People of Bitcoin Suisse - Michal Svajlen

Feb 24, 2023 - 7 min read

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1. From handball to crypto - how did you end up at Bitcoin Suisse?

Next to my handball career, I decided to study at ZHAW, where I