Anna-Maria Calin Senior Software Engineer at GraphOps: Enhancing the Indexer Experience at The Graph Launchpad Graphcast Indexer

GRTiQ Podcast: 124 Ana-Maria Calin

Today I am speaking with Ana-Maria Calin, Senior Software Engineer at GraphOps, one of the Core Dev teams working at The Graph. Ana has become a familiar and respected voice within the community due to her consistent contributions to Indexer Office Hours, a weekly Discord meeting where members of the Indexer community gather to exchange knowledge and insights. Through her work at GraphOps, Ana has made many positive contributions to enhancing the Indexer experience at The Graph and plays an important role in onboarding future generations of Indexers.

During this interview, Ana shares many aspects of her background, including growing up in Romania and moving to the UK and eventually Canada. She also highlights some unique projects she undertook during her time at IBM when web2 was transitioning to a new technology called “the cloud.” Ana also talks about her early impressions of the crypto space and shares her decision to join GraphOps and go to work on The Graph.

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The following podcast is for informational purposes only. The contents of this podcast do not constitute tax, legal, or investment advice. Take responsibility for your own decisions, consult with the proper professionals, and do your own research.

Ana-Maria Calin (00:18):

I had various chances to meet the brains behind The Graph protocol and I can say without a shadow of doubt that these are some of the smartest people I’ve ever had the opportunity to be in a room with.

Nick (01:01):

Welcome to the GRTiQ Podcast. Today, I’m speaking with Ana-Maria Calin, Senior Software Engineer at GraphOps, one of the core dev teams working at The Graph, and has become a familiar and respected voice within the community due to her consistent contributions to Indexer Office Hours, a weekly Discord meeting where members of the Indexer community gather to exchange knowledge and insights. Through her work at GraphOps, Ana has made many positive contributions to enhancing the Indexer experience at The Graph and her work will play an important role in onboarding future generations of Indexers.


During this interview, Ana shares many aspects of her background, including growing up in Romania and then moving to the UK and eventually Canada. She also highlights some unique projects she undertook during her time at IBM when web2 was transferring to a new technology called the Cloud. Ana also talks about her early impressions of the crypto space and talks about her decision to join GraphOps, web3, and go to work on The Graph. As always, we started the discussion talking about Ana’s educational background.

Ana-Maria Calin (02:06):

I grew up in Romania, and this is going to sound a bit braggy, but I promise it’ll make sense at the end, I was almost always first in my class until high school where I managed to get into one of the best high schools in the country and that was because it was a grades points kind of system. And at school, I was a bit of a smart-ass, a bit of a teacher’s pet, but also a bit of a hack-the-system kind of girl. Basically, I realized really early on that if you paid attention to all lessons for the first month or two of the year, you’d get all your grades early on, obviously all As in my case, and then you could just daydream and coast for the rest of the year, which was my favorite way of passing time at the time.


Then high school got a lot tougher because the standards were way higher and I ended up having professors that would teach at Olympic-level kind of standard. Even though teaching in general in Romania tends to be highly theoretical with little to no emphasis on practical skills, I was able to use those skills to get great A-levels, which then helped me to get into a university in the UK with a scholarship, which helped me leave the country.


Now, the reason why I’m sharing this is because I have very strong feelings about the educational system and because I have met a lot of people that were a lot more smarter than me that didn’t do that well in school or went to uni at all, and a lot of people in our society tend to judge someone’s work based on their educational credentials, and I do think that is wrong because most of the educational systems are not designed to make us succeed and it’s basically about who’s the best at remembering stuff. For me, going through the educational system and navigating it this way was a way of getting the right kind of opportunities to basically get out of my situation.

Nick (04:22):

Okay, Ana. Well, let’s play a little thought experiment then. Let’s assume we wake up in the morning and you’re in charge of global curriculum, you get to take care of the way people learn in schools. What’s the first thing you change?

Ana-Maria Calin (04:35):

It’s a hard question. I’m not sure if I would start changing things right away. The things that I don’t think we do enough is get people to use their creativity. So I think we should encourage students to tap more into their artistic side. And another thing that needs to come straight away in the educational system is education around how to be self-sufficient economically, how to do your taxes, especially in countries like North America because in most of Europe, you don’t have to really do anything; they just tell you, “This is how much you owe,” or you don’t owe anything. And I would also say that educational system does not cater at all for neurodivergent people, and while I don’t have exact solutions of how you’d approach that, I would want to look into that.

Nick (05:31):

I appreciate that perspective. So after growing up and kind of having that experience in the school system, what did you decide to study as you went to university?

