Julia Baranovskaya's journey into the cryptocurrency space
"If you don't try, you will never know what you missed out on."
Today, Btchcoin is spotlighting Julia Baranovskaya, the chief compliance officer of National Digital Asset Exchange, better known as NDAX. NDAX is a Canadian cryptocurrency trading platform that lets you can buy and sell popular digital currencies, like Bitcoin. In a space that is widely dominated by men, Baranovskaya is not the bro type you might associate the crypto industry with.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I started my career working in the traditional financial industry for many years, including mutual fund companies, traditional full-service brokerage and smaller traditional investment firms. In 2017, I was approached by Bilal Hammoud to join the founding team of NDAX to build a Canadian-based cryptocurrency trading platform that would address all the challenges that users were facing at that time. At first, I didn't think much of it, but after putting more thought into it, I decided to join the team. My mantra is that if you don't try, you will never know what you missed out on. With my number of years of regulatory and compliance experience within the traditional financial industry, that was a great fit and a perfect next step to advance my career.
The cryptocurrency space is a fascinating and rapidly moving industry to be in because it is constantly changing and new products are developing which requires me and the NDAX team to stay on top of it and puts us at the forefront of it all.
What does your day-to-day look like at NDAX?
It's exciting. It's constantly changing. We're still a small team and that's where you get to wear a lot of different hats and get involved in multiple different developments and projects. I like to start my day early, that’s when I tend to be the most productive. I always have a checklist on my desk which is constantly updated with the new items that I’m working on, which feels silly because I'm the only one who still writes things down. Sometimes you get taken away from your original list because something more important comes up and I do love that excitement. In the last few years, we have moved to a culture of online meetings and all of us are working through that challenge which leads to some days being fully booked with video calls. On other days I spend my time reading through newly released developments in the regulations and ensuring that our operations are able to comply with them and that the team receives adequate training on it.
What is your advice to someone who wants to work in the tech or cryptocurrency space?
I always tell people to start by finding out what exactly they want to do and then acquiring those skills for the job that they want to do.
NDAX is a fintech company. That means we provide financial services, but also we build technology that we use to do that. Depending on which side of that business you're looking to join, we have different roles. There is a development team that would require purely technical skills, operations, and accounting that would require a traditional skill set. A lot of those traditional skills can be easily transferable to the crypto space. As long as you have a passion for the space and you believe in it, and identify where you want to be by setting a goal, you will always be able to get there. Currently, there are not many experts in the space and this is the time for anyone, even with limited skills and knowledge, to enter the space and learn from within.
For me, goals have always been a driving force. Setting goals is an art and ensuring that they are high enough to challenge you, but that they are also achievable so you are not discouraged by them. Once you get to the goal that you have set for yourself, set a new one, just a bit higher to keep on moving to the next level. I do that in my work and my personal life, either I’m working on getting my next certification, learning a new language or working on taking the NDAX to the next level.
That really allows you to develop yourself professionally and grow within the industry—any industry for that matter.
What’s your career advice to your younger self?
I wouldn't change anything because every single step that I've made was always in achieving that goal. I always had an idea of where I wanted to be. For example, when I started in the financial industry, I was working at a mutual fund company and that was my first initial foray into the financial industry and the step that got me to where I’m today.
I held numerous jobs in my career and what set me apart from other employees is putting my best foot forward and working hard every day, no matter what role I was in. That can truly show what you are capable of doing and that you want to get to the next level. I started my career in the mutual fund industry, moved to a full-service brokerage to take on the role of an investment advisor assistant and in about three and a half years, I became a compliance branch administrator. Throughout that short period of time, I've taken multiple courses and attended seminars that led to me earning certifications and licensing. Putting in that work really demonstrated my willingness to learn. And once I obtained all the required certifications, I did not have to look for a job because I got noticed in the industry and new opportunities came my way.
What are some of your favourite books, TV shows and podcasts?
Podcasts: If I'm driving, I love listening to CBC podcasts like Cross Country Check and the Current, which gives you an overview of what's going on in Canada and allows you to stay up to date on current events. For a good laugh, I love The Debators.
Books: When I’m not reading books to complete my next course or certification, I love reading biographies. The last few books that I read were Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom and Elon Musk, Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance.
TV shows: I watch pretty much anything and everything when I have time. The last one I watched was Money Heist, which was quite interesting.
What are your work-from-home essentials?
A comfortable chair, a nice mouse pad, three screens (because as I've said, a lot of things are coming your way and you need to be able to address them really quickly), a notepad (I love the satisfaction of crossing tasks off) and wireless headphone. I also need my coffee and some days require just a bit extra of it to get me through the day.