The story so far: Daren Frankel, Builder: teams, platforms and products, ConsenSys
Blockchain is booming and one person at the forefront of the industry is Daren Frankel of ConsenSys.
He joined the company in February 2017 as part of the Solutions team which works with and partners with startups, enterprises, and governments to help build blockchain solutions. A University of Pennsylvania graduate who was a founding member of Deloitte’s US Blockchain Lab, he joined Consensys when it had just 130 employees. A year later, he has seen its headcount rise to 1100 as it incorporates providing solutions for both enterprises and consumers into its business model and renews its focus on building the skills and teams that will help drive the next stage in its growth. These days, Daren focuses his time on growing ConsenSys’s Singapore office and developing solutions long strategic verticals, most notably in the capital markets and broader financial services sectors.
We sat down with him and talked resilience, the importance of exploring the unknowns and the benefits of a good sleep-in.
How do you start your day?
The first thing is to work on getting my mind awake – a decent cup of coffee normally does the trick, usually followed by some sort of workout.
That being said, it’s important to listen to your body. Sometimes the best thing to do is to have a sleep in in order to stay healthy. Being sick slows you down.
What personal attribute has most helped you succeed in your career?
Resilience. Sometimes strength is important to help you to push through things, but often it’s just about hanging on and not giving up.
This reminds me a lot of my former rowing days in college and thereafter. Everyone puts in the hard work to get to the starting line, but it comes down to who has the mental resilience to be able to keep on moving. That’s what determines who is first to the finish line.
The other thing that I would say has helped me is curiosity. I think I ask a lot of unusual questions, including some very obvious ones, but I'll suffer the brief embarrassment for not knowing something in favour of getting it right going forward.
What keeps you sane on those crazy days?
It helps to have family and friends you can turn to and colleagues that you can rely on. People make mistakes and fail; it's part of being human. However, if you don't surround yourself with quality people who can recognize that and help you pick yourself back up, it's tough to grow.
Best career advice for someone who wants to make it in your industry?
Be interested in something, ask lots of questions, do your own research, learn things, ask more pointed and more difficult questions.
When you're in a new emerging industry, there's only so much knowledge out there, but there are many, many unknowns. You have to want to be the person to solve those unknowns to get ahead.
Describe yourself in three words?
"How might we?" is a phrase my colleague Asim Janjua [Director, Consensys MENA] first used while I was in Dubai to describe taking a positive approach to solving problems. I like to think I in some ways embody that question – there are solutions to every problem if you have a positive attitude and break the problem down into smaller and smaller pieces
Who, or what, inspires you?
My partner, Marie, is a really inspiring person. She's incredibly driven, passionate, works super hard. I think the most inspiring part about how she carries herself is the way she has a really clear vision of where she wants to be and the goals she has for herself, and she really works methodically to achieve them.
I’m also inspired by my colleague Asim. He’s professional, personable, really has a good heart, and is super effective. He is part of our Dubai team and I was really fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him. My team mates in Singapore are great and inspiring. I really try to surround myself with people I can learn from and be inspired by.
What major challenges have you overcome in your career and/or this year?
I think moving abroad for work has been an interesting challenge. It's definitely not easy picking up and starting anew. I think, though, that it's less about feeling at home in the new place as it is losing touch to where I came from. It's definitely harder to stay close to friends and family on the other side of the world and that can be tough sometimes. It's not impossible, it just takes a lot more time and effort.
On the flip side, the opportunities in front of me wouldn't be possible anywhere else in the world. Sometimes making progress definitely takes stepping into something new and a willingness to figure it out. And while it’s not always easy given the ~12 hour time zone difference, I’ve been getting better about putting in that time and effort to reconnect with family and friends back home on a regular basis.