Design MBA

Becoming a Designer in Web3 - Yitong Zhang (Cofounder @ Vector DAO)

Episode Summary

My guest today is Yitong Zhang who is the cofounder of Vector DAO. In this episode, we discuss the following: - Yitong Zhang Bio - Transitioning from being founder to doing a job - Discovering and learning about crypto - Why join Coinbase as a designer - How to get started as a designer in crypto - What if you want a job in crypto but don't have crypto related design work - Difficulty of staying up to date with crypto if you don't really like it - What is Vector DAO - Time commitments if you want to join Vector DAO - Crazy compensations in crypto and risks - Losing $30,000 in crypto due to a hack - How Vector DAO does background check on clients to avoid exit scams - Downside of proving people wrong - Leaving full time job at Coinbase and starting Vector DAO - Knowing what game you are playing - Power of asking dumb questions - Advice for designers who want to break into web3 - How to contact Yitong Zhang For show notes, guest bio, and more, please visit:

Episode Notes

Yitong Zhang is the cofounder of Vector DAO. Before that he spent almost four years at Coinbase where he had the privilege of designing and redesigning much of the consumer app as well as establishing the design system. He also tends to a beautiful vegetable garden. 

Check out Vector DAO which is a collective of the top 1% of designers, brand experts, and creatives in crypto - 



Episode Transcription

Namaste and welcome. I am Jayneil Dalal and you are listening to the design MBA which is a real-life MBA program for designers. You will learn how to launch a side hustle and level up your design careers from the interviews rock star designers. 


Jayneil Dalal: Today's amazing guest is Yitong Zhang. Yitong is a product designer who's worked for more than four years at Coinbase and now he's founder of Vector DAO which is a design collective which designs for the Web3 space. 


Yitong, welcome to the show. Super excited to have you here.


Ytiong Zhang:  It's good to be here and thanks for having me.


Jayneil: Yeah. So, how was your trip to Colorado, by the way? You went to ETHDenver, right?


Ytiong:  Oh yeah, it was … it was amazing. I met a lot of cool people. I think it's been a while since everybody's met up in real life. So, there was definitely a lot of pent-up desire to socialize which was really great. I caught COVID there, which is not so great, as did a lot of other people but, you know, you live and you learn.


Jayneil: I know. I was there at the same time but I was just skiing with my friends and while I was lucky that it not get COVID, unfortunately, I got the traveler’s diarrhea but now I’m back to normal.


Yitong:  Awesome.


Jayneil: So, you had quite the ride. I mean, you started out as a founder, right? And then you went back to doing a job. So, I’m kind of curious to know what was the transition like for you, meaning being a founder where you have a lot of, I would say flexibility on your time, you kind of get to choose what you could do, and then you work for corporations or agencies where you kind of like are … somewhat like guardrails what you have to do? So, how did you manage that transition?


Yitong:  Yeah. I mean, first of all, I appreciate you calling me a founder for what I did after college. So, for full context, a couple of buddies and I started a company in college and we operated it for about a year afterwards. It was okay, paid the bills. And so, technically that makes us founders, I guess, but yeah, honestly, the transition to having a job was very interesting. I just remember that the mindset shift being really different. It was shocking to me to have to read other people. I think it's sort of a thing where when your first experience out of college is sort of doing your own startup, the thing that … the skills you pick up is sort of around like “Is what I’m doing working and do people want this?” And that's the only thing that you think about. And transitioning from that to working for somebody else and then having to think “Is this what people want out of me? Are people happy with me? How is the organization here? Who are these people and who decides what?”, that was pretty shocking to me. It was a thing that I had never really thought about. I was just like “Look, the only thing that I care is are people buying my stuff.” And so, that was like a big transition. 


Jayneil: So, it's almost like where on one side as a founder you have to focus more on product-market fit, whether customers are buying the product, now you have to also focus on the soft skills, how are your interactions with the co-workers, how are they rating you, how are you perceived in the organization and all that sort of fun stuff. 


