Zubin Pratap, Software Engineer and Developer Relations Engineer at Chainlink Labs.

GRTiQ Podcast: 163 Zubin Pratap

Today I am speaking with Zubin Pratap, Software Engineer and Developer Relations Engineer at Chainlink Labs. Chainlink is renowned for pioneering how blockchains connect with the real world! Ever since launching the podcast, I have sought to have someone from the Chainlink community on, and I am very happy it was Zubin!

During our discussion, Zubin shares his remarkable journey, transitioning from a career in law to entrepreneurship, then making his way into tech, including a stint at Google, before joining Chainlink Labs. Along the way, Zubin offers valuable insights into his career and career management, developments at Chainlink, and his vision for the future of web3.

The GRTiQ Podcast owns the copyright in and to all content, including transcripts and images, of the GRTiQ Podcast, with all rights reserved, as well our right of publicity. You are free to share and/or reference the information contained herein, including show transcripts (500-word maximum) in any media articles, personal websites, in other non-commercial articles or blog posts, or on a on-commercial personal social media account, so long as you include proper attribution (i.e., “The GRTiQ Podcast”) and link back to the appropriate URL (i.e., GRTiQ.com/podcast[episode]). We do not authorized anyone to copy any portion of the podcast content or to use the GRTiQ or GRTiQ Podcast name, image, or likeness, for any commercial purpose or use, including without limitation inclusion in any books, e-books or audiobooks, book summaries or synopses, or on any commercial websites or social media sites that either offers or promotes your products or services, or anyone else’s products or services. The content of GRTiQ Podcasts are for informational purposes only and do not constitute tax, legal, or investment advice.



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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 professional and do your own research.

Zubin Pratap (00:14):

We see in hackathons and other events, a lot of people using The Graph, a lot of people use The Graph with Chainlink. It’s just the use case will drive it and it’s great that we are enabling people on the tool.

Nick (00:57):

Welcome to the GRTiQ podcast. Today I’m speaking with Zubin Pratap software engineer and developer relations engineer at Chainlink Labs. As you know, Chainlink is renowned for pioneering how blockchains connect with the real world. And ever since I launched the podcast, I’ve sought to have someone from the Chainlink community on the GRTiQ podcast, so I’m very happy to welcome Zubin. During our discussion, Zubin shares his remarkable journey transitioning from a career in law to entrepreneurship, then making his way into tech, including a stint at Google before joining Chainlink Labs. Along the way, Zubin offers many valuable insights into his career in career management, entrepreneurship and business developments within the Chainlink community and his vision for the future of Web3. As always, we start with the discussion about Zubin’s educational background.

Zubin Pratap (01:53):

A bit varied there, Nick. So I am a lawyer by training. I went to law school just a little bit before the dot-com boom. So that dates me a little bit, technically the previous century. So I did law school back in India and then I practiced law for a very long time, almost 15 years, moved to Australia in that time and all that. Then I switched into the business side of things, the commercial stuffs and non-legal commercial kind of work, did an MBA part-time while I was working full time. Yeah, so that’s the sum total of my educational background.

Nick (02:29):

Well, you’re not the first person I’ve had on the podcast that studied law. But if you rewind the clock, do you remember what kind of drew your attention or interest to studying law?

Zubin Pratap (02:38):

Look, it was… I’m a good Indian boy from the 1990s. It was either sort of more civil kind of engineering, medicine or law back then, and there were only a few really great colleges in India at that point of time. I didn’t really have the wherewithal to go to the US, to move to the US at that time. So for me it was down to these three. I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor, civil engineering was not of much interest to me, and in the ’90s IT and tech wasn’t a huge thing. It was starting to boom in India, but definitely not from an educational point of view, it wasn’t the best option. So I kind of defaulted into law school, partly driven by ego because it was a specific law school that takes in about 80 people every year out of 35,000 people who apply or whatever. So my ego said, “If I can get into a place like that, then I’m set for life.” That was the sum total of the decision making, it wasn’t the most sensible, which explains why I left it later on.

Nick (03:32):

Well, we’re going to talk a lot today about that transition into business. And we’re speaking today because you are working presently at Chainlink, a project that a lot of listeners of the podcast have interest in. And you are the first guest I’ve had that’s been from the Chainlink community, something I wanted to do for a long time. But before we talk about that, I do want to ask you, did you find after graduating and having a degree in law and practicing in that field for 15 years, a large part of your life, that it was everything it cracked up to be? Or were you a little disappointed in the career choice? I mean, how did that all come to fruition?

Zubin Pratap (04:02):

So it depends on what dimension. It’s a great question because I do along sort of… I’ve been coaching people for a lot of years now about you making career choices, influenced by my own mistakes or missteps or positive things. The honest truth is our subjective experience of anything is going to be different from what we’d expect on the outside. That’s just a universal law. It’s just how it is. I loved the law because of the kind of people I ended up meeting. They were smart, they were very, very driven, they were type A personalities. And I really enjoyed being surrounded by people of that… Even though it was often uncomfortable, I enjoyed it because it made me grow, it really pushed me. So I really loved that about it. I struggled with other aspects of the law, particularly of being a lawyer. I mean the long hours is a cliche now, but yes, that was that. There was very long and intense hours.


