that is safe and easy to understand. Unstoppable Domains and its growing number of partners are doing this by providing NFT domain names that act as a gateway to Web3. NFT domain names are a tool for decentralized payments, login and identity across the growing ecosystem — superior to Apple, Facebook and Google’s gate-kept offerings. And the more partners that support these domain names, the more valuable and integral they become. 

Last but certainly not least, I joined the Web3 movement because I saw an opportunity to lead by example when it comes to diversity. The Web 2.0 era has largely failed when it comes to representing diverse groups. The five most powerful tech companies in the world average a workforce of only 34.4 percent women. So far, Web3 is not doing any better. Just 5 percent of crypto entrepreneurs are women, and twice as many men as women are cryptocurrency investors.

But the good news is that it’s still early enough in the Web3 era for us to change gears and make diversity a priority. To many, it feels too late in the game to make a significant change in the traditional tech industry. But in Web3, we’re still in the “dial-up” phase of the journey — and there’s a real opportunity to have a major impact. That’s my biggest mission.

More From Women in TechHow I Turned My Liberal Arts Degree Into a Lucrative Product Management Career

 

Righting Web 2.0’s Diversity Wrongs

I know I can’t do it alone, and that’s why I just recently founded a diversity initiative with more than 65 partners called Unstoppable Women of Web3. Each company participating — including heavy-hitters such as Google Cloud, Deloitte, Blockchain.com, OpenSea, BlockFi, Gemini, Binance.US and many more — has pledged to feature work created by historically marginalized groups in at least half of all materials used for Web3 education. This includes (but isn’t limited to) women, racial and ethnic minorities, people identifying as LGBTQIA+ and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Inclusive education requires diverse teachers, not just diverse students. The initiative will also provide educational resources and training materials to level the playing field for diverse groups entering the Web3 space. 

Much like me, many people are leaving their traditional tech and finance careers to join Web3. According to Business Insider, “Tech recruiters say they’re seeing a significant trend of high-profile executives and developers leaving established firms to crypto and other decentralized tech ventures.” Recent examples include Lyft’s CFO leaving for NFT marketplace OpenSea and YouTube’s head of gaming joining Polygon Studios

This gives us such a big opportunity to embrace the technology’s open, decentralized, transparent ethos to welcome anyone to participate. I know that this will have a big impact, because the numbers don’t lie: Companies with diverse teams are more innovative, make better decisions and are more profitable than their homogenous counterparts. 

 

The Takeaway

For those of us who forged our careers in the Web1 and Web 2.0 eras, it’s time to embrace Web3 and apply what we’ve learned and the obstacles we’ve overcome to this next phase of technological innovation. Here are two easy steps you can take to begin your journey.

How Web 2.0 Incumbents Can Get Started in Web3

  1. Start by creating your own wallet and NFT domain name.
  2. Then discover how your company can start using Web3 technology — whether it’s using NFTs for conference tickets, creating DAOs for gathering input or designing virtual goods in the metaverse.

Here at the cutting edge, we should think about how we’ll someday look back at the early days of Web3. Will we wish we’d done more to help make this new technology accessible, widely adopted and inclusive for all? 

I hope we’ll look back and be able to say, “We nailed it!” — but we have to start today.

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