Yitong:  Yeah. I mean, to some extent, it's like … it almost matters less whether you're doing the right stuff. It's like are you doing the things that people want you to be doing, right? And hopefully that's the right things but the disconnect for me was always kind of like sometimes I thought that what I was doing was the right thing, other times, I didn't right but I think, as a founder, it's very alarming when you realize that you're not doing the right thing. You're like “We got to change what we're doing.” And working for somebody else, it's like … well, actually, a lot of times, you are not doing the right thing in your estimation and that's sort of the thing that you learn to live with. And it's just that never sat quite right with me. And so, I’ve held on to that little bit to that dissatisfaction throughout the years and that's got … it's kind of why I’m having a second go at starting something.


Jayneil: Wow! And then we're going to come back to that. So, tell me what set of events from the point that you started working, you started doing a job, so from that point you're working as a designer, you're at the agency and then from that point, what turn of events led you to first learn about crypto? You're a designer working your day job but then somehow you discover crypto, go down the rabbit hole. How did that happen for you?


Yitong:  Yeah. I mean, I think it's just buying crypto, right? It's a little bit of the story for everybody else. First, you're like kind of skeptical. You don't know what's going on and you buy a little crypto and the price goes up and you're like “Holy crap! What happened?” and now you're stuck. So, just to back up a little bit, I actually did my degree in sort of undergrad business school. So, I was kind of always interested in econ specifically and had been sort of following crypto on design but because Coinbase, for a very long time, was not available in Canada. There was no Fiat On-Ramp. And so, the only thing that you could do is sort of like OTC your way into some bitcoin. And what that means is you meet up with somebody in the street, you hand them some cash and they send you a stick with some bitcoin in it. Hopefully, you don't get robbed and jumped. And so, I never managed to get any until I moved to the States. And when I did move to the States and I got something, I was like “Okay, something is definitely happening here.” And it coincided for me with sort of … and to be clear, when I say bitcoin, I don't actually literally mean bitcoin. My first thing that I ever bought was Ethereum because I was interested in bitcoin but it really never captured my imagination the way that Ethereum did. And so, owning Ethereum and just understanding the vision of Ethereum totally rocked me, honestly. This is sort of like 2017 when it had become sort of clear that the fan companies had a pretty much like a monopoly over talent and had basically cash printing machines and were going to be very, very dominant in the Web2 space and that the room for new generational defining companies was growing smaller and smaller because the pie had already been divided.  And so, really the only things left were the gaps between the slices. And so, Ethereum just felt like totally new pasture, right? Crypto felt like it just opened up a whole new place for people to do stuff in a radically different way. And when you did stuff on in this ecosystem, it would not lead to the kind of pie division in the long term that we've seen in Web 2 because of how the protocol works, right? And this is kind of like … I read Joe's article called The Fat Protocol Thesis and it like deeply resonated with me how a lot of value accrual happens at the protocol level and how that's shared commons, it's public good for all to benefit from, so the more you build the more public good there is versus the Web2 world where the more you build, the more wall gardens erect and the more things become private islands. 


Jayneil: So, this is insane. You're basically a self-taught crypto person. You taught yourself. You bought Ethereum first and then you're teaching yourself …


Yitong:  I mean, everybody is a self-taught crypto person, to be correct. There's nobody who is lecturing you and giving you (inaudible) on crypto.


Jayneil: I think now there are like some boot camps and stuff that I’m seeing popping up like … not boot camps but like CBCs or cohort-based courses where you can kind of like quickly learn about D-Fi and all these things, there's so many books, but the fact that you bought in 2017, that was still like very early where you had to just do it on your own. So, from that point, what led you to decide that “Hey, you know what? I think I should join Coinbase and work there.”


Yitong:  Yeah. So, I was very excited about crypto and I was especially excited about CryptoKitties which was sort of like the … people don't remember CryptoKitties anymore because everybody thinks of like OG and FT projects as like CryptoPunk. 


Jayneil: Bored Ape.