And it’s funny, you don’t mind the long and intense hours when you feel very, very good at what you do. But then when you’re self-doubting the hours can be really long, it’s something I noticed in engineering as well. So partly the hours, partly also I found that I was not in a portion of the value chain that I wanted to be in. As time went on, I realized people would come to lawyers as a necessary evil as part of the business like, “Oh, we have to speak to the lawyers.” And there was always this resistance. And I also found that intellectually I was more inclined to pursuing opportunity than spotting risk. And really at the end of the day, lawyers are trained to be professional risk spotters and risk managers. And I found that it was training my brain to look at the world in terms of, “Well, how do I avoid risks.” Spot the risk and avoid it or mitigate it, which now turns out to be a superpower.


But back then I felt, “Well, I actually am more naturally inclined to spotting the opportunity and pursuing that.” So over a long period of time, I realized that I also wanted to get [inaudible 00:05:50]. And again, keep in mind that I was starting at the turn of the century really, 2003 I started practice and the world was very different then, man. Like Gmail had just started to be a thing, Google wasn’t listed. The world is very different, hugely different. Facebook wasn’t a thing. We were still working off Angelfire and what was the other one? I think Orkut came a few years later, then there was a couple of ones in the middle. So it was a totally different world and tech wasn’t a thing for me in the sense it wasn’t a possibility.


And when it became a possibility, I was already seven years in, it was 2010 when I realized, “Hang on, this thing’s actually going somewhere.” 2009, 2010, the global financial crisis and the iPhone 1 came out in that period, like that’s the history of this. And that’s when I realized, “Hang on, maybe I need to think of switching.” So that’s when I first started thinking about it.

Nick (06:39):

So let’s go a little bit further on that decision. As you mentioned, you practiced law for 15 years, about seven years in your eyes opened to tech. And it was an amazing time in the history of tech, the emergence of a lot of things going on there. Take us inside that decision. Was that a difficult decision to make and how did you sort of pivot then into business?

Zubin Pratap (06:59):

Oh, it was extremely difficult. The biggest challenge is no matter what age you are, you think you’re too old to make a change. It’s just something that I’ve seen 26-year olds tell me, “Gosh, I’ve been in this four years, can I make a change?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” But there is a point in time when it probably is too late. And I would say that’s probably… Depending on what you’re trying to do. So I’m afraid it was a really hard decision, Nick, because there’s so much fear involved and sunk cost fallacy is a very, very real thing.


You spent at this point in time, almost a decade in the career plus five years in law school and you think that’s a huge chunk of your life to just turn your back on. And let’s be honest, we all compare ourselves with our peers and I was looking at my peers and I’m like thinking of leaving at a point in time where in three years I could make partner. The big box and all the glamour, which it’s so silly when you’re in it. It’s really hard to leave something when the whole world thinks you’re going to be crazy because it’s lucrative, you’re successful.


It’s not like I was not successful at law. I was tremendously successful at it, but I wasn’t fulfilled in the way I thought I should be, which is also such a selfish, self-absorbed way of looking at it. But hey, it was my life and I was experiencing it and it was not an easy decision.

Nick (08:11):

You said you spend some of your time mentoring and giving advice to younger people about career. Do you mind just sharing a little bit about that advice? I mean, what’s the one or two pieces of advice you find yourself routinely giving?

Zubin Pratap (08:23):

Yeah, so I mean just as context to that, it took me three years to leave the law. Not because I wasn’t trying, I had done 50, 60 applications in the same company. A lot of them were in the same company I was in and I was in the top 5% of performers and all. I had everything going for me to be able to make a career change, but it was always down to the decision maker not wanting to take a risk because they had other alternatives. That was my big insight, which since 2013, 2014, I’ve been sort of guiding people on this, it’s not about acquiring the skills. That’s half the puzzle. The second half of the puzzle is overcoming the natural buyer’s resistance on the point of the hiring manager. “Why would I take a risk in you when I’ve got a hundred other options that are much less risky on paper? But you are risky on paper because you don’t have any direct background.” And that’s a really hard one to overcome.

[NEW_PARAGRAPH]That’s not a thing that you overcome just with resumes, not for any place where other people want to get into it. If you go to a company where no one else wants to join or it’s really new and there’s not much competition, sure they’ll take whoever they can get. That’s great. That’s a great strategy, perfectly valid. And I kind of used that when I was moving to tech a little bit, but otherwise it’s really hard if you try to compete for established brands. You’re just going to be competing with 300 other people who’ve got 10 years direct experience and you don’t. That’s the big advice I give to people is realize that the hard part is not the skills acquisition, it’s the actual transition of the career. There are two pieces to this puzzle and they break down into smaller pieces.


And the other thing is more people seem to quit and fail because they had the wrong expectations than because they had the wrong skill. Having the wrong expectations, it’s like if you’re driving someplace and the whole thing seems kind of weird and you’re like, “I don’t know. Am I in the right path? Am I not?” This seems to be taking longer to get there, and you sometimes take a U-turn or take a fork in the road or whatever, but all along it was your expectations of the journey that were wrong. You were actually always on the right path, you just didn’t know it because you had no feedback. That’s the second thing that I think throws most people off it.