Ana-Maria Calin (05:41):

So I had the list of five degrees at different universities in the UK and they were, all of them, computer science-based, and I decided to go with computer hardware and software engineering.

Nick (05:57):

Well, let’s talk about that a little bit. Why did you decide to study computer hardware and software engineering?

Ana-Maria Calin (06:02):

I’m going to be honest again. I’m going to say that first of all, I was not one of those kids that was basically born programming. Quite the opposite. I had no idea what I was doing and my parents didn’t have the right background to advise me. So all I knew was that I didn’t want to be poor and I was good at math, and I wanted to specify that I was good at math at the time, and I really don’t think that would be the case anymore. And I’m just saying this because we have so many amazing crypto-mathematicians in the space and I can’t compete or even hold a proper conversation with them.


So from my point of view at the time, there were no great ways of making money with a math degree. And the next thing I saw was that my oldest cousin was in software engineering and he was basically smashing it, so I decided to follow in his footsteps. And then the other part of specifically choosing hardware and software was, again, more of a reflection of my indecision where I was trying to figure out what worked best for me rather than just making an informed or conscious decision.

Nick (07:16):

I totally get that, but clearly, you fell in love with software and technology because we’re talking today and you work in it. What was that moment for you or was it more organic? Over time, you fell in love with it or did you have an aha moment where you thought, “Well, this worked out well. I went for the money, but actually I’m passionate about it”?

Ana-Maria Calin (07:35):

A lot of software engineering, and specifically systems engineering, has to do with problem solving and I think that’s what really clicked into my head rather than, “I’m so passionate about computers.” It’s more about trying to solve hard problems. And I think from that point of view, I’ve always been a bit of a masochist where I just always go for the hardest thing. And up until now, most things sort of work out my way, but I should maybe give myself a break every now and then.

Nick (08:09):

Well, I have to imagine that background in math, that very strong background in math, helps as somebody who’s working on these types of things and solving problems?

Ana-Maria Calin (08:17):

That’s what I thought. At least at university, it didn’t help at all. We didn’t even do a maths class at the university I was at. There’s very little cross between maths and systems engineering.

Nick (08:32):

And I know you’ve listened to the podcast before and so you know I ask this question fairly frequently when I meet people who studied technology at university, I’m curious to find out if they ever came across the concepts that now permeate the web3 space, things like blockchain, things like smart contracts. Do you remember if during any of your studies you came across these types of concepts?

Ana-Maria Calin (08:54):

I didn’t, not at all, especially because I think the origins of blockchain and crypto started around 2011 and I finished my university degree in 2014 and universities are always a bit behind, so the timing was a bit off.

Nick (09:15):

You mentioned that you grew up in Romania and you studied in the UK, but you’re joining me now from Canada today. How did you get from Romania to the UK and eventually to Canada?

Ana-Maria Calin (09:28):

From Romania to the UK was the easiest thing, so it was for higher education. Basically, I had this overwhelming feeling that if I didn’t leave the country to study abroad, I would never have another chance so I jumped into the unknown. If I’m completely honest, I was a bit of a sickly child with an eating disorder and very shy and very protected by my mom, so going from Romania to UK was the hardest thing that I’ve ever done. But I’m very grateful for being so ignorant about the world at the time because I don’t think I would have made that choice again if the same circumstances would be true.


And then from UK to Canada, so I lived in UK for 10 years, but the last five years I spent them in London and I started to get this clear sense that the city was too much for me. Everywhere I’d look, there was constant noise, cement buildings, and it felt like the whole city was a forever construction zone. I knew I wanted to leave the UK but couldn’t think of any country better to settle down and that’s just purely because my list of demands was astronomical, especially after I knew what it takes to make the move from one country to another.


My partner wanted to move to Canada after visiting a few times since his parents immigrated here, and I figured since I couldn’t think of any other choice that I could try that. And again, if I’m completely honest with you, I expected to hate it, I had a lot of nightmares about being killed in a forest or kidnapped by a truck driver. Again, clearly my imagination was running completely wild and I had watched too many horror movies and was a bit immature because none of that is true. But now, I can say that Canada is home mostly because of the access to nature and the peace and quiet. And I also want to say that Canada is nothing like what outsiders think it is, but it’s a good enough home for me.

Nick (11:34):

When I get the opportunity to talk to somebody that’s lived in different places or traveled to different places, I always like to ask this question. It’s a favorite of mine and I know that listeners enjoy it too. But let’s suppose that someone’s traveling to Romania, to London, and then to Canada. In each spot, can you recommend the one thing they’ve got to see? At each stop, make sure you carve out time in your itinerary and check this out.