Yitong:  The reality is that … well, not really, right? Board Ape is the new entrant like when people think about like original like NFTs, they think about … the whole narrative for CryptoPunk is that they are the original but back then, people weren't really excited about the folks they were excited about CryptoPunk. They were excited about CryptoKitties because CryptoKitties was sort of … there was like a utility to it, right? And that was a little bit of the promise of Ethereum is that “We're not going to be trading coins back and forth all day long because we're going to be doing stuff.” And CryptoKitties was the real … that was the first time that it was non-financial utility on chain which is really exciting. And so, I was like big time into it and I was building a CryptoKitties price tracker. And that's when Connie reached out and she was like “Yo! You want to just come help us do design at Coinbase?” And at the time, I was ready to quit my job and I was either going to go to like Github, Lyft or Coinbase and Coinbase was kind of like “Why don't you just come?” and I was like “Sure, yeah.” 


Jayneil: Yeah. And did you know Connie before or was it just through the hiring process.


Yitong:  No, no. I think she had … I think she was … I mean she was trying to recruit. So, she had started this sort of Facebook group because that was a thing back then of people working or interested in the space. And I was just … I kept posting it there because I was like … I didn't know any other designers who were interested in this.


Jayneil: Wow!


Yitong:  So, she was like “You're clearly very excited about this. You want to come work with other people who are excited about this?”


Jayneil: Oh my god! This is just amazing just like hearing the stories because up because I’m interviewing you now, I’ve interviewed her. So, it's just like it's amazing to tie the dots together. So, you join Coinbase and what I’m kind of curious to ask you about is there's a lot of designers that I talk to that haven't, I would say, ventured into the crypto space. They might have gone to Coinbase, maybe bought some cryptocurrency a little bit of it, maybe they haven't and the biggest stumbling block what I hear from them is there's just so much information out there. So, what would you recommend to people like designers who want to like get started with crypto? Maybe they want to design interfaces in the Web3 crypto space. How should they go about doing that?


Yitong:  Stop having other hobbies. And it's just try to sleep less but I think you're right. You have identified the fact that like crypto moves really, really fast. And to be frank, that was a constant struggle back at Coinbase where it felt like the organization had a hard time keeping up as most people do, right? And where are the people who are actually able to keep up? And I like to imagine myself as somebody who keeps up relatively but I know that I’m behind on a lot of stuff. And the advice that I usually give to people when they onboard at Coinbase when I’m still there is that the best way to learn and to keep up is to just own some stuff and to try to do something. It sounds extremely dumb and straightforward but it's sort of like … there's so much stuff out there that you can read, there's sort of like a deluge of stuff that you can read and you can sort of be in this cycle of like “I got to read more” for like a long time but the reality is that you will learn so much faster by just doing stuff. And this is a little bit like … it's the same approach as when people ask you like “How do I start coding?” and you can keep reading these blogs but I think the reality is that you should just spin up a website and then that will teach you way more than everything else. And so, that's kind of what I tell people just like “Look, whatever you think is interesting in crypto, whether that's NFTs, DAO’s like D5, just do some stuff, you know, and try to capitalize on the thing that interests you.” Are you interested in NFT because you think NFT art is cool, go make art. Go try to sell some NFTs. You think DAOs are cool? Join a DAO. You think D-Fi is cool or are you tired of having all your money in (inaudible), go do some Degen Yield farming and then just let yourself get sucked up in the hype. I feel like sometimes a lot of people, what they have is sort of like a natural defense mechanism against hype because they're like “Ah, something must be wrong.”


Jayneil: Yes.


Yitong:  Yeah. And I think that's probably pretty healthy but there's sort of a little bit something to be said about just getting lost in it and letting yourself be carried by it for a little bit. And then you can sort of like periodically reassess, it's like “Hey, does this even make sense?” but, yeah, I think that's kind of the way that you keep up. 


Jayneil: So, if a designer, let's say they do all these steps, they read about it, they buy a bunch of stuff, keep relatively up to date with it but then the big challenge comes in, “Oh, I want to work at a company in the crypto space, in the Web 3 space but my portfolio is all about Web 2, it’s all about these big companies. I don't have any work related to crypto.” Then what would you tell them?