Nick (10:28):

So Zubin, not only did you then pivot into business, but you became an entrepreneur, which is a different variety of pivot. Because it’s one thing to pivot into a large organization, it’s another thing to chart your own course and be entrepreneurial. We won’t have time to go through all your entrepreneurial ventures today. But just generally speaking, why did you decide that the best move would not only to be pivot from law, but also pivot into entrepreneurship?

Zubin Pratap (10:55):

Yeah, well, entrepreneurship, Nick is a very generous way of describing. It was wantrepreneurship for about four years and genuine entrepreneurship for about two and a half years. And that’s also when I ended up learning to code. Well, when I left the law, I went into a commercial management role, just managing people and all of that for a while and it result in the numbers and business stuff. And I learned a lot about that, about how do you build a business and it was exactly what I wanted. It was opportunities pursuit, not risk mitigation, which is great, exactly what I wanted. But I was also hitting my mid-thirties at this point of time and I’m like… Keep in mind we all tend to have these… Sorry, I’m switching tracks here a little bit, but a lot of what we decide to do is based on tailwinds from the last four or five years.


So by 2013, 2014, the startup bug had bitten the whole world, right? Like 2007, it was starting to be a real thing. By the time 2010, 2011 came out, there was Pinterest, there was WhatsApp, there was Instagram, there was Uber, there was Dropbox. All these success stories had come out in that five, six year period and everyone was like, “Oh, you know I should do a startup.” And I was one of them. I was one guys that like, “Oh, I’d love to do a startup. Try and do a tech startup. I have no idea what technology is, but I’m going to try and do it.” And that’s how it all sort of started and I failed over and over and over again, but I had a job at this time. Eventually in 2017, I’m just like, “Okay, I’m in corporate. I’m doing really well.” I learned a lot about building product kind of stuff that’s often just physical stuff as well.


And I’m like, “If I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it. I’ll never do it. I’m earning a really good salary. I have good reputation in the market, I’m 35, 36, 37, if I don’t make the jump now, I will never make the jump.” So I just made the jump because I realized that I could always come back to this world, should I choose to. But it’s hard to leave this world the older you get. So I made the jump into entrepreneurship at that point of time, and that was my third or fourth attempt, but this time we really built something. I invested real money like six figures into something, tried to build it out, hired a team, built it out, got a bunch of users, did that for two and a half years, found a technical co-founder along the way who then quit. And that’s how I ended up learning to code.


It’s because I had all these contracts to deliver and I didn’t know how to deliver them without the part-time CTO that I’d managed to find, which was a real struggle. Then I realized that, “Hang on, it’s taken me two years to find one person to contribute part-time on the code base.” Could I not have learned to code in that time? Would that have been a better investment in my time? And completely coincidentally, 2017, I attended TechCrunch in San Francisco and Sam Altman was on stage. He was still very highly involved in Y Combinator at that point of time, well before the OpenAI stuff. So I looked him up and I found a blog he’d written that said that it’s faster to become your own tech co-founder than it is to find a tech co-founder when you’re non-technical. And that idea was life-changing for me. So I said, “All right, I’m just going to do that.” And that’s how I ended up learning to code. Then I shut down the business and I said, “I’ll just start my career again as a developer.”

Nick (15:03):

There’s a lot to break down there and I really appreciate that background. So let’s double click on a couple of really important themes. Now, one is in relationship to what listeners like to hear, which is insights about entrepreneurship. Because I imagine a lot of listeners of this podcast want to be an entrepreneur and are figuring out ways in which they can do that in Web3. So given the experiences you had and the ability to look back there, what do you think it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?

Zubin Pratap (15:30):

Yeah, it’s a great question. I don’t know because I don’t know if I was necessarily a successful entrepreneur. I wouldn’t classify myself as a successful entrepreneur because I didn’t have the big exit or any of that. I didn’t get any of that. What I can say is that location does seem to matter, having the right ecosystem variety because it gives access to the right people and resources. And the number one constraint for any sort of growth seems to be resources. And the three big resources are people, time, money. So we tend to compensate for the lack of people and money with time, but that’s the least scalable of the lot, obviously.


Having that acknowledgement that you need to belong to an ecosystem or at least put yourself in that context matters a lot. Having the right skills, obviously. I think the one that gets talked about a lot but gets lost in the hustle culture message is either you’ve got to really be willing to suffer for what you want because there’s a lot of suffering involved. And it’s hard to explain in words or blogs or motivational videos on YouTube, just what that feels like in the moment.


It’s not easy. For very, very long periods of time and very often, and the rollercoaster is real. So I think acknowledging that this is what hard looks like, then multiply that by a hundred is probably close to what you’re going to feel for absurd amounts of time. The good thing about the Web3 space and why when I left Google I wanted to join a place like Chainlink is I really started to appreciate the power of team. Whether you’re doing entrepreneurial activity on your own or as part of another organization.


Web3 as a space definitely attracts a lot of entrepreneurs and places like Chainlink attract a lot of entrepreneurial minded people. People who actually built things in their past, people who understand and want to build new product, who want to get into that blue ocean stuff and swim further than other people have gone before. And I think that was a huge driver for me to join a place like Chainlink because the team is outstanding. And the kind of backgrounds people have was exactly what I felt I’d missed previously in my career. So it’s something we can definitely benefit off in Web3 more than other places, because Web3 is kind of new. So by nature it is entrepreneurial because it’s new.