Ana-Maria Calin (11:58):

Okay, so in Romania, Sighișoara is a beautiful city in the middle of Transylvania, right close to all of those Dracula stories, or well, they don’t originate from that because they originate from the UK, but that’s where the whole story is based. That’s a beautiful place. And there is one place that I’ve always wanted to go to in Romania but I never had the chance because it’s so much further away from where I was based, this place called the Happy Cemetery, where all of the tombstones are very brightly colored and it’s almost like they celebrate that. Those are the two things that come to mind.


And then for London and the UK, it’s a really hard choice because there are so many beautiful places. Specifically London is such a cultural place, but I would still prefer little countryside places where they have this specific British architecture, especially little places by the seaside as well.


And for Canada there’s so many places to see again. I would recommend people to come to Vancouver Island specifically because that is my current home, but I also think I’m madly in love with the nature and it’s so beautiful. You get oceans, mountains, lakes all in one go. All you have to do is turn around. So come to Vancouver Island people, but don’t stay because it’s already overpopulated.

Nick (15:31):

Well, those are great suggestions and I hope some of the listeners that travel to these areas will be able to take that advice and see some new things.


I’ve had other guests, Ana, join me from Canada before and I know you’ve moved around a lot in, and I’m just curious if you have a sense for what the crypto community is like there in Canada where you’re based.

Ana-Maria Calin (15:51):

So because I live in a small town on an island where there are very few tech jobs and because I work remotely, I don’t get to speak to many locals about technology or crypto in general. However, there is quite an active crypto community around Quebec area, and here, I can name our friends at StreamingFast as well as Pinax. And in general, I think most people in Western countries don’t fully understand the value of web3 and crypto and I think it’s because they still believe in our current system and the idea of a democratic system and because they haven’t come across all of the challenges that people in less developed countries are facing.


Over the weekend, I spoke to a friend who is a retired banker and they seem to think that most people that use crypto are doing it either because they’re very well-off and they’re using crypto as a way to hide money or for people who are trying to do money laundering, or just in general, other nefarious reasons. So while this person didn’t specifically believe in crypto and its stability, especially given the current landscape with the SEC troubles with Binance and Coinbase that are heavily politicized, they did think that the blockchain technology will have a big positive impact on our work. So, pros and cons.

Nick (17:21):

I want to talk to you about what you did after study in university and what you did for work. So after you graduated, what did you do next?

Ana-Maria Calin (17:30):

After university, I went to do what they called the Graduate Scheme at IBM, and I already had a bit of a history with IBM where I took a break between my second and third year at uni to do an internship. In the UK, it was called a placement year, which actually counts towards your degree as well. And while I was doing this Graduate Scheme, which came with a great training package, so it was teaching young adults some really important skills like sales and a specific training called Consulting by Degree where basically you’re put under fire, a bunch of a lot more senior people than you would come up with very difficult, almost impossible customer scenarios, and you had to role play on how you’d get out of those. Those were soft skills that I personally think anyone should know regardless of how technical they are or they aren’t.


And then as part of the actual job outside of the training, I was part of a team that was providing IT services. It’s basically consulting on customer sites on a product that our sales team would sell and we’d teach customers how to install the product, set it up, and then how to use it once we were offsite. I’ll be honest with you, I was thrown in the deep end because I barely had any experience in the industry, nevermind teaching others how to do stuff, so that was a very interesting time, but I came out at the other end.

Nick (19:14):

Clearly. And it must have been a formative time for you. I imagine, as you described your background in Romania and your trepidation about moving through the world, but having all these experiences, I got to imagine working at IBM and all the things you described was formative in the way you approached technology and working within organizations. Was it?

Ana-Maria Calin (19:35):

It definitely was. I learned a few very important things. I specifically remember my manager at the time gave me this advice when I was trying to communicate to him, “How am I supposed to teach these people how to use our product when I barely know anything about it?” And I remember he specifically said, “If you imagine you are reading a book and you’re telling someone about that book, all you have to do in order to convey any message about that book is to be just a few chapters ahead of the person, and if you apply that to whatever you are learning, you can then start teaching and that clarifies those concepts in your head.”

Nick (20:23):

During your time at IBM, did it ever come up, things like blockchain or crypto or web3?

Ana-Maria Calin (20:28):

Not as far as I was concerned. I was at the very beginning of the world was embracing or trying to wrap their head around this idea of cloud, so they weren’t really doing anything blockchain or crypto-related.

