Every year, Baylor MBA students find a wealth of opportunities for involvement, learning, and professional development while in the program. Whether it’s serving as an officer in the Graduate Business Association or the Baylor chapter of the Adam Smith Society, developing and recommending implementable solutions for real-world challenges that organizations are facing by partnering with executives from actual companies through Focus Firm (our students are currently working with executives at Dell), or participating at a high level on a case competition team… there’s certainly no shortage of ways for our students to learn and develop their resumes beyond what’s simply taught in the classroom.
Having seen this first-hand, a group of students recently decided to approach the administration to propose that the program sponsor them as they attend a blockchain conference. After evaluating the event details and discussing the students’ learning goals for the conference, the trip was approved.
Before moving on, let’s press pause for just a moment to wrap our arms around the basic concepts of the quickly evolving topics of blockchain and cryptocurrency. To the uninitiated, these concepts may seem overly technical or niche, but both blockchain and cryptocurrency are quickly becoming more widely understood and commonplace in the world around us.
Here’s a quick introduction from Investopedia for those who have not delved into the blockchain world:
“A blockchain is a distributed database that … stores information electronically in digital format. Blockchains are best known for their crucial role in cryptocurrency systems, such as Bitcoin, for maintaining a secure and decentralized record of transactions. The innovation with a blockchain is that it guarantees the fidelity and security of a record of data and generates trust without the need for a trusted third party.”
The Cardano Foundation is a public blockchain platform that was launched in 2017. The foundation hosts an event that it calls the Cardano Summit. By attending the summit, attendees can come to meet the foundation’s teams, learn more about Cardano, attend lectures and sessions, and meet other blockchain enthusiasts.
Baylor MBA: Give us a bit more background on the Cardano Summit.
The summit this past September incorporated four themes: utility (capabilities and technical features), adoption (who uses Cardano), governance, and impact (environmental, social, and economic).
Jinhaeng: The Cardano Summit was a 2-day event where presentations were given to people attending in person or virtually from all around the world. Cardano leaders and luminaries served as keynote speakers and shared their insights and industry updates while also leading discussions specifically about Cardano.
I learned about the summit through social media and by tuning in to their announcements. I learned that people could register and tune in from all around the world or gather with other Cardano enthusiasts in regional meetups. I thought I wouldn’t go to the live event in Wyoming. But then I thought, “Why not ask and see if I could receive funding to go to Wyoming?” So, I asked some of my peers whether they would be interested in going and then emailed several people in the program to determine who could help us seek sponsorship. We were able to move forward with the assistance of the Assistant Director of Student Services, Chelsea Derry.
Associate Dean of Graduate Degree programs Dr. Tim Kayworth told me that it seemed like a great opportunity to network and learn. So, he asked me to send him the budget information for the trip and it was later approved.
Riley: The Cardano Summit was an event designed to bring together blockchain enthusiasts, industry experts, and special guests to discuss Cardano’s recent advancements and where the project will head in the near future. I was not sure if I could make it at first, but in the week before the event, everything fell into place.
MBA: When did you become interested in blockchain technology? What’s something we should know about blockchain?
J: My interest in blockchain technology grew during Spring 2021 when I came across MIT’s free “Blockchain and Money” course taught by SEC Chairman Gary Gensler. Then, I watched a 2014 Ted Talk presented by Charles Hoskinson (founder of Cardano) in which he discussed “banking the unbanked” and providing opportunities for growth. Those two presentations sparked my interest in blockchain technology. More recently, I enrolled in a Coursera course on blockchain technology taught by Campbell Harvey of Duke University.
At first, blockchain and cryptocurrency (Bitcoin, etc.) were synonymous to me. However, I began to learn that blockchain technology is a lot bigger and complex in scope. If anything, cryptocurrency is one of many applications of blockchain technology.
R: I got interested in cryptocurrency in general during the big Bitcoin boom in the fall of 2017 after my new roommates introduced me to the concept. I bought a small portion of a bitcoin and played around trying to make money by trading Ethereum and Litecoin–with little success. After the big crash in December, crypto sat on the back burner for me until I started trading again during Covid in 2020. It was really only at the start of this semester that I started looking at the more practical applications of blockchain technology and Jinhaeng introduced me to the Cardano network.