Nick (17:46):

I agree a hundred percent and I think that’s why that’s such a popular theme on this podcast, everyone I speak to as an entrepreneur because this is an emergent industry. The other thing I want to double click on is you’re a lawyer turned business person turned entrepreneur turned coder. And again, I’ll think a lot of listeners to this podcast would like to learn to code. I’ve had the opportunity to interview other guests that did that successfully like you. What’s your advice to anyone listening who doesn’t know how to code yet, but wants to kind of do what you did?

Zubin Pratap (18:15):

Yeah, I’d boil it down to one thing. Most people try and throw more time at a problem, but here’s the truth, direction’s way more important than speed. And it doesn’t matter how hard you work, how smart you are, how much money you invest, if you’re going in the wrong direction, you’re not going to get to where you want to go. And where you want to go is determined by a real clarity on your goals, clarity on the price it takes to get there. And most people think of price as just money. Honestly, money is the kind of thing that you can make back and the older you get, the less you value money compared to time. Heck, I can go to a bank, I can borrow money from a friend. Money is something that you can make more of. There is no way you can make more time.


So I think direction being more important than speed is a huge one for people who want to acquire a skill. And the second one is it’s phrased often as, “I want to learn to code.” But that’s not the real goal because most people who learn to code will never actually get employed to do it. And then they feel like they fail even though they successfully learned to code, whatever that means, right? That’s not a goal, that’s a non goal that’s in fact a deceptive goal because you’ll succeed at that, but fail at your ultimate objective. So the real goal is how do you get good enough to beat the competition and get hired? That’s a whole different ball game. And the difference is lots of people we know, know how to play basketball, very few people are in the NBA. That’s the difference. So learning to code is learning basketball, getting hired as a coder is getting into the NBA. That’s the way I’d break it down.

Nick (19:41):

As you mentioned there, you made a pit stop before you left kind of this entrepreneurial journey and landed at Chainlink. You stopped off at a company that most listeners will know about, which is Google one of the largest tech companies in history, let alone the world. I do want to ask you a little bit about that experience. So if you don’t mind, can you just share what you did at Google and what it was like going from entrepreneur to working at one of the largest tech companies in the world?

Zubin Pratap (20:05):

Yeah, there was a mini pit stop before that, which was my first dev job. Because I don’t think Google would ever hire somebody without some amount of experience or credentials, and I did. So I stopped off at a really lovely little company that’s still going around. There was four or five of us, and I think it’s still about that small but doing quite well right now. It occupied its own niche and they were kind enough to give me a chance. They were like, “Okay, you have zero background.” I passed whatever coding test just they gave me. It wasn’t the hardest in the world, but it was great Nick, because I learned a lot. I’m a big fan of working at smaller places. I think the kind of learning you get is just unmatched. Four or five of us, there was no process, but there was so much knowledge transfer and you’re working close to the product. You’re like… It’s the difference between riding a motorcycle and being on a cruise ship.


It’s just a different experience. So I was on the motorcycle, loved it. That was great. And then I needed a separate plan. By this time, I realized that without the right plan, nothing works. And even with the right plan, there’s a high chance of failure. That’s just life. So I needed the right plan and I was like, “Okay, if I want to try and move to…” This was pre-pandemic. So if I want to try and move to San Francisco or California, [inaudible 00:21:16] my big learning from the startup was you want to be surrounded by the kind of people you want to turn into. You have to be surrounded by the kind of people you want to be like, and you’re not yet like them. The goal was, “All right, how do I get to the US?” And I was married at that point in time, so my ex-wife and I were still very good friends, but she and I were like, “Okay, maybe we need to think about [inaudible 00:21:33] the California thing.”


She was ready for a change too. So I applied to a bunch of [inaudible 00:21:38] companies, got into Google, accepted Google. Meant to relocate, but then Australia went into shutdown. The US still hadn’t shut down yet. We packed all our stuff into a container, booked the container, to go to the US. Then the US went into shutdown, all the while I was working for Google here in Australia. So most of my Google experience ended up being kind of semi-remote. I was in the Google Australia office because we did have an office here, but there was a lot of lockdown and stuff. And the experience was interesting because Google didn’t know… Like most companies, not just Google did not know how to deal with a remote work environment, unceremoniously thrusting them overnight. But what Google does do really well is they hire really well. So the people are extraordinary.


Again, something that I was looking for when I went to Chainlink as well, outstanding people, makes all the difference in the world. So that was a great experience at Google. I was there for a couple of years. I started off in that Google Cloud team, it was all software engineering roles and their cloud team working on some Kubernetes stuff. I had no idea what I was doing because it was very new to me. But Google doesn’t care what you know, they care about what you can learn and what you can do. That’s why they call it general cognitive ability, not, “Can you code?” That’s not what they test for really. So I really enjoyed that. And then I switched internally, there was a bit of a restructure, so I switched internally to the Chrome operating system team, and then I ended up leaving Google when the world opened up again and they said, “Well, you may need to relocate.”