Yitong:  Yeah. I mean, that's okay because that's the reality of 99% of people. I think that the trick is that … it depends on where you want to work but I think the trick is that you actually have to like this stuff and be knowledgeable. When I used to do interviews at Coinbase, the thing that I would always ask is “Hey, what's something that's exciting in crypto lately for you?” and “Talk to me about why that's exciting for you.” And you can sort of tell the people who just want a job, they're like “Oh, I really like Ethereum.” And I was like “Cool. What about it?” and they're like “Oh, I don't know, it's pretty … like it's really cool” and it's like “Okay, well, you know …” they didn't really like … they're not that excited about it and they didn't do their homework but if somebody was like “Yo! I just put a lot of money on Olympus and I got wrecked” and I’m trying to understand how Olympus works because I like what the heck happened and then they tell me all these things in detail and I’m like “Okay, that's actually …” it's okay that they don’t know design but it's like they're trying stuff right and it's really like when nobody knows anything, it's the speed of growth that really matters. And the speed of growth is just like a function of your level of interest. And so, I look for that honesty. That's kind of the number one thing. And this is the thing that I’ve looked for in Vector too. It's like “Are you at Degen? Have you tried stuff? Have you made art?” That's all it takes.


Jayneil: Now, I’m going to like throw out the elephant in the room which sure a lot of people are going to be like “Why is he even saying that?” A lot of people may not even, let's say, care about crypto that much, maybe they're just like … even talking to you at Coinbase too. They were just excited by the hype or they've heard that you can make like serious amounts of money by getting some moves right in crypto. So, what do you say to that in terms of motivation like “Hey, I’m very passionate about this but I see that this is very early space. It’s kind of like somebody joining in Web 2 so they can … in Web 2 we had this thing where if you join Airbnb or Uber early on and you got equity, that could be life-changing amount of money for some people but in Web 3, if you join a protocol or you get like early token allocation, that can be life-changing too in some cases and I’ve known some people who have experienced that. So, what would your advice be for that if that's the motivation?


Yitong:  I mean, I think that's okay, right? You got to get your piece. I don't fault anybody for trying to get that come up. I think it's very reasonable. I think the thing is that like it always helps like what you're doing, I don't know. if you're truly extremely agnostic towards everything, that's okay. And then you're just like an EV maximizing kind of person and that's okay. I hope that you kind of like get to this stuff eventually because I think it's really, really hard to keep abreast of all that's happening without actually liking this stuff. And I think, over time, if you don't keep abreast of everything that's happening, you will become a little behind and that will impede your ability to be very successful. And so, I think that's kind of … it's still the advice that I would give is just probably try to cultivate your interest in the space because you will need it at some point. It's nice to have in the beginning but above a certain level, it's sort of like a must-have because you're no longer … you can always push pixels, right? If somebody gives you a spec, you can always push pixels against it and that's not really an issue but if you're trying to move above the career level where you are pushing pixels against a spec and you will need to know what's going on, and being interested is helpful. And if you really, really wanted to be an EV maximizing person, you should come do it at Vector though or roll your own kind of Vector DAO, right? Just go contract at a bunch of places for equity and build yourself a portfolio. That would be truly the EV maximizing play but if you were truly also like totally not excited about crypto and just here to maximize EV, I don't know that you would be the best fit at Vector that you can probably run your own solution.


Jayneil: So, let's talk about both these both, these routes, but more importantly, I want to talk about the Vector route you just mentioned if you really want to maximize for that just equity and wealth. And I’m so glad that we're talking about this because it's kind of like always a taboo in the design circle to talk about money like my brother works in finance. And in his field, people openly talk about money, deals …


Yitong:  People in finance have a number, right? I have friends at a hedge funds where they have a number and when you say “What's your number?”, everybody knows what they're talking about. 


Jayneil: Yes!


Yitong:  It's how much money you need in your net worth before you quit finance forever.


Jayneil: Yes!


Yitong:  And it's just people openly talk about this and it's just like a thing, I don't know. I don't think it's super healthy but I think that there's some degree of that that is kind of important like “Look, people make money, people spend money and money is a huge part of life. Let's talk about it.”


Jayneil: They're just so openly talking about each other's compensation, their strategies and what I like about that openness is that when I’m in design circles, usually, the conversations are about everyone's passion, tool preferences, latest design patterns. And it takes a while for me to just that candidly just talk about like “What is your compensation? What are your strategies? What are you investing in?” Those are conversations that we don't usually have. And I think in the design community, that's something we need to think about because everyone is, at the end of the day, working for whether there's family, the personal wealth like for someone else … money does matter. And I think if we openly talked about this and how you're candidly talking about “Hey, if you want to maximize your chances of making money in your career, these are the routes that you should go towards.” So, I want to talk about the other route you talked about which is joining Vector DAO. So, for designers listening in, how would you describe Vector DAO to them?