Nick (20:42):

Well, I love hearing about that. So cloud is something interesting because that was an emerging product within established industries. What was it like working on something like that, something new and introducing it to the world?

Ana-Maria Calin (20:54):

On one side, it was exciting. It’s always exciting to work on an innovative product that not many people know about or have the opportunity to be involved with. But I also remember, as an insider, a lot of resistance to any cloud solutions, especially when working with companies in the financial sector.


It did feel like a very innovative space at the time, and I know this for a fact because one of the reasons teams would be resistant to it would be due to compliance. Like always, regulation was behind and proving compliance with any new technology becomes part teaching auditors what the technology does, while you are also trying to understand what’s expected from the regulation so you can translate it in a way that gets you regulated or fill in the gaps wherever you need to.

Nick (21:54):

It’s not a huge stretch here to see some parallels with what web3 is experiencing and your experience with the cloud in those early days. What can you share with listeners about that experience introducing the cloud and sort of shepherding it into market adoption and some of the friction and the battle, I guess, that web3 has ahead of itself?

Ana-Maria Calin (22:14):

I feel like that’s too far away from me to properly put thoughts into words, but I have a better example where I started working with containerized applications, which is an additional obstruction to what you’d run in the cloud. And here I was, working for a payment services provider who was also trying to get regulated for a regulation called PCI DSS. And again, the regulation was returned in the sense of running traditional servers rather than running containerized applications, and there needed to be a lot of patience there with the auditor.


Basically my experience is make your auditor your best friend and be very, very patient and keep on insisting when they say, “No, this should be done in a specific way,” keep on insisting to try to figure out what they’re trying to achieve because one way of getting regulated is to reverse-engineer what the requirement is. If you understand what’s behind the requirement, then it’s easier to prove why and how you are compliant.

Nick (23:34):

What did you do after your time at IBM?

Ana-Maria Calin (23:36):

I moved to another consulting company and continued consulting for the Home Office, which was a government branch in the UK, plus a few other banks, but the company I was working for was quite toxic to women engineers and the projects I was working on weren’t fulfilling at all, but I needed that experience to truly realize that consulting wasn’t necessarily for me for various reasons, and one of those reasons was that you don’t have that much control over the project that you’re working on or the direction that the project is heading towards. And quite often, you’d be sent to a customer into the middle of a project, stay for a few months, and then move on and you wouldn’t get any sort of closure either at the beginning of the project or at the end of the project.


I would also say that working for the Home Office may have been one of the experiences that have helped me fully understand why we actually need a decentralized world. I was completely shocked at how inefficiently projects in the governments were managed and it felt like someone was burning money, and at the time, somewhat at the beginning of my career, I was a bit angry that those money were taxpayers money in real life and it just didn’t sit well with me.

Nick (25:07):

So what did you do next?

Ana-Maria Calin (25:08):

So after my experience with this consulting company and working with the government, I moved to working full-time at the payments provider company in London as a full-time systems engineer. And this is where I met GraphOps’ CEO, Chris Wessels, and this was really the beginning of my full-time career in software engineering. I was with this company until they were forced to close their doors during COVID, but this was the first time in my career where I got to work on a project from scratch full-time and had a lot of say in the decision making and actually get a bit of a sense of satisfaction in terms of completing the work.


And from there, I moved to a company called InfluxData, which is quite a big company in North America, where I had an absolutely amazing time and I still think fondly of, and after that I moved to GraphOps.


And I do want to say a few things about InfluxData, but those things don’t necessarily have to do with the technical work that I was doing, but rather with the people side. So I just want to give a shout-out to my previous manager and friend, Pat Gaughen, and yeah, if you’re hearing this Pat, you absolutely rock, and I also want to give another shout out to Jessica Ingrassellino for creating a special Slack channel called Influxibility for employees who are struggling with health issues.


So this channel was created for those people to freely share their struggles and journeys and HR was not allowed. This was extremely powerful to me because as regular migraine sufferer plus other their health difficulties, it showed me that I was not alone. It’s actually quite the opposite. I was surprised of how many people in the industry were struggling and it really helped me deal with the guilt of not always being able to work like so many people do in the industry. There’s this overwhelming feeling of people working 24/7 and I don’t think all of us have quite the same energy to do that.

Nick (27:27):

I appreciate you sharing that and Influxibility sounds like a powerful tool that was used there to help people process and navigate some of the most difficult things in life related to health.


I want to ask you this question about crypto. Do you recall at what period of time you first became aware of crypto and what you were thinking about it at that time?

