How I Became a Bitcoin Developer Fresh Out of High School

Daniela Brozzoni describes her journey to the front lines of bitcoin wallet development, thanks to a grant from Spiral.

AccessTimeIconJul 12, 2022 at 6:56 p.m. UTC
Updated Jul 12, 2022 at 9:33 p.m. UTC

Frederick Munawa is a Technology Reporter for Coindesk. He covers blockchain protocols with a specific focus on bitcoin and bitcoin-adjacent networks.

Daniela Brozzoni is laser-focused on helping developers build better bitcoin (BTC) wallets. Despite graduating from high school just a few years ago, Brozzoni has already worked at prominent Bitcoin application builder Blockstream and contributed to various Bitcoin-related projects like Braiins OS and Revault.

Brozzoni was recently awarded a grant from Spiral to work on the Bitcoin Development Kit (BDK) project. BDK (formerly Magical Bitcoin) is a suite of tools and libraries designed to improve bitcoin wallet development. The old Magical Bitcoin tagline, “making on-chain bitcoin wallet development 10x easier,” sums up BDK’s purpose.

Spiral (formerly Square Crypto) funds several Bitcoin-focused projects including BDK. Spiral itself is just one of several initiatives by Block (formerly Square) designed to cultivate the Bitcoin ecosystem. According to its website, Spiral’s mission is to “build and fund free, open-source projects aimed at making bitcoin the planet’s preferred currency.” BDK fits that mission statement.

The Bitcoin rabbit hole moment

Brozzoni spends her time building user-friendly decaying multisigs (a type of multisignature wallet that gradually reduces the number of signers) and improving the BDK Rust Library. One could say her teenage hobbies foreshadowed her career.

“As a kid, I loved playing with computers. So at 14 I chose a high school where I could study computer science. I studied computer science there for five years, until I was 19,” Brozzoni recalled.

During that five-year period, when she was about 17, she heard about Bitcoin from a friend. He explained how Bitcoin uses elliptic curve cryptography to generate keys, and Brozzoni was hooked. She started devouring anything Bitcoin-related and fell into the proverbial Bitcoin rabbit hole.

“I found Bitcoin fascinating! I mean it’s complicated, even if you only look at the computer science side of things. You have miners, nodes, wallets – there’s just so much,” Brozzoni said.

CoinDesk - Unknown

A cryptographic elliptic curve, similar to the one presented to Brozzoni by her friend. The elliptic curve digital signature algorithm (ECDSA) used to sign Bitcoin transactions is based on elliptic curves like this one. (The Cloudflare Blog. ECDSA: The digital signature algorithm of a better internet)

From Blockstream to BDK and everything in between

That same friend who introduced Brozzoni to Bitcoin happened to be a Blockstream employee. He knew of Brozzoni’s talent so he encouraged her to apply for a position at the company. It was an ideal scenario for Brozzoni, who while a high-achieving student, wasn’t exactly thrilled about going to university and spending the rest of her life doing traditional computer science or math research.

“I would have liked to study mathematics. But if you study mathematics, what do you do? You can become a teacher, but I kinda don’t like that,” she said.

Brozzoni would go on to successfully land a six-month internship at Blockstream. She worked on Blockstream Green, the company’s bitcoin wallet. After her time at Blockstream, she contributed to Braiins OS, an open-source bitcoin mining software project, then to Revault, a Bitcoin vault architecture project where Brozzoni helped build the wallet portion of the Revault protocol, revaultd.

Finally, that same friend who had told her about Bitcoin and Blockstream suggested another great idea.

“He basically said, ‘There’s this project called BDK and it’s really big. Would you like to work on it?’” Brozzoni was intrigued, and eventually applied for, and was awarded, a Spiral grant to fund her work on BDK. One of her current tasks is improving the BDK Rust Library, so her past experience building bitcoin wallets and working with Rust at Revault seems to be paying off.

Embracing Bitcoin philosophy

Since her first encounter with Bitcoin, Brozzoni has learnt a lot about its multifaceted nature. She has embraced libertarianism and now describes herself as a maximalist.

“With other coins, you have a rich CEO who just wants to get richer. With Bitcoin, there is no CEO, and I really like that,” Brozzoni explained.

Despite the current bear market, Brozzoni remains optimistic about Bitcoin’s future. She expresses confidence in Bitcoin’s “antifragility,” a word (ironically) coined by Nassim Taleb, one of Bitcoin’s harshest critics. An antifragile entity is one that not only survives adversity, but thrives on it. In his book, “Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder,” Taleb uses the Hydra, a lake-dwelling Greek mythological creature, to illustrate the concept of antifragility. The Hydra has numerous heads, and each time one is cut off two grow back.

“I want to see governments try to kill Bitcoin. If Bitcoin isn’t antifragile enough to win against governments, we might as well know now. But I think Bitcoin will win in the end,” Brozzoni said (albeit with a slight hint of uncertainty).

Advice to other young Bitcoin developers

Bitcoin has become increasingly ubiquitous, and the team at BDK predicts a future where bitcoin wallets are created daily. “With BDK, you can basically create a bitcoin wallet with just 10 lines of code,” Brozzoni said. This also means even more developers, especially junior ones, will enter the Bitcoin ecosystem. Brozzoni has some advice for them.

“First of all, be humble. No one likes a junior dev who thinks they know everything. [Secondly], if you can't figure something out by yourself, don't be scared to ask for help. [Finally], don't get too anxious. It may take months or even years before you really master Bitcoin.”

DISCLOSURE

Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.

CoinDesk - Unknown

Frederick Munawa is a Technology Reporter for Coindesk. He covers blockchain protocols with a specific focus on bitcoin and bitcoin-adjacent networks.

CoinDesk - Unknown

Frederick Munawa is a Technology Reporter for Coindesk. He covers blockchain protocols with a specific focus on bitcoin and bitcoin-adjacent networks.