These are phrases heard every day by alumna Nina Heyden (MSc Applied Economics and Data Analysis, 2018) who works within the Economic Research team at blockchain analysis company Chainalysis, in New York City.

Nina shares more about her role, how she got there and her time at Essex below:

I had always envisioned working in the field of Development Economics or in government, but the opportunity to apply my background to a burgeoning field, whilst gaining insight into the tech industry appealed to me. In many ways I’m working in the career I hoped for, I continue to learn new tools for data analysis and new econometric techniques to solve problems.

I reached out to several professors at the University of Essex whilst applying for my MSc who expressed interest in my dissertation topic: immigration. Even before my studies I was already being supported by the professors at Essex, and this was a great feeling for me.

The modules I studied were interesting and valuable in their own right but I could see the links between them. Econometric Methods provided applicable tools for problem solving and I greatly enjoyed seeing these tools in action in Development Economics in case studies. The interdisciplinary approach was useful as I could learn from practicing researchers in two areas of academia.

Taking on my own research project during my dissertation really helped me prepare for my future work.

Studying at Essex allowed me to connect with professors and classmates from all over the world and maintaining those professional relationships and friendships has been very rewarding.

I interned during the final year of my undergraduate studies in New York and collaborated with someone who is now member of my research team. Fresh out of finishing my Masters I reconnected with my co-worker who was at Chainalysis, the work at Chainalysis intrigued me and the research team was looking for someone to apply econometrics to their data, so it was a great fit!

I’m currently working as an Economist at Chainalysis, a tech startup with the mission of building trust in blockchains to further the growth of the cryptocurrency industry. We offer compliance and investigation software to allow businesses to assess risk and protect their reputations and to help law enforcement identify and stop actors who use cryptocurrency for illicit activity such as fraud, extortion, and money laundering.

We were recently able to support the US Department of Justice in shutting down a child sexual abuse material site called ‘Welcome to Video’ which was operating out of South Korea. The case resulted in the arrest of the site’s operator and more than 330 users. Moreover, 23 children were identified and rescued from their abusers as a result of the investigation. Authorities used Chainalysis’ investigation tool to analyze transaction activity and follow the flow of money to cryptocurrency exchanges, from which they could request information about users.

I enjoy getting to learn about an exciting industry every day, it can be challenge to be in a highly technical field but it’s very rewarding to apply the strong founding I have in economics and data analysis. It’s gratifying to be at an organization that helps stop illicit activity online.

I’d advise students or graduates to reach out to professionals in fields you’re interested in for informational interviews. Remain open to opportunities, even ones you hadn’t considered, you might be surprised at how applicable your background is!

Study hard, what you’re learning is valuable and applicable.