[Interview by Mart]
The Tangleverse Times: Although this is supposed to be a casual interview, I think this question will become a staple. So how did you find out about IOTA and how did you find your way to the IOTA Foundation?
Mariana de la Roche: As you may already know, I am a lawyer with post-degree studies in human rights and humanitarian law. Before my involvement with IOTA and before coming to Germany, I worked at the Transitional Court in Colombia, primarily conducting regulatory research for the application of international law. Additionally, I worked with the development sector, particularly on child protection and justice. Through my work with the development sector, NGOs, and international organizations, I learn about the limitations that these organizations faced to achieve progress towards a more equitable world and achieving their missions. This led me to explore potential solutions, sparking my interest in technology in particular blockchain and A.I.
I moved to Germany in 2016, facing the challenges of being a new migrant, while simultaneously establishing my own consultancy/tech platform for global organizations in the realm of female health. I eventually sold this company to a US/Indian organization last year.
Concretely regarding IOTA, my introduction to them occurred in early 2018. I started reviewing their projects and the potential of the technology, at that time it catched my attention the potential for the technology to be scalable (in comparison to others) and the chances it had to be deployed in places with poor infrastructure. One day, I stumbled upon their search for a social impact project manager and thought this was a perfect match to merge my expertise in project implementation and law, with my curiosity about blockchain's potential. I decided to apply and after three interviews and a long test that consisted in reviewing a project plan and provided feedback, I officially joined the IOTA Foundation in October 2018.
I truly have a strong belief in blockchain's capacity to create meaningful impact. That's why I took the opportunity to become a part of the foundation back then. My motivation was to gain direct insights into its potential from the experts in the field while taking the change to work in shaping the way for an industry that has the potential to produce positive impact.
TvT: It sounds crazy, but we’re already nearing the end of the meteorological summer. In my opinion Fall is the perfect book time. Nothing better than a book and a nice tea! Do you have any book recommendations? We’ve had our fair share of nonfiction ones, so did you read any interesting novel by chance?
MdlR: Well... depending of where you are located, (the tea part sounds like UK, otherwise you would have say coffee ;) ) it might sound weird to you, but we're actually just starting to experience summer in Germany due to the shifts caused by climate change. However.... any time is a good time for books. Unfortunately, I haven't had as much time as I use to (or want to) for pleasure reading lately. Most of my recent readings have been reports and regulatory materials, quite different from novels! And probably you do not want me to talk about those here ;)
Currently, I'm making an effort to practice my German by reading a book in German but funny fact, it's actually an Argentinian work by Jorge Bucay called Cuentos para Pensar/ Stories for Thinking or in German: erzähl mir eine geschichte, and I find it quite interesting so can recommend it to you. However, my all-time favorites usually revolve around dystopian themes. I adore Brave New World and 1984. Also I am crazy about historical fiction from Vargas Llosa like La Fiesta del Chivo/ The Feast of the Goat. But for classic Novels, Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf and Fausto from Goethe will always hold a special place in my heart. I have a soft spot for Les Fleurs du Mal by Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven as well as Pride and Prejudice. Actually mostly everything from Jane Austen is a good read (I think I have read more than one of her books more than one time)…ohhh and the Grimm brothers, I love the original stories… as you can see.. I enjoy mostly the classics….
A more recent recommendation for Novels that I really enjoy would be "The House of Mango Street," a short yet beautifully written book. And of course, being Colombian, I must always suggest Gabriel García Márquez's Cien años de Soledad/ One Hundred Years of Solitude or Jorge Isaacs’ La María. Both are remarkable novels that capture the essence of Colombian literature. “The country of the yellow butterflies” as Garcia Marquez calls it :)
TvT: Breakfast is the best meal of the day! You’re from Colombia, what’s a Colombian breakfast we really need to try?
MdlR: The ultimate Colombian breakfast unquestionably is arepas (in any of their various delicious forms and flavors..plain or stuffed, salty or sweet ... ). Also, one of the things I truly miss are the fruits—we have back home such an immense variety of fruits that you can not imagine! And they are a mandatory part of every Colombian breakfast in the form of a plate of fruits or a fresh juice. Granadillas and Papaya have undeniably secured their spots as my all time favorites.
TvT: Do you like going to concerts or music festivals? What was your favorite one?
MdlR: I love concerts, I quite often go to small punk and rock concerts organized by friends. However, I don't really enjoy festivals if I have to stay in a tent. Camping is definitely not my strong suit. So, until today, I've never been to a festival where I needed to spend the night.
That being said, a few years ago I attended Stereo Picnic, a festival in Bogota. I got to see Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pixies, which was an awesome experience. I've also been to Rock al Parque in Bogota, many many times, never missed one when I was living there. I saw some amazing bands for free there, like Dead Kennedys, Molotov, and Ilegales, among many others. Same with Alta Voz in Medellin where it did not stop raining and I ended up full of mud, rain and dirt during only to don’t miss the music and the mosh.
As for concerts, probably P.O.D and The Addicts stand out to me due to their fantastic performances. And Tiger Army, well, I've always wanted to see them.. I flew at 3 am back to Berlin from a conference in Reykjavik just to be on time to the concert that day. But if I had to pick just one, it would definitely be the tribute to the Ramones where Marky Ramone was on the drums playing with the rest of the Misfits. It was simply epic.
TvT: Which pastime couldn’t you live without?