Yitong:  Yeah. So, Vector is a collective of designers who are either very deep in crypto or very excited about crypto, who are also sort of at the peak of their craft. And it's sort of a little bit of like … it's a lot of things but it's sort of like … the thing that we explain to people we work with is that for designers in this space, it's like a place to get peership, community with others who are sort of in the same sort of like a space as you and also sort of getting like a totally different economic package that is not available elsewhere. And the package specifically is to be able to earn a basket of early stage crypto startup equities and tokens through your work. So, having a little bit of a venture return profile without actually becoming an investor while still remaining like a great designer because you don't necessarily have … usually, traditionally, if you want to get that kind of return, you have to do a totally different thing with your life and your skills but this is what we're offering is do the thing that you're excellent at and then get the return is far more interesting. And for companies, it's a really good way for them to work with talent that is like crypto native or very excited about crypto that they wouldn't be able to hire otherwise. So, we have this kind of like arbitrage where if you're even a very good startup, recruiting is super freaking hard because you're asking somebody to full-ass commit to your thing for a very serious amount of time whereas at Vector, our pitch is like “If you're really good, just come hang out with other people who are your peers that you respect and try it. It's like no skin off your back.” And so, we're able to get really cool people that they would never be able to get, frankly. And then they would love to come work with us and give our pool equity because they're like “Wow! Yeah, we'll pay whatever to be able to have instant access to this kind of help.” Well, not whatever but it's like we're willing to pay the equity. 


Jayneil: So, the question that I have as a designer who probably wants to join Vector DAO is “Do I need to quit my other day job or full-time job or can I moonlight on the side? Can I work on weekends and nights?” 


Yitong: Yeah. I mean, we have no view about what you should do about your life. This is the cool thing about sort of being a DAO a is that this is like … all we ask is that you are engaged in our DAO and are doing something every quarter. This is the thing that we tell everyone. It's like we expect you to be doing something. Whether you're doing multiple things and you're doing this full time, that would be awesome, but if you didn't want to, if this is kind of like a thing that you do on the side when you have time, that's okay too because our model works no matter what. In fact, we want you to enjoy that freedom and that flexibility. That's a good plus for us, right? It's like us being able to offer you this sort of thing that is not a trade-off against what you'd be doing in your day job but rather a compliment because people moonlight on the side all the time. so, this is just like a different way of doing it. It's actually a plus for us.


Jayneil: As I’m listening, you'd give such an amazing pitch for Vector DAO. I mean, again, granted that I am deep in the Web 3 space, the crypto space and I see the potential, I’ve had conversations with friends who are like they would rather take a freelance project that gives them cash rather than take a risk on crypto and I just wish more people would use their skills and diversify and say that “You know what? Let me try two projects with the Vector DAO, give the best work possible and I can always go back to doing fixed cash-based freelance projects.” I just wish that more people would see this viewpoint.


Yitong: Yeah. I think that's to come. I think people don't really understand, maybe people do, I’m not sure, but I think people don't really fully understand the extent to which the power balance has shifted in the hand of the really talented makers. I think it's moved so fast, especially in this space, frankly, in the Web 3 space, it's moved so fast in the last two years that I think people are just kind of … they still have whiplash over like “Wait, I can get away with this?” or it's like “Wait. Actually, this is what I’m worth. What the heck.”


Jayneil: And we're talking about compensation. So, I’m involved deeply in the Magic ecosystem and I was just like … there was a conversation happening and some rates were posted. So, one of the persons …


Yitong: Which Magic? 


Jayneil: The Magic token ecosystem.


Yitong:  The one that was shaped off Loot, right?


Jayneil: Yeah, the John Palmer one. Yes.


Yitong:  Okay.