Ana-Maria Calin (27:49):

Yes, I recall. I just hope that what I’m going to say next is not going to make people in this space cancel me, but I’ll try to be honest again.


I first heard about or became aware of crypto around 2015 and 2016, and I didn’t really spend that much time understanding it at the time, but got curious and bought a slither of Bitcoin on Coinbase in 2017. And even though I knew that age-old advice of don’t invest any money that you can’t afford to lose, even though I was able to afford to lose that money, I was not willing to lose anything at that time. So basically, what happened was I bought some Bitcoin, I held it for about a year, then we hit bear market, then I panicked, sold everything at that time, and decided to not do any more investment in anything until I was ready to fully understand and put in the time in what I was trying to do.


Also at the time, I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around blockchain because all the definitions looked so convoluted and I immediately got overwhelmed and assumed that maybe I just wasn’t smart enough for that space and moved on to something else. I will admit that my self-esteem probably doubled then and I don’t get as easily intimidating anymore.

Nick (29:27):

So when did you make the connection between crypto and the underlying technology and get that appreciation that it was something more than a speculative asset?

Ana-Maria Calin (29:38):

I would say when Chris Wessels contacted me to join GraphOps, that’s when I started looking again into the area and he was actually instrumental guiding me in trying to understand the space. Here is where some of your GRTiQ Podcast really, really helped give a bit more context outside of just the technical use, so you played the part even though you may have not known.

Nick (30:09):

Well, I did not and I’m always very flattered when somebody I’m speaking to says that the podcast had an impact and I actually share that with you. I’ve been deeply impacted by all the guests as well and I appreciate that very much and it humbles me every time I hear it.


So if we think about your journey then into web3, was that a difficult move for you? It seems like to me, as somebody who’s non-technical, you had all the skills, you had a great mentor in Chris Wessels, and you were probably set up to step into the industry and understand all the tech and all the software engineering and development. Was it an easy move or is that a mischaracterization?

Ana-Maria Calin (30:47):

That’s a great question. Like I said before, my journey is very common. It was an easy move from the sense of web3 promised to give me that aspect of purpose that I wasn’t getting from basically any other web2 company that I worked at. It was promising, and it still is promising, to make a change into the world, to create a new system that’s more shared and more accessible to anyone regardless of their background, and that was the thing that really sold me in it.


I would be lying if I said I understood everything about crypto, I didn’t, but it was an easy move in the sense that a lot of the system engineering work and infrastructure that I was already doing applies to what I’m doing at GraphOps, but I’m still learning about the intricacies of the whole space.

Nick (31:59):

Can you explain then, to someone like myself who’s non-technical but has enough of a sense that you have degrees in software engineering and you’ve worked on some cutting-edge-type stuff, the Cloud at IBM, what is it that someone like you sees or identifies in blockchain or web3 and why it’s better than web2 and the things you were working on?

Ana-Maria Calin (32:25):

There’s a few aspects to this. First of all, I think you do have a much higher opinion of myself than I do. I appreciate that. But again, joining the web3 space was purely for the promise of finally getting that bit of purpose that I was lacking, and it was clear to me that crypto in general is a very useful economical tool for a lot of people in countries where inflation is so high, you are always fighting an uphill batter.


In addition to that, I got to use some of the knowledge I got from web2 in relation to managing big infrastructure systems and apply it to a new exciting space but at an even larger scale. And I find that quite exciting and scary but it keeps things interesting.

Nick (33:19):

So Ana, you’re talking to Chris Wessels, he’s a former employer, somebody that you have a friendship with, he’s inviting you and introducing you to web3 and to go to work on the GraphOps team (Ep. 121 Petko Pavlovski and Ep. 4 Juan Defago). I got to imagine at that point is the first time you heard about The Graph. If I’m right, talk us through your first impressions of The Graph and what you thought about the protocol.

Ana-Maria Calin (33:40):

As you said, I first became aware of The Graph protocol through Chris Wessels. I was working with the team that I was madly in love with and I thought I would never leave that team, but in reality, again, I didn’t have a connection with the product I was working on. And then Chris explained The Graph to me and the fact that all of a sudden, you have this protocol that allows you to easily index part of the blockchain. Regardless of what chain you’re indexing, that’s making querying data much more accessible to application developers. And even though I didn’t understand all of the ins and outs of the whole solution, I think I followed an instinct and it was a new opportunity. And the way I saw it, the way I justified it was should things go wrong or unexpected, the worst that would happen to me and my career is I learned a bunch of new skills and then I move on the next thing. So it wasn’t a hard decision to make the jump.