At that point in time for personal reasons, I was like, “I don’t think I can do the relocation anymore.” A lot of change during the pandemic. Those two years were pretty brutal. And in Australia we had one of the hardest lockdowns in the world, I think almost 18 months from memory where we weren’t allowed to go beyond five kilometers from the house for one hour a day, one person at a time. It was seriously locked down. And I think that had a huge impact on how I thought about my family, a lot of whom are overseas, things were starting to go south in my personal life as well, and I had to attend to all that. So I said, “Guys, I can’t move to the US,” and the kind of roles that were available in Australia after that weren’t quite suited to what I wanted to do.


And this is a hard thing, Nick, because the prestige is real. The lifestyle is real, the quality people are real. And I was given a choice I could stay on for the sake of being in Google or I could continue to pursue my goals. I couldn’t see how I could do that in Google in Australia. So I said, “Okay, I’m going to continue to pursue my goals.” I want to get back to a smaller place anyway because the growth is much more, the kind of impact you can have is a lot more. And I already started understanding more about the blockchain space and then I found the guys at Chainlink were just outstanding to speak with and interact with. They were so passionate, so talented, and I’m like, “If I’m going to leave, Google it’s going to be for a place like Chainlink.”

Nick (24:16):

So if we go back in time and sort of pause your story right there, you’re working at Google, the pandemic is going on, there’s this relocation question and you’ve made a decision that you’re not going to do that. When along your journey to that point, did you first become aware of crypto? And take us back in time, what were your first impressions of it and what did you think?

Zubin Pratap (24:37):

Yeah, crypto was a funny one because… First, I think when I heard a lot about it was when I was at that TechCrunch event in 2017 because there was a bit of an ICO boom then. Some, I can’t remember who it was, but at TechCrunch in San Francisco, they declared their ICO. And I was like, “What’s an ICO?” And as a lawyer, I’d done IPO’s and stuff like that. I’d been on the legal side of those things. So I had no idea what an ICO was, so that I was just like, “This is interesting, this is something new.” And at that point in time, I’ll be honest, my first reaction was like, “Only in America.” That was my first reaction, completely naive of course. So I did some more digging around it and I didn’t understand. I read the Satoshi paper [inaudible 00:25:20].


I understood the ideology, I didn’t understand how it was going to apply in real life. And to me, in that point of time, I still associated with Bitcoin. 2017, I still associated this with Bitcoin, that’s horrible. And over the years to come, I noticed really smart people around me were highly polarized by it. Some people were all in. Some people were like, “Nah, this is terrible.” And I’m like, it’s very rare in human history that things polarize so much. And I think the risk-taker in me got interested. Because I’m like, “You could either be wildly right or wildly wrong. That’s fun.” That’s going to be fun. So I got intellectually curious in it. I didn’t actually act in it for a long time. It was only when I was getting ready to leave Google and thinking, I don’t necessarily want to relocate to the US at that point of time that I was thinking, “What would I want to do next?”

[NEW_PARAGRAPH]And I’m like, “Where are some of the most interesting people? And I don’t have to agree with them.” So big principle in my life is I don’t need to agree with you. I’m okay with not agreeing and I’m okay with other people not agreeing with me. That’s totally fine. I just need to find it interesting. The way you think I need to learn, I need to be challenged. And some of the really interesting people I knew were getting very, very bullish on blockchain and they were very emphatic. It’s not about the tokens, it’s not about the cryptocurrency side, it’s about the promise of a certain kind of technology. That’s interesting. Now, I missed the first dot-com boom because I was in college and I’m like, “How often does an opportunity come to surf a wave?” And to be with other people splashing about in the water, probably banging your heads together for a bit, but how often does that happen?


I’m like, okay, I’ll figure out which team I can put my faith in. Because to me, it came down to… There was a lot of false positives in the space as well, a lot of noise in the space. And I’m like, I need to trust the people I’m around because I’ll be waking up and being in service to them, every day. I need to like them and I need to trust that we are in an environment where even if there’s some amount of skepticism or extreme bullishness about something, they both treated with the same respect.


Like this is a point of view and let’s see what happens. And I found that with… I remember speaking to Patrick and Stephen… Patrick’s still associated with Chainlink, of course, Patrick Collins. And I just thought, these guys are great. They think differently. They’re willing to be right. They’re willing to be raw, they’re willing to press ahead and find out. And most importantly, they’re willing to do what Alan Kay talked about, which is the best way to predict the future is to invent it. And these guys are trying to invent it. And I’m like, “Yeah, I want in on that.” And the risk-taker in me, man, I’m just like, “Go in and do it.”

Nick (28:02):

All right, so at this point then you’re a lawyer turned business guy turned entrepreneur, now tech guy working in Web3. Let’s talk about that transition. What was it like for you going to work at Chainlink and making that move into Web3?

Zubin Pratap (28:17):

Yeah, look, I think I’m quite spoiled, and not to sound like too much of a fanboy, but Chainlink does several things really well. It hires really well, which is something I’ve learned as being so important over my career, is hiring well. Because it sets the culture for everything else. So it hires really well. Two, it onboards really well and it supports people really well. And it’s remote first, which at this point in my life when I was leaving Google, that had become a priority. And I know it’s extremely rare. I know people talk a lot about remote work, but truly globally remote is extremely rare and Chainlink does it really, really well, and I love learning a lot. So that was both daunting and at the same time rewarding, which is I’m thrown into this world of stuff. I have no finance background in that sense.