Jayneil: So, I bought some of the tokens early on and I was lucky that I got some early at good prices and now I’ve got it locked in a one-year mine. So, they have an amazing concept of how they're gamifying the whole decentralized finance world but, in that community, there was this post that came out where one of the lead frontend designer/developer got paid 110F for consulting on two projects. And as of right now, as I Google what is the X2 USD and I do 110F, that's … goddamn! That's like over almost 324,000 dollars. It's just insane. and even if someone were to freelance that kind of work, that's even hard to come by unless you're an agency. So, the reason I’m openly talking about compensation is because a lot of times when I talk with designers, they're not only hesitant about crypto but they don't understand the amount of life-changing money you could make if you just take some bets in the space. 


Yitong:  Yeah. And to be clear, it's not risk-free, right?


Jayneil: Yes.


Yitong:  I think this is the thing, right? I think your risk-adjusted return is a lot higher in crypto but the risk is also higher. So, it's like the return is much higher but the risk is also higher. And therefore, your risk-adjusted return is still ultimately higher but I think it's … I don't want to like make this sound like there's free money to be picked up on the floor here but it's like if you play your cards right, I think it is true that the EVs are pretty good.


Jayneil: And I’ve gotten wrecked, just to be candid with you. There's a Index fund that was just purely about investing in D-Fi tokens, D-Fi5 index that I invested in. And they got hacked and put in like … what is it? … 30,000 dollars and holy shit! I remember that night when I just came home and it was gone.


Yitong:  Yeah. Crazy shit, yeah. And that's the sort of all-consuming part about crypto is you know that the winnings are out there, so to speak, and you've seen people do it too, but it does take a good amount of diligence and a good amount of sort of like doing your homework to figure out “Okay, what's real here and what's kind of like an exit scam?” because exit camps are real. And it's like you got to not get rugged. 


Jayneil: How do you … I’m kind of curious about this … with Vector DAO, how do you … when you're consulting with projects and clients, how do you do the background check to make sure that “Hey, this is a legitimate project. This is not just an exit project” or long term it could be just weird or it may not work out because you're putting in a lot of work and time and getting it done?


Yitong:  Yeah. I mean, it's very similar if you think about it too like how traditional investors do it. So, we'll have conversations with these people and we'll try to understand their business. Usually, they're either like … we typically work with people who frankly weren't intros or are founders who have investments from firms that we know and trust. And then we'll also do like a quick …. if they're in our network, we'll do also like a quick background check with people we know. It's like “Hey, is this legit? Do you think it's going to be a real business?” So, we do all this sort of like traditional steps like normal investments will do with due diligence. So, our problem hasn't usually been “Is it an exit scam?” as the scams usually are pretty easy to spot but I think the question is like “Is this a sound business. Do you think that it's going to be like a thing that is worth betting on?” 


Jayneil: So, I have something I want to ask you that I really relate with you on is that you're an immigrant, I’m an immigrant. So, there's always this mentality that we have to prove ourselves to a lot of people like prove the doubters wrong.


Yitong:  Yeah, that chip on the shoulder.


Jayneil: Exactly. And it's like all those people said to me that “You cannot make it. Who do you think you are?” and there's always this like …


Yitong:  Yeah, it's almost like a “Fuck you. I’mma make it to prove you wrong,” right?


Jayneil: Yeah, like “I’m going to show you. I’m going to make it” and “How dare you doubt me and my skills?” And it's a good feel for a while. It's like this negative thing that I’m channeling on and it really drives me. In one of your articles, you said that “Well, that's a good thing to latch on as a fuel but this negative energy is not sustainable in the long term to keep driving on this kind of like negative feedback trying to prove the haters wrong.” So, I want to ask you when did you change your mind on that? What made you change your mind on that?