I would also be lying if I said that I blindly believe that this web3 world was a magical solution to all of the world problems, but I figured out I would be missing out if I didn’t try at the very least. And that was the main driver to my decision and to going into this space and it’s been more than a year now and I don’t regret it. So, a good decision so far.

Nick (35:49):

Well, let’s talk about what you’ve been working on then. So you joined the GraphOps team and you went right to work in a core dev role working to help build and support The Graph. What types of things are you working on at GraphOps?

Ana-Maria Calin (36:03):

I’m mostly working on building and maintaining our infrastructure for our Indexer as well as working on a project that was called Launchpad v2.


Just a bit of background there. Last year, we released Launchpad v1, which is an open source project that allowed any interested Indexer to get from having just a bunch of servers with SSH access only, and those servers would be respective of provider or whether they’re in the cloud or bare metal or in their garage. So it would allow Indexers to get from having a bunch of servers to running an end-to-end Indexer operation in a Kubernetes cluster on top of those servers. And by end-to-end, I mean from host provisioning and shut up, all the way to joining the SED servers into a cluster, checking the map with the monitoring system, with security, with storage, and running and deploying the different applications needed for the indexing operation.


We ended up being a bit too ambitious with the project and we made some assumptions about some of our users and how they would’ve interacted with the technology. So now we’re working on Launchpad v2, which has a slightly reduced scope, but in general, will be easier to maintain in terms of upstream updates, it’ll be more stable, and as before, we’re always using the project ourselves in-house before encouraging anyone to use it.

Nick (37:54):

And if I want to simplify all the great work you’ve been doing at GraphOps for listeners who don’t fully comprehend or understand what you just described there, the essence of it is that you’re working on solutions that make DevOps for Indexers, or the technology that they use for indexing, easier and more seamless and integrated. Is that a fair summary?

Ana-Maria Calin (38:16):


Nick (38:17):

What have you learned about The Graph by virtue of being a core dev at the protocol? And I ask that because it’s an interesting story, right? You went from the experience you shared about first learning about Bitcoin, then you find out about crypto and get educated by a friend, Chris Wessels. You’re introduced to The Graph, and now you’re a core dev, you’re on a core dev team at The Graph and you’re seeing the protocol from an incredible perspective. What did you learn by virtue of having that experience?

Ana-Maria Calin (38:47):

So I had various chances to meet the brains behind The Graph protocol and I can say without the shadow of the doubt that these are some of the smartest people I’ve ever had the opportunity to be in a room with.


Just to give you an example, many of the core dev members are very much into philosophy and at some of the core dev retreats, we’d hold philosophy nights as well. And that to me signals an ability for consideration and for assessing many different sides of a problem before committing to a solution.


In addition to that, the amount of work and effort that the different teams put into contributing to The Graph ecosystem, as well as the amount of engagement most Indexers have with The Graph, are truly things that make me believe in the work we’re doing. And again, I have not been very good at keeping up with the whole development of web3 outside of The Graph, but I get the sense that people across the world are losing sight into the economical and political systems that are meant to protect and govern us fairly, and I think, if nothing else, this is something that can play to the advantage of web3 solutions.

Nick (40:10):

I agree with you. Some of the smartest people I’ve met in my life have been on this podcast or people that I’ve had the opportunity to meet by virtue of The Graph ecosystem and all the community members.


I want to ask you this question about being a woman in this space. I’ve had the opportunity to interview a lot of women on the GRTiQ Podcast and to talk to them about the experience they’ve had. And when I think about you, I think about your time at IBM in web2, I think about moving into a core dev role into web3, and oftentimes, I got to imagine you were the only woman in the room. How has that experience been for you in terms of being a woman working in industries that oftentimes are characterized as male-dominated?

Ana-Maria Calin (40:53):

Well, that’s a great question. My experience as a woman in tech in general has been a truly mixed bag. I’d be lying if I didn’t experience stuff like sexual harassment or I haven’t been told that I was hired purely to fill diversity quotas in the past. And I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes I still get bitter about not reporting my aggressors or standing up for myself in the moment, or even worse, letting some of those comments chip at my self-esteem. But at the same time, I was quite an innocent and impressionable young woman who was trying really hard to prove herself in a space at the time when we would all hear stories about this one female developer or another who wasn’t good at her job. And then I’d immediately think, “Oh, is that what everyone thinks about me and my performance?”