I’ve never been a trader. I didn’t understand any of the terms. I still arguably don’t understand a lot of the terms. All of that was new. And I was like, “Okay, so there’s the DeFi portion, there’s this portion, there’s identity, there’s all this stuff that could happen.” And then the engineer in me was like, “I don’t really know enough to be particularly great at this.” And I’m like, “Awesome, now I know what to do. I need to get better at this. I need to constantly learn.” So I enjoy… It’s actually almost exactly two years, almost exactly that I’ve been at Chainlink and time moves really fast when you’re having a good time. It’s hard work, it’s great people, ever-changing product landscape and opportunity landscape, which I think for people with my temperament who don’t like standing still for too long.


I have no problems with moving sideways clearly because I’ve done that several times in my career. Because to me, moving sideways is okay if your learning is going upwards. For me, it’s really all about the learning and growth and the people. I don’t care about titles. I don’t really care about that too much. For me, it’s people, growth and stuff, and Chainlink gives you all of that and then some.

Nick (30:13):

Well, Zubin, a lot of my listeners are already familiar with Chainlink. And for those listeners that aren’t familiar with Chainlink, what it is, how it works, do you mind just giving a quick overview of those things?

Zubin Pratap (30:24):

Yeah, of course. So look, blockchains‘ being hermetically sealed systems that achieve consensus because the nodes are sealed off and the rest of the world can’t actually communicate with external data source. So that’s known as the oracle problem. And Chainlink is a decentralized oracle network that helps really quite… If I put it simplistically, help bring interconnectivity to blockchain app. So you can connect with off-chain data, you could put off-chain data on on-chain. But why would we want to do that, given that you may lose all the guarantees and the security around what you’re putting on-chain and the trust minimization? Well, Chainlink solves that by having its own consensus algorithm called OCR 2.0 off-chain reporting. So everything that’s moved on and off is cryptographically verifiable. So you have all the benefits of the blockchain plus the interconnectivity. And the hypothesis is there’s no reason why this needs to be an either/or mutually exclusive world.


The blockchain should amplify its own ability by coexisting with traditional tech infrastructure while being better than it by ensuring the trust minimization and all that. So an oracle is basically a service that sits between the blockchain and the rest of the world to provide that interconnectivity. And Chainlink is a decentralized oracle, so it has its own sort of network of nodes, and anyone can spin that up. I mean, obviously you need to be technically savvy to do that, but the idea is still maintaining that ethos of decentralization, trust minimization while ensuring scalability. And within that, there are a number of services that are possible to provide that level of connectivity, trust minimization, and bring some of those benefits into the blockchain. So yeah, that’s an overview.

Nick (32:03):

And tell us about your role. What are you doing for Chainlink and what are some of the initiatives you’re working on?

Zubin Pratap (32:08):

Yeah, so I am a developer relations engineer, and that means I do a combination of technology and education. A big part of what I do is technical and coding, and then I can do workshops and that and sometimes, a lot of hackathons and events and training, and I love teaching. I think that’s why I’ve been coaching people for years on different things, and I love helping people achieve what they believe they can achieve. Because there’s always a path to be who you want to be, and I love enabling people to do that. So it’s a great role for me for that reason, I love the technology, I love the coding, I love being technical because I worked very hard. It took a lot of risks for that, and I love also helping people do that. So that’s the kind of role I have. And developer relations has different flavors in different parts of the world.


In Web3, it’s a bit different from Web2, but principle is the same. How do you help developers be successful with the tools? How do you help developers be successful with the technology when they’re trying to adopt it? How do you get people to get the most out of the service that you’re offering? It’s an enablement function, and it’s very tightly coupled with product and product development as obviously you’d expect, because we then get to learn from the market, we also educate them. So it’s a bidirectional relationship, and I find it tremendously rewarding because you’ve found some great relationships.

Nick (33:26):

And what can you tell us about the Chainlink community, the dev community, the contributors? Tell us about Chainlink community.

Zubin Pratap (33:33):

They’re a really fun bunch of people and very diverse. I think that’s what I really love about the Chainlink community is all sorts of folks, really diverse. I’m a bit partial to music myself, and I’m astonished at how many people… Some people have got albums, some people play gigs regularly, small things like that. And I think it’s multifacetedness of the community. They’re also very funny. They love their memes. They’re highly engaging and and highly engaged and very much believers in what’s possible when we create this world of trust-minimized. Whether we will want to try and verify the web, whether you want to enter this trust minimization to the movement of data, whether it’s working with institutions or otherwise. How do we move the state of the art forward so that the failings of the old system… We don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.


We want the benefits of what’s working, and we want the dis-benefits to be replaced by a technology. So it’s wonderful to be part of a community like that because yeah, you just learn so much from so much. And the interesting thing about Web3 generally, and Chainlink in particular, I think because it has such a strong presence, is most people are very multidisciplinary, which I’ve not really noticed in other workplace ecosystems. People are extraordinarily multidisciplinary. They could have deep finance, deep economics, psychology and game theory, the crazy people like me with law and tech or whatever. It’s just multidisciplinary. Just fascinating.

