A growing number of employees are leaving 9-5 corporate jobs to work for The DAO. While the money is great, DAOs fall into a legal gray area and it can be tricky to get your foot in the door.
Researchers Nataliya Ilyushina and Trent MacDonald from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology Blockchain Innovation Hub walk you through how to get started.
This year they could see two emerging workforce dynamics come to a head. 21 million Americans will leave their jobs in 2021 – a portent of “Big Resignation” era — after long-term experience working remotely during the COVID-19 lockdowns and dissatisfaction with conditions when re-entering their workplace.
One reported in 5 workers with the intention of leaving their jobs in 2022. At the same time, the highest number of members of decentralized autonomous organizations was 3.4 million at the beginning of August 2022, with more than 140,000 new members joining in July 2022 alone.
Although the “small migration” to DAOs pales in comparison to the Great Resignation, we might still wonder if the two trends are not related in some small way.
For one, demography from both groups are strikingly similar: workers typically between the ages of 30 and 45, and the tech industry most affected. Second, DAOs are digitally native organizations and a natural fit for many disaffected workers looking for new remote work opportunities.
So why are people migrating from working in traditional corporations to become digital nomads working in new environments like DAOs? Could this be your next career move?
A decentralized alternative
DAOs are a new form of organizational structure that offers an alternative to corporationpp. For workers, the critical difference is the horizontal structure, where there is little formal hierarchy and no bosses.
DAOs offer a a revolutionary new type of job: a hybrid of ownership, traditional employment, freelancing and volunteering. Each member is a boss and worker (paid and unpaid) and can contribute when and where they see fit. Each member is free to choose how much time they want to spend working, voting and participating in discussions. Additionally, you can be a member of multiple DAOs and choose how much time and effort to devote to each.
According to DeepDAO, numerous major DAO contributors are members of dozens of DAOs at once, with the most prolific contributor currently being part of more than 80 DAOs. In other words, employment in a DAO is flexible, discretionary, overlapping, and deregulated.
DAO employment offers considerable worker flexibility — in terms of their overall labor supply, working hours and variety of tasks — due to the digital, remote and asynchronous nature of DAO operations.
Today it is possible earn a living working for the DAO or across multiple DAOs, with some earning as much as $300,000 per year in 2021. A survey of 422 DAO members conducted by Gitcoin and Bankless showed that half of the respondents were able to earn a living by working in one or more DAOs.
A long way to pay
However, the reward rarely comes as a traditional salary and is commonly paid in tokens. Additionally, the moment a person starts working for the DAO and the moment they get paid can be two completely different points in time.
This is how the work progress for a DAO usually looks like. The moment one joins a DAO (usually by purchasing a token), they can start contributing by participating in a community forum (often on Discord) and voting (using Snapshot or similar). However, there is a slim chance of a payout at this point. As its reputation grows, the DAO community can reward them based on KPIs of discussion and participation (usually via airdrops).
Once a member becomes familiar with the DAO and proves their reputation, they can start contributing to the main DAO project. At this stage, this usually happens in the form of completing a reward: a small, disconnected task. Rewards are paid and lead to further accumulation of DAO-specific reputation and skills.
Not everyone is able to work for a #DAO… 😮 right now.
The DAO in its current form requires skills that not everyone has, and that’s okay. 🤓
Lots of ideas are still being tested, and there won’t be one way to work in a DAO, there will be many.
— ivanlozada.eth 🔥 _⚙️ (@ivan7538) September 6, 2022
The next step is securing a part-time or full-time position within DAO. Although these jobs are relatively rare and hard to come by, they pay very well. Longer-term or ongoing positions like these are usually associated with core DAO project operations: for example, a software developer role in a protocol DAO, or a graphic designer role in an NFT DAO art production. If someone does not want to have a fixed arrangement, they can continue to contribute when appropriate and the peer review process will decide how to reward the value they add to the DAO.
Every DAO transition story is different – for example, an anon dev named Squelch tells Cointelegraph that he went through this typical DAO job life cycle in just a week.
Before joining the DAO, they he built exchanges for carbon trading and natural disaster insurance, worked in investment banking and “helped create an alternative interest rate benchmark to Libor called Ameribor and ran an insurtech company”.
They’ve been interested in blockchain since they first heard about Bitcoin in 2009, but it wasn’t until the summer of DeFi in 2020 that they started spending every waking moment learning about protocols and smart contracts.
It was still a big leap to ditch their eclectic financial services job, but they took the plunge when they saw a job opening for Tracer DAO (now Mycelium) looking for someone to build a decentralized derivative. After chatting with the Tracer people, it was revealed that they idolized Richard Sandor, who was Squelch’s mentor.
“I called them and told them about my experience and they asked me to be a pro bono consultant for this project. Within a week they asked me to join as a full-time paid contributor, and a week later they asked me to lead the core team providing DAO services.”
Despite making big money in their previous role, money was not forthcoming on the Tracer DAO chat and rarely came up as a major motivation for joining the DAO. Most say the appeal is that he no longer works for the boss. The absence of a hierarchical structure encourages teamwork and a sense of being part of a community. DAO contributors often mention the organization’s fairness and transparency. They function as work collectives operating through a blockchain in which each member has a say in how to reward the work of others. All decisions are made by the community.
“The collaboration-maxi nature was a welcome breath of fresh air,” says Squelch.
“It’s interesting that you connect and collaborate with people who are also passionate about similar ideas and ideals. But the challenge is to create coordination mechanisms and incentives for everyone to work together in tandem to address these goals.”
They further add, “Despite the struggle to work within the DAO structure, I see them as incredible tools that bring people together full-time, part-time, and occasionally to help bring things together.”
Irregular working hours and no job security
The benefits of decentralization and deregulation also come with risks.
Work flexibility comes with a lack of job security and job demands. Like rideshare drivers and other gig economy workers who work when they want but often don’t get the same benefits as standard full-time workers, DAO workers aren’t guaranteed sick, maternity and annual leave.
Blockchain law expert Aaron Lane of the RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub says work for The DAO is currently in a “regulatory gray area”. “In most jurisdictions, there are established legal tests as to whether someone is treated as an employee or an independent contractor,” he says, adding: “Organizations structured like a DAO cannot limit their liability based solely on that structure.”
DAOs are not immune to other issues such as discrimination and harassment in the workplace, but their deregulated nature does not allow prosecution of these practices. After all, under which jurisdiction does the global DAO fall?
A cheater’s guide to making $1M+ working for DAO or Web 3 projects.
🧵 10 Commandments of DAO 🧵
— The 7 Figure Crypto Consultant (@BowTiedDAO) September 3, 2022
A lack of job security and a legal framework can deter women from entering if they fear a lack of career or maternity leave options, as well as the overall perceived high-risk nature of the industry. No data is yet available on these issues, but this may be one factor behind the lack of gender balance in the sector. A Bankless survey of DAO members found seven times more men than women.
However, Lane remains optimistic: “While critics may say there is potential for workplace rights to be eroded under the Work-for-the-DAO model, workers have a lot of power because blockchain and crypto skills are in high demand, and the new technology could in fact enable the emergence of new forms of collectivized working conditions.
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While the DAO job still needs to be more clearly defined, there are significant benefits that will only increase over the course of 2022. The new employment relationship attracts talent by offering flexibility, transparency and ownership along with the prospect of generous compensation.
And the few risks posed by the deregulated nature of DAO employment do not seem to have slowed the growth of DAO membership so far. How this will all play out in light of the Great Resignation is still unknown, but DAOs have at least picked up some of the slack when it comes to employee departures from traditional corporations during the pandemic.