The reality was that there was this herd mentality of, “I once worked with a female engineer and she wasn’t really good, therefore they all must be the same.” And we see this kind of mentality in other spaces and we see this kind of mentality applied to refugees or to Black people in some spaces. It’s nothing new. But since then, things have changed a lot for me.


Just to give you an example, the place that said that they hired me for diversity quotas, which by the way, turned out to be true, well, I get to laugh and say that the joke was completely on them because I took that opportunity and made the most of it and then swiftly moved on. And since then, I grew older, more self-assured, and now my mentality is more, “Come at me, bro. Let’s see who wins.” And when you change like that, when you grow, those bad actors don’t come after you as much and you’re not that much of an easy [inaudible 00:43:00]. And I also like to think that through the plethora of experiences I have had and through all of my various moves, I get the chance to reach people better and stay away or protect myself.


One important thing I’d like to mention is that having most of my career a start in London, a place that is always hiring and has really good employment roles, has worked for my advantage, making me a bit more self-respected and with higher expectations of what to accept from a working environment.

Nick (43:38):

I appreciate you sharing all of that and I always respect the journey of women in the workplace. A lot of that is because of my own personal ethics, but one of the determining factors is I have a daughter who’s the center of my world and so I always appreciate women leadership and I appreciate you for sharing.


For women listeners of the podcast who want some advice, maybe they’re facing similar challenges or trying to overcome some of the things that you talked about there, what would be your advice to them?

Ana-Maria Calin (44:07):

First of all, thank you for sharing that you have a daughter and that you care about women in the workplace. I also want to say that this is the reason why I like to share this kind of experiences so that other people know that they’re not alone and we get more powerful through story. Storytelling is very important.


In terms of advice, before I go into advice, there’s quite some negative things about the tech industry. So I just want to balance that a bit and say that at the opposite spectrum, I’ve met some truly wonderful male engineers that care about people and love their colleagues and do not shy away from knowledge sharing. With that in mind, some of the advice for women in the space or really any individuals who are interested to listen would be, first of all, whenever possible, surround yourself with people that lift you instead of people that are bringing you down.


And one thing that has really helped me get all of the opportunities I came across was always being open and making sure that you diversify your career. So as an example, I was able to move from London, UK to an isolated place in Canada that has barely any tech jobs, and that was because I grew a very healthy global network. I paid attention to technological trends and I did public speaking at the big conferences. And I will also add that publicly speaking, it’s not for the faint-hearted. Specifically for me, it was quite hard as I’m not naturally an extrovert and I need a lot of time to collect my thoughts, but there are ways to do it and you can to do it and there’s so many resources to teach you how to navigate that.


And especially for women and more vulnerable people, I know that we started the podcast by saying that I picked my career because I didn’t want to be poor, but at some point during my career, I figured out that one should not prioritize money over a healthy working environment. And that’s purely because when the workplace toxicity brings you down, no money in the world will stitch you back up the same way as you were before.


In terms of giving advice specifically for women in web3, that’s harder because of my unusual journey because I was invited in the space rather than having to work really hard for it. But if there are some things that I can think of is join a DOA. They’re always looking for more technical people in DAOs. Write grants for projects in web3, join a hackathon, basically all great ways to meet people and start growing your network into the space.


And also, I want to specify that my advice is purely based on my experience, and while I did work hard, it wasn’t all hard work. It would be unfair for me not to point out that I did benefit from quite a bit of luck as well as a lot of white privilege.

Nick (47:22):

I appreciate that perspective and I know listeners will appreciate that advice and a lot of what you had to say there applies not only to women but also to those that are looking to grow their careers and to be more thoughtful.


I want to ask you one quick question before I ask you the GRTiQ 10, and it’s this question about as you look back on your career and you think about your time consulting, you think about your time at IBM, do you ever think to yourself, now that you’re working on things like The Graph and you’re fully in web3, “This is truly going to disrupt the things I used to do,” and you kind of make this straight-line connection between the disruption potential of what you’re working on now to the things you worked on in the past?

Ana-Maria Calin (48:06):

That’s a very good question. In terms of what I’ve always been working on, because my job is almost low-level rather than application-level where a lot of the innovation happened in web3, I was lucky to sort build on the knowledge that I had. So from that point of view, the job didn’t change that much.


But when I think of web3 and how and if it will disrupt big web2 companies, I can give you an example that comes to mind straight away, and that is Travala, which is a travel booking platform that leverages blockchain technology and web3 and allows for crypto payments. And we can already see this player as being a healthy competitor for companies like Expedia,, and the likes of that. So that’s just a very clear example of how web3 is already disrupting web2 companies.