Nick (35:06):

And for listeners that want to be caught up real quick on interesting announcements, I know Chainlink has been in the news recently as well. What are some of the incredible things that the Chainlink community has delivered and working on in recent memory?

Zubin Pratap (35:17):

Yeah, I think we are doing a lot of work in the Cross Chain Interoperability Protocol, the CCIP space. So securely transferring tokens and messages. So it’s basically an ability to facilitate cross chain interaction safely, securely, because we take that very, very seriously. And I think there are important trade-offs to be made in this space. It has to be secure. It doesn’t necessarily have to be instantaneous because that could create other challenges with security and stuff, so these balances… So CCIP is fantastic, we’re seeing a huge amount of interest in that. We’ve made announcements at SmartCon, which is our annual conference around DECO, Chainlink Functions. Chainlink Functions is a way to basically run arbitrary code in a decentralized computer environment and have the results verified. So it’s basically attaching a jetpack to your computation and not having to do just in Solidity, because that can be quite gas intensive and stuff.


All the stuff that we are doing with Chainlink Automation, which is a DevOps-y subtle way of automating your workflows in a decentralized app world. Whether it’s automated calling of your smart contracts, decentralized trust minimize, execution of smart contracts so that you don’t need a human agent in the middle that you’re relying on. There’s an entire automation piece that can be done there. There’s just a ton of stuff. There’s the price feeds and data feed stuff, which continues to be the beating heart of a lot of the DeFi use cases that we see. It’s just an exciting space. It just moves really fast. There’s continuous growth, which is exciting.

Nick (36:49):

And for listeners who want to learn more about Chainlink and stay up to date on what the community’s working on, where would you suggest they go to learn more?

Zubin Pratap (36:55):

Look, chain.link, the website, it’s a great starting point for everything. There are lots of pathways you can take through that, depending whether you’re technical or not. The blogs are very, very… I may say so myself, not that I’ve written a lot of them, but I think the blogs are very well written. Because often when you want to research a topic, you can get caught in a rabbit hole. Even now I am researching a topic, I’ll actually first see what’s there on our blog because I think it’s written in a very newbie friendly way as well, while having the provenance and the trustworthiness of the open source.


And definitely Chainlink Twitter, there’s a lot going on there. We have a Discord channel as well that’s extremely active. Great people there. Yeah, I think those are the big places to catch up. And for developers who want to get involved, we have a Developer Experts Program as well, which is a way for existing developers to be involved on the technical side of things. And if they want to run workshops and stuff, we’ll enable all of that. Yeah, there are lots of ways to get involved.

Nick (37:52):

As I mentioned at the beginning, Zubin my story in entry into Web3, sort of took this path where I learned about Chainlink and other projects and ultimately got involved and activated in The Graph community. But for a period there, it seemed like the way I was learning about it, The Graph and Chainlink were like the yin and yang of Web3. One was making on-chain data available, and then Chainlink was making off-chain data available. Is that the right way to think about this? Are these complementary solutions when you think about The Graph and Chainlink?

Zubin Pratap (38:23):

Absolutely. And look, I think the incredible thing about having these open protocols is that now I guess a bit of a cliche about the snap on sort of Lego nature of these things. I think because the open nature of a lot of these protocols, they are naturally complimentary depending on the pathway you want to take. That’s just by design. There’s an inherent complementarity, not an exclusivity or an exclusion of things that just happens around it. So 100%. And I think we see in hackathons and other events, a lot of people using The Graph, a lot of people using The Graph with Chainlink. It’s just the use case will drive it, and it’s great that we are enabling people with the tool. This is one of the few spaces where there are very few mutually exclusive things. And I think especially with cross chain interoperability that we try to push, even that chain exclusivity or mutual exclusivity is something that will eventually be removed, or at least the barrier is broken down. It’s meant to be whatever you want is possible.

Nick (39:21):

So Zubin, I only have one more question for you before I ask you the GRTiQ 10, this question is about the future. So when you zoom out then and look at the future of Web3, you made a pivot into the industry, it’s continuing to evolve and mature. When you zoom out and picture the industry 10 years from now, what do you envision? What’s the big things coming for Web3 as you think about this?

Zubin Pratap (39:45):

I’ve been wrong about almost everything I thought about in the future in my past, so I have no idea is the honest question. So I guess this is a very personal view, but my hypothesis is that blockchain technology will probably unlock a kind of use case that is… Well, the financial ones are well established. Okay. The DeFi stuff, I believe is fairly well established. Now, the question is, I don’t know. I was listening to Sergey’s… A keynote last year at SmartCon, and he was talking about the verifiable web. And I think there is something real in the sense that getting to a point where… Because content creation is so low barrier to entry now, and we are getting the AI stuff that’s starting to do things in the space. In 10 years, I honestly don’t know what the world will be like. I really believe that we at Chainlink will probably have a role to play in making the web a little bit more verifiable and trustworthy. In the sense that… Not that it’s necessarily untrustworthy, but it is getting there a bit.