Something that everyone should consider is how blockchain technology can be used to create smart contracts and how those smart contracts can be utilized in developing countries. Smart IDs together with smart contracts have the opportunity to really help in underdeveloped nations which lack centralized or effective databases for things like medical records. Doing so could provide a secure way to store information that can then be accessed from anywhere the internet is available. In combination with advances in satellite internet from projects like Space X’s Starlink, the global connection is not too far in the future.
MBA: What was the most interesting topic or thing you learned at the Cardano Summit?
R: The most interesting thing I learned at the event was that ADA, the currency of the Cardano network, is currently the 3rd largest cryptocurrency asset by market capitalization; only behind Bitcoin and Ethereum. Even more impressive is the fact that out of all traded financial assets, ADA is the 200th largest. That puts it in front of other huge publicly traded companies like British Petroleum and Audi.
J: I learned that blockchain technology is still fairly foreign to most people and we are still in the early stages of development. The most interesting development for me is the development of smart contracts and digital IDs. When those things are fully developed on the Cardano blockchain, it may become one of the most valuable blockchain technology in the world.
Blockchain technology has quite a few hurdles to overcome, but I was pleased to see how IOG/IOHK—a blockchain infrastructure research and engineering company—has plans in place to address most of the hurdles. These hurdles being: latency, regulation, governance, real-world verification, data, connection, privacy, immutability, use cases, and AI.
MBA: Has the conference influenced what you want to do in your career?
R: Absolutely, with my career, I want to work in supply chain management and the Cardano Summit introduced me to a wide variety of technologies that will work their way into making logistics more efficient and transparent. I still have a lot to learn, but now know where to look for additional research. I plan to build more competencies that will allow me to leverage this technology in my career. The world is still incredibly new to blockchain technology. Evaluating the current state of blockchain would be akin to looking at what the internet was in 1999 versus what it would become over the next 2 decades.
J: I believe it is just the beginning of blockchain! I am still exploring what I want to do for my career, but if I could be involved with the blockchain technology industry in some way, I will enjoy it.
Through the conference, we had a lot to think about and imagine. Some things I want to do after the summit is informing others and educating them; possibly creating a blockchain group or program at Baylor University like the University of Wyoming blockchain lab. This is a far-fetched dream, but I would love to be a part of a team that introduces blockchain tech to develop the health care system of Madagascar.
Do not just view crypto as an investment like a typical stock. Rather, start thinking of ways the technology can be leveraged to change the way we do business. -Riley Brock
MBA: Would you recommend that others go to the next Cardano Summit?
J: Absolutely! If we could get interested faculty to go as well, I believe our presence and networking opportunities will not go to waste. Especially, if we are successful in creating a blockchain club or program, I think the partnerships will naturally follow. So, we really need to start something somewhere. We met so many people at the conference who were willing to give us a helping hand (some even said that they would be willing to come and do a seminar, etc.), but we have to initiate first and create the group or program so that we could officially invite them.
R: For anyone going to one of these summits, I would really recommend frontloading your research. Spend more time than you think you need researching the various technologies involved and become familiar with the industry jargon. Knowing the basics of what makes up a smart contract is a good start, but also be familiar with the technology that the smart contracts are built on like the Plutus network and how Marlowe allows people who don’t know how to code to create them. Without a firm grasp of the jargon, much of what is discussed may go over one’s head and they’ll spend the first day of the event just catching up.
MBA: What would be a final takeaway from what you’ve learned on your own or through this experience that you’d like to share?
R: If you are new to all of this and are considering getting into cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, spend some time looking at the practical applications. Do not just view crypto as an investment like a typical stock. Rather, start thinking of ways the technology can be leveraged to change the way we do business. Always keep in mind that while blockchain can be utilized to support investments, it goes far beyond just being an exchange market.
J: One message that echoed throughout the summit was that Cardano will impact the systems across the board to solve many of the problems humans are plagued with in the world. I believe that this sentiment inspired and motivated many people in attendance. As a follower of Christ, I know that inspired and motivated me.
As Baylor University pursues the status of being an R1/T1 “Christian Research University”, I hope and pray that God would graciously allow us to research and develop various world-changing solutions. I believe that blockchain technology will be one of them.
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