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Women in Blockchain: Priyanka Sharma, Chief of Staff at WazirX Shares her Story

It might not be easy to find Priyanka on Telegram. Her Pikachu avatar and barely any letters in the name makes it a perfect gender neutral profile.

But that wasn’t the case always. The Chief of Staff at WazirX and Crowdfire proudly carried her name and photo on telegram and was quite actively participating in discussions. She went through some ‘unpleasant and rather disturbing experiences’ along the way which made her hide her identity. One incident that pushed her, she recalls, is when a friend of hers sent her the screenshot of a conversation happening in a telegram group. A guy had shared Priyanka’s picture with comment ‘Issko Dekhke Hilale‘ – ‘Jerk off to her (picture)’.

We have covered stories before and almost everyone speaks about harassment on Telegram, twitter and elsewhere. Our initiative to publish Women of blockchain stories is also to highlight such incidents so that they can be reduced.

Back to the woman of the hour, Priyanka is much more than simply ‘a girl who understands blockchain’. Today, Priyanka is sharing her story, the journey, working under Nischal Shetty, her inspirations and much more. This is an exclusive interview of Priyanka Sharma, a woman in blockchain. Although I prefer calling them ‘Women of Blockchain’.

women in blockchain - Priyanka Sharma
Priyanka Sharma is the CoS at WazirX Exchange and Crowdfire

CCI: Tell us something about you Priyanka, your brush with cryptocurrency/blockchain and how it excites you

Honestly, I hadn’t heard anything about cryptocurrency until late 2014. My coworker – a hardcore Bitcoin evangelist – introduced me to it, and even transferred some BTC to my wallet!

However, I only started reading and researching more on the whole Blockchain ecosystem last year (Mid-late 2017). After reading more and more, I’m actually excited about how the Blockchain technology will revolutionise the established systems, and the possibilities are endless! Due to the nature of my work, I also get to read about new and insane projects every day, and I’d love to see it implemented!

CCI: You’re the Chief of Staff at WazirX, what is the scope of work?

I work on a bunch of things at WazirX, primarily, marketing Communication and coin listing. I’ve worked on recruiting in the past as well.

CCI: What kind of trend do you see around cryptocurrency in India, especially in Women?

Within my circle, I know very few women (compared to men) who’ve bought cryptos. But, I feel that with each passing day, they are becoming more aware about it. A lot of it is due to speculation around its legality and future in India – thank you for the FUD, RBI.

For instance, post July 06, my 20-year old sister hit me up to understand what this ban means, and if crypto is even safe, and it was followed by a long conversation. She’s not worried about me getting jailed anymore 🙂

Aside from investors, I see women across the globe doing some kickass work. I really look up to Preethi Kasireddy for tech contributions as well as her amazing efforts to educate people about Blockchain; her articles are detailed and insightful! We need many more women like her in India!

CCI: Who is your role model, inspiration?

I’m a huge fan of Sheryl Sandberg. I’ve read her books, watched her talks, and it’s immensely inspiring.

I’m one step away from fangirling right now! I really admire her for her self-confidence, oratory, and her insane contribution at Google and Facebook. More importantly, her work with Lean In circle is very commendable, and it inspires me (and perhaps, more people) to give back to the community some day!

CCI: Back to working at WazirX, how is Nischal Shetty as a boss?

I can’t say that he’s the best boss because, honestly, he’s the only boss I’ve had, haha!

I’ve had the opportunity of working closely with Nischal on a variety of projects, in different timezones, and I can tell you that he’s one of the best people to work with. Whether it’s mid-day or 10 PM, he’s always full of energy, and this enthusiasm is really infectious!

The best thing about Nischal as a boss is that he’s very approachable, and always there if you need to bounce off some ideas or need any help, and I’ve never ever seen him lose his cool.

CCI: You recently changed your identity on Telegram, you had your picture and name, now its just a cartoon character. Why?

Because my current Telegram display picture is way cooler than my own picture 😛

On a serious note, I did so after a series of unpleasant and rather disturbing experiences. And by unpleasant, I don’t mean receiving nonsense messages and/or marriage proposals on Telegram. I’ve progressed from chiding people for sending lewd messages to stranger women to just ignoring and “reporting spam” to simply, removing my picture and name.

What happened after that: People refer to me as “Sir”, and I barely get more than a couple of messages per day now.

CCI: Do you think women intentionally stay hidden, to avoid unsolicited approaches from other guys? What do you think can be done?

Maybe they do – to avoid spam messages, and perhaps, to avoid being mocked.

Someone told me that sometimes, guys message just to check if you’re really a woman. I’ve also seen people pass really sexist and mean comments in crypto groups. I don’t know why it’s hard to believe that there are lots of women who understand what a protocol layer is!

Solution to this: Ask yourself the following questions: Would you randomly text a man lauding him to be a crypto investor? Or text him saying you’re cute? If the answers to both are “no”, stop doing the same to random women, it’s simple!

CCI: What do you think of Coin Crunch India?

I follow Coincrunch India for latest news and updates about this space in India. You have the power to use your platform to dig up info, highlight news and important issues, and educate and influence your audience; I hope to see you continue using it responsibly.

CCI: Your word of advice for cryptocurrency enthusiast and newbies.

Because there isn’t enough awareness around cryptocurrencies, investors are more vulnerable to ponzi schemes, and scammers are getting better every day.

Advice for newbies: Please please do some due diligence before putting your hard-earned money in a crypto. If and when you decide you’re ready to invest, please do so via trusted exchanges. There are so many legit sources to keep a track of crypto news, the project and token prices – make use of internet.

With that, we concluded the email exchange on the subject. I learnt an important lesson from her, we may sometimes mean well but we sound condescending when we compliment a woman for working in blockchain, because she is a woman and not because she has unlocked an achievement on merit. 

Ever heard anyone say, “Oh you work in blockchain, you’re beauty with brains”? We had this debate on our telegram group as well just yesterday. You were happy to know someone is working in blockchain and yet you complimented the appearance first. Sounds sexist to me. 

We must respect women in tech the same way we would respect any other person for their achievements irrespective of their gender. I hope we can all take home this lesson. Please do share Priyanka’s story with your friends, colleagues and social media followers. 

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