Yitong:  Yeah. You know what? This was sort of like … I was exactly like this all the way up to my … I had many, many chips on my shoulder all the way up to sort of the beginning of the pandemic. And I was like “Wait, hold on. I think I’m at the place where young me would have been really proud of myself for and I’m still feeling these feelings.” And, frankly, just like coping with COVID and also these feelings was like a lot. And I was like “Hmm, I don't know that I can do this forever this way,” right? It's like at some point you just got to move to a place where things are exciting for their own sake or that you want to do things for their own sake, not for other people but for yourself. And I think it's more honest, I think, first of all because oftentimes, the things that prove other people wrong are not necessarily the things that you deeply care about. It's very confusing sometimes where “Do I want to do this because it feels like the thing that would grant me the prestige or the respect that I need to prove other people wrong or is it something I genuinely want to do?” And when a lot of your energy comes from proving people wrong, it's hard to tell. And I think that matters in the long run because I, and you might have noticed this about me, but I really believe in doing things that you actually are interested in because that's the only way that you can sustainably do things for a long time. And so, when a lot of what you feel is driven by other people, it's hard to know what you really want. And that's kind of like … and then it's in turn hard to find the thing that really drives you. Most things that are worth doing are hard and are going to take years if not decades. And so, if you're going to spend decades proving somebody wrong, then I feel like you've wasted a lot of your life.


Jayneil: So, on that point, let me ask you doing things that you talked about like you want to do things that you're genuinely passionate about so that for the long term it's easier for you to stick with it. So, the decision to leave your full-time job, and a lot of people from the outside would be like “Oh my god! He's made it. He's a designer at Coinbase. There's so much potential there”, and then you left that to pursue Vector DAO full time. Was that decision hard or was it just very straightforward for you?


Yitong:  It was actually pretty straightforward, honestly. I took this job at Coinbase hoping that it would be the last job that I would have working for somebody else. obviously, it panned out way better than expected because the company went public. And so, now, it makes it a little bit more tenable to take risks with my life but I was probably going to do it anyway. And somewhere deep in me was sort of this … I mean I talked about this a little bit earlier but this dissatisfaction with being told what to do and then not agreeing with it … if there was a world where I was always told what to do and I always agree with it, that would be awesome. I think that's so rare that you would be in a place where it's like “90% of the time I actually agree with what I’m being told to do and I would do it that way.” And a lot of times, that's probably going to be at like a very early stage startup where it's like “Well, damn! If I’m going to be at a place where I’m basically a co-founder that I’m going to have 1% of the equity instead of like 50%, I might as well start something.” So, it wasn't that hard. It was always in the books. 


Jayneil: That is amazing. Oh my god! And then let me ask you, with your current thinking, did you ever think that “Hey, you know what? If this is the last company I work for, if situations change in the future and I have to come back and work again for another company,” did you even think that far or you're like “You know, it's not a big deal if I have to come back in the future and work again for a company.” 


Yitong:  I just don't think that's … this may be overly confident but I don't think that's going to happen. What is the worst-case scenario? Worst case scenario is that I am a freelancer, right? That's it? It's still sort of working for somebody in that like you have clients but it's like you decide ultimately what you want to do, right? That's the very, very worst-case scenario. So, I was like “Okay. Well, I would prefer that over sort of um like working in a large organization again.” I might change my mind on this. I think that the scenario that I would go back to work for somebody else is like … I actually changed my mind because I think somebody really, really exciting that I want to work for and it would be life-changing, right? So, I will make an exception for that. 


Jayneil: What is amazing with you, man, just talking with you, what I gather from you is you look at this life as like a game. It's like this multiplayer game that you're viewing and you're like “You know what? I’m playing this game.” Whether you're working in a large corporation, whether you're freelancing, whether you are working in the crypto space, the way I talk to you, I’m getting this mental model where you're like “One has to figure out first of all what game they're playing, right?” And then figure out “This game that I’m playing, how can I maximize it?” So, it makes it very easy for me now to visualize “Okay, if I’m working in a large corporation, how can I maximize the gains there? Maybe I need to work at a company that gives the maximum amount of cash bonus or whatever that might be. If I’m doing the freelance stuff, this is the way I can maximize that game.” So, it's really mind-blowing the way you strategically try to maximize that.


Yitong:  Yeah. I mean, to be clear, I’m not an advocate for maximizing. I’m advocating probably for just knowing what game you're playing and knowing how you're like being cognizant of the way that you're playing it, right? So, you can decide not to maximize things and I think that's totally legit but I think it behooves us all to know the game that we're playing. And I think often times people don't know what the real game is and I think that's kind of a shame. You can be doing all the … the outcomes sometimes are just the same. It’s like you don't know what game you're playing, you're playing it this way versus you know what game you're playing and you still choose to play this way. Technically, it's the same outcome but I think it matters a lot for your own mental peace.