MdlR: I do not really think I have one…. but maybe boxing can count …. It is my ultimate stress releaser…or If you can count drinking coffe as a pastime… then probably that would it be….However, I have a really bad habit that is that I can not really sleep in total silence, so I tend to turn on the TV and put some series I know by heart like Friends, Big Bang Theory or How I meet your mother and let it run until it shuts down automatically… if there is no TV probably will be some music or podcast on my phone… my partner hates it hehehe.
TvT: There is this everlasting question of dogs vs cats. Which team are you on? Do you have any pets? If so, please share a picture with us!
MdlR: 100% a dog person! (I still love cats tho - my sister has 3!!!)
I have a dog name Mila, she is my shadow!
Mila is 4 years old, I rescued her with an NGO from Cyprus… and she is really sweet but also really really weird hahaha sometimes with some of the IOTA colleagues at the office and my friends we call her the “Alien” cause she does not behave like a normal dog….. unless you have cookies!
(here in the pic you can see her sweet and manipulative “it was not me” face)
TvT: We’ve already asked Dom, but our goal is to have a full map of this phenomenon! Nutella with or without butter?
MdlR: WHAT??? I didn't even know this was a thing, but no… 100% NO to butter with Nutella! This sounds to me as bad as pineapple on pizza! Although… I love honey in scrambled eggs, and I put cheese on hot chocolate (traditional colombian thing to do) so I can't really judge people for trying out unusual food combinations ;)
TvT: Let’s talk about coinfessions! Are you guilty of buying some “not so serious” cryptos, or did you strictly and only invest into fundamentals and prospects?
MdlR: As I have always said, my greater focus and interest lies in Blockchain rather than Crypto itself. Therefore, up to now, I only purchase and hold coins tied to significant projects that I constantly monitor. My primary motivation for these choices lies in the potential these coins have for creating a positive impact on society and promoting sustainability which is ofc connected to the scalability of the project as well.
TvT: Many technological sectors are lacking enough women power, does that also apply to crypto? If so, what do you think needs to change to make crypto more attractive for women?
MdlR: It's true that many technological sectors, including crypto, have been struggling with gender diversity. The numbers show that women are still significantly underrepresented in the crypto space. The percentage of women involved in cryptocurrency trading and development roles is quite low, often around 10% and sadly it is a similar number for women in leadership positions within the industry.
Given this situation, couple of years ago I strongly encourage the foundation to establish a diversity initiative aimed at incentivizing not only more women but also individuals with a variety of backgrounds – be it gender, nationality, education, and more – to apply for our roles. By taking proactive steps to embrace diversity, we can create a more inclusive and innovative crypto space that welcomes contributions from a wide range of perspectives, ultimately driving progress, success and higher adoption within the industry while also representing the bast variety of individuals that we have in the world.
I'm pleased to see initiatives like Crypto Girls, led by Zoe Faircloth, and Women in Crypto Talks, spearheaded by Lavinia Osbourne, gaining momentum in our industry. The work they do is KEY to bring more women to the sector. I believe that a crucial first step in achieving diversity is not only creating equal opportunities but also showcasing role models that break down the myth that the tech industry is solely for or by men. By presenting strong and successful women in the field, and the work they are doing we can inspire and encourage more women to pursue careers in crypto, gradually shifting the narrative and driving increased participation from even more underrepresented groups.
This is why having women in leadership roles is so important for any company in our industry. However, fulfilling these roles entails a responsibility that must be embraced earnestly by the women occupying them. My own encounters with female bosses haven't always been positive, and these experiences have led me to ponder my motivation and commitment to the industry. These challenges have also fueled my determination to work even harder. I'm committed to working hard to become the kind of leader who can inspire others to achieve great things and encourage their growth rather than limiting them. It's a journey I'm dedicated to, for the betterment of the industry and the individuals within it.
TvT: The year is 2031, we’ve long since made it. Somebody from the community is approaching you to make your very own How I Met Your Mother style flashback with your best and funniest moments from your time with the IF. What situations would totally make it?
MdlR: Narrowing it down to just one memory is quite a challenge, as you might have noticed from my previous responses. I tend to have a hard time settling on just a single choice. That being said, I can confidently state that some of the most happy and funny moments have been shared with the fantastic people of IOTA Berlin. Our bond goes beyond mere colleagues; we've truly become close friends over time. And I have a lot of stories that I can remember just in the spot, like the time Laura became the DJ for my birthday party, the delightful self-made vegan treats that Tibo brings from time to time to the office, Asa's constant advocacy for healthier eating habits and her veto to our burger and pizza cravings, Levi’s warm gesture of treating my mom and me to dinner in Budapest during my mums visit to the EU, Max’s adventure getting lost after one of my birthday picnics, the unforgettable instance when I introduced David to the delights of arepas in Berlin or every time we tried to impossible organize a birthday cake and surprise lunch with the schedule of everyone being in meetings and calls. Funny fact: when I come to the office without Mila, before asking me how am I they ask where is the dog! Mila has become also a part of the team since she was a shy puppy scared of Jan’s chihuahua!
These bonds transcend IOTA; even when individuals have moved on, in the case of Tara, Lisa, Wolfgan, Matthias, Holger and Alexey we've managed to stay in touch. This demonstrates the depth of our connections and the enduring nature of the friendships we have cultivated.
The amount of funny and heartwarming anecdotes shared among us could easily fuel a ten-season series filled with laughter, camaraderie, and the lasting bonds we have formed.