We don’t know what the AIs are going to, for example, produce in terms of content. We don’t know how people can misuse this. So I think the mentality of, “Okay, we don’t know the provenance of certain things, the blockchain is probably the best way to establish that,” is the mindset shift that I think will happen across society and it has to be across society. That’s a very personal view though. It’s my view based on what I’ve heard Sergey and others in the team say, and what I see happening. Hopefully, if I’m wrong, I’m wrong in terms of degree and scale and not the actual topic. But yeah, beyond that, I have no idea, man. I’ve stopped peering into crystal ball. I have a terrible track record of doing that. So what do I know

Nick (41:32):

Zubin, I want to ask you? The GRTiQ 10. These are 10 questions I ask every week. They’re fun. They allow listeners to get to know the guests a little bit better. But I also think because of the nature of these questions, listeners might learn something new, try something different, or achieve more in their own life by hearing all these different responses. So Zubin, are you ready for the GRTiQ 10?

Zubin Pratap (41:51):

Yeah, sure.

Nick (42:03):

What book or article has had the most impact on your life?

Zubin Pratap (42:07):

The book would have to be a very old Indian piece of scripture called the Bhagavad Gita, which is part of a larger saga called the Mahabharata, which I think is, from memory, I think it’s 50 times larger than the Homeric epics. The Bhagavad Gita is basically a story… And I’ll try and keep it really short. It’s a story about war and conflict that should never have been, but that’s the setting. The entire conversation happens between an archer and his charioteer who happens to be one of the gods in the Indian pantheon, in the Hindu Pantheon, Krishna. And Krishna and Arjuna are having this conversation on the chariot, and it’s deeply philosophical about the nature of life, about the nature of choices, duties, suffering, sacrifice, really difficult choices in the name of duty. It’s a beautiful book because… I mean, it’s what, at least 7,000 years old, and it’s the same problems we see today, the same problem. So that’s had a profound impact on my thinking in the world.

Nick (43:07):

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

Zubin Pratap (43:11):

The Walking Dead, like who’s [inaudible 00:43:13]. Yeah, I mean, I’m really cheesy. I love The Walking Dead.

Nick (43:17):

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

Zubin Pratap (43:21):

Oh my god. That’s like saying one flavor ice cream, Nick, I can’t do that. Don’t make me do that. I don’t know. Can I choose an artist instead?

Nick (43:28):

Let’s do that.

Zubin Pratap (43:29):

All right. I think right now where I am, I think I would probably listen to John Mayer. I got him on repeat at the moment. Again, that’s a phase I’m going through, though. Yeah.

Nick (43:40):

What’s the best advice someone’s ever given to you?

Zubin Pratap (43:43):

I think it was… I’m a big believer in psychology, and the best advice was actually just an old quote that I used to have in my business card for a long time. “He who thinks he can, and he who thinks he cannot are both right.” It’s a Confucius thing, and I think it’s a profound shift for me knowing that. Yeah.

Nick (44:01):

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

Zubin Pratap (44:07):

That happiness comes from focusing on the very few things that are genuine in your control or put inversely unhappiness comes from stewing on the stuff that isn’t in your control, which is pure stoic philosophy, which has been tremendously influential for me.

Nick (44:22):

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

Zubin Pratap (44:25):

Short, intense bursts of 30-second exercise that produces a little bit of physical pain because it clears the mind, lifts the mood, produces a physical state shift and an emotional state shift. I often do that when I find… Maybe there’s a bit of imposter syndrome or there’s a bit of stress, or there’s a bit of feeling overwhelm, those negative things that then can have a cascading impact on your day. So that’s one. And the other thing is meditation.

Nick (44:53):

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

Zubin Pratap (45:02):

Oh, I’m not a fan of reducing it down to one because it’s never one thing, right. It’s always everything. I’d have to say the old cliche about intelligent persistence, which is what I said earlier about direction being more important than speed. So establish the right direction and then just don’t give up. You don’t have to think about persistence. Think about it as, “I’m not going to quit.”

Nick (45:26):

And then the final three questions are complete the sentence type questions. So the first one is, the thing that most excites me about Web3 is…

Zubin Pratap (45:33):


Nick (45:34):

And how about this one? If you’re on X, formerly known as Twitter, I still call it Twitter, then you should be following…

Zubin Pratap (45:39):

Oh man, that’s really… I mean, Chainlink obviously, but I mean, if it was an individual, I would probably go with Shane Parrish from the Knowledge Project.

Nick (45:51):

And then the final question, I’m happiest when…

Zubin Pratap (45:55):

Oh, that’s a hard one. It could be hanging out with dogs, coding or playing the guitar. Yeah, I think it would be one of these three. I can’t choose.

Nick (46:12):

Zubin, thank you so much for joining the GRTiQ podcast. Like I said, I’ve wanted for a very long time to have someone from the Chainlink community come on, share their story, tell us a little bit more about what’s going on in that community. So I appreciate that you did it and you have an incredible life story with a lot of pivots. It’ll be a lot of fun to keep an eye on you and the things that you continue to work on. If listeners want to follow you, stay in touch with the work you’re doing, what’s the best way for them to stay in touch?

Zubin Pratap (46:37):

Yeah, I think Zubin Pratap on LinkedIn. That’s probably… I’m a little bit older school in that sense because I’ve been around so long. So yeah, LinkedIn is a good place. And Zubin Pratap on Twitter, yeah, those are the… I mean, I have a small-time YouTube channel, so there’s also that. Really, LinkedIn, Twitter.


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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.