And also in addition to that, I want to add that since I started with getting companies to move to cloud, it feels like I’m going a bit full-circle where more companies in web3 run their infrastructure on bare metal since cloud services are too costly for the scale needed and bare metal typically provides better performance compared to a virtualized environment.


So I don’t think I could have ever foreseen my career or where it was going to go, and I don’t think I can even foresee the next five years given how fast things move in web3, but one thing that I find quite ironic is that when I started with IBM, I was very clear that what I was aspiring to was to become something called a Distinguished Engineer, which is basically engineer royalty and spend my whole career in a big company like IBM. And I will add that there’s no judgment to anyone who has done that or is still doing that, it’s just it wouldn’t have been my cup of tea.

Nick (50:27):

Well, Ana, now we’ve reached a point in the podcast where I’m going to ask you the GRTiQ 10 and you’re familiar with this segment and it’s a listener favorite and it really is a way to humanize every guest and all the things they’re working on by introducing listeners to things they may not have experienced or known before or to try different things in their own lives. And of course, there’s some great life advice and career advice to help people achieve more.


So, are you ready for the GRTiQ 10?

Ana-Maria Calin (50:54):

Bring it on.

Nick (51:05):

What book or articles had the most impact on your life?

Ana-Maria Calin (51:09):

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

Nick (51:13):

Is there a movie or a TV show that you think everybody should watch?

Ana-Maria Calin (51:18):

This is a panicked answer, but Kung Fu is a very old TV show.

Nick (51:22):

If you could only listen to one music album for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?

Ana-Maria Calin (51:27):

Circles by Mac Miller.

Nick (51:29):

And what’s the best life advice someone’s ever given to you?

Ana-Maria Calin (51:32):

So my mom has shown me how and taught me how to be kind, and I strongly believe that kindness comes back to you.

Nick (51:41):

What’s one thing you’ve learned in your life that you don’t think most other people have learned or know quite yet?

Ana-Maria Calin (51:47):

That adulting is an absolute scam and we’re all scared little children trying to figure things out as we go, and just knowing this alone takes so much pressure off everyday life.

Nick (52:01):

What’s the best life hack you’ve discovered for yourself?

Ana-Maria Calin (52:04):

When I get overwhelmed, I take a break, and this could mean going for a walk or take a nap, and this resets my brain to think clearer. And I also have a really big support group that acts as my sanity council so that when big decisions need to happen, I don’t act on emotion and I become aware of any potential blind spots in my thinking.

Nick (52:27):

And how about this, based on your own life experience and observations, what’s the one habit or characteristic that you think best explains how or why people find success in life?

Ana-Maria Calin (52:37):

I think this might be controversial, but not being afraid to be vulnerable. Some people see that as a weakness, but I met the best kind of people by being open and vulnerable. And it also has a great knockout effect where other people may see that they’re not alone in whatever they’re struggling with and that makes it easier for them.

Nick (53:02):

And the final three questions are complete the sentence-type questions. The first one is, the thing that most excites me about web3 is…

Ana-Maria Calin (53:09):

The promise of a fairer world and opportunities for everyone regardless of the background you come from.

Nick (53:18):

And if you’re on Twitter, then you should be following…

Ana-Maria Calin (53:21):

Timnit Gebru, which is an AI ethics advocate.

Nick (53:26):

And the final question, complete this one: I’m happiest when…

Ana-Maria Calin (53:30):

When I’m watching some trash TV show with one dog on each side of me, and sometimes I allow my partner to join in as well.

Nick (53:47):

Ana, I just want to thank you so much for joining the GRTiQ Podcast and sharing your story, and going back to something you just said, the vulnerability of what you were willing to share today and in your journey. But I also want to celebrate the incredible things you’ve accomplished. And I think about the person you described growing up in Romania and looking for a path towards growth and professional accomplishment, and I would say that you’ve done all of that and more. And so I’m really grateful that you came on today and you are very gracious with your time.


If people want to learn more about you and follow the things you’re working on, what’s the best way for them to stay in touch?

Ana-Maria Calin (54:23):

Thank you very much for your kind words and for allowing for the space for me to talk so much.


You can find me on Twitter @AnaMariaCalin, all in one word, or you can find me on Discord @Calinah.


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DISCLOSURE: GRTIQ is not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any other way connected with The Graph, or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates.  This material has been prepared for information purposes only, and it is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, tax, legal, financial, or investment advice. The content for this material is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The Graph token holders should do their own research regarding individual Indexers and the risks, including objectives, charges, and expenses, associated with the purchase of GRT or the delegation of GRT.