Jayneil: And I really like the part where you said that a lot of times people don't know what game they're playing, and I would also agree with that, can you give an example like where it's not really beneficial to someone where they don't know which game they're playing and how it can not benefit them? Do you have an example off the top of your head?


Yitong:  Yeah. I mean, it's like I don't think people understand tech comp packages very well at all, right? I mean, I think the larger the company, obviously, the less tricky the comp situation is but the smaller you are … and I think most people don't understand what they're getting into when they take a comp package from a company that is sort of early because in order to understand that, you kind of have to understand how venture funding works, right? And then it's like people tell you “Oh you're getting these many shares. It's going to be great” but is it worth, right? It's like “At what valuation?” There's all sort of this math people are not doing and like this is the confidence they'll have when they take offers that I think is a little bit of a shame. 


Jayneil: And also, I think, when I talk to a lot of designers or just people in general, they're afraid to ask these questions because it’s like you don't want to come across as this gold digger person who's interested in the money because you're like “Okay, I’ve got the offer. Let's not ask too many questions.” So, I totally get that you should be asking these questions to understand what are you getting into.


Yitong:  Yeah, totally. No nobody ever falls for asking questions. You can only look smart asking questions, not dumb.


Jayneil: Oh my god! Even asking dumb questions. No, no, there's nothing like dumb questions. Just kidding.


Yitong:  Asking dumb questions is the ultimate flex, right? It's like “I am secure enough in myself I’m willing to ask you this seemingly dumb question because I know that I will not get judged for it.” That's a flex.


Jayneil: I never viewed it that way. Oh my god! Thank you so much. What final words of wisdom do you have for designers who are just on the verge and they're like “You know what? I’m going to do something in the Web 3 space whether it's working on a project” or they're freelancing, doing their own stuff, whatever that might be or maybe join a company that's in the Web 3 space? What would you tell them?


Yitong:  I would say probably use all the things. Try everything. Have fun, right? It's like … Okay, maybe the strong version of this I give privately to people that I hesitate to say on air a little bit but it’s “Embrace the greed.” This is kind of like the thing that people don't really like but it's like … look, a lot of Web 3 is about making money and it's a little bit like … it's the underbelly of a lot of things, frankly. And it's like some of it is extremely unsavory and other parts are great, right? It's like NFTs, like artists are finally making money and getting paid for making things that people appreciate versus exit scams where people are stealing your money like but it's all sort of like … a lot of it is profit motivated and then just not being afraid of sort of looking at the fact that it's profit motivated and seeing both the good and the bad with sort of like an even keel like … I think it's kind of important. I think that Web 3 has a way of making sort of the implicit profit motive in life explicit. You can sort of go around the world sort of not really thinking about these things if you don't look at Web3 and sort of like … it's impossible to do that in Web 3, right? It's like if in Web3 the money is extremely obvious, and I think that turns people off sometimes like “Oh, I’m not about that” but it's worth sometimes embracing the greed to really follow the money and understand where the incentives are and why people are doing the things that they're doing. And I’m rambling here. So, you can cut this if you want but it's like why does Yield Farming even exist, right? If you cannot answer this question, you're probably in a bad place yeah and you probably shouldn't Yield Farm, right? And that's kind of the … if you can't explain floor price to me, you don't know why floor price exists and you don't know how floor price works. You probably shouldn't be trading NFTs. And so, yeah, just kind of like follow the incentives.


Jayneil: And how can people contact you?


Yitong:  Yeah. I mean, this is … it's Web3 world, right? So, just Twitter is the best way I’m @Zhayipong everywhere. So, that's the best place.


Jayneil: Got it. And thank you so much Yitong for coming on the show.


Yitong:  Yeah, of course. Thanks for having me. 


If you made it this far, you are what I call a design MBA superfan. And I’ve got a gift for you, my superfan. Head over to where you will find my email address. Email me one thing you learned from this podcast episode and I will get on a 30-minute call with you and help you in your career goals.


See you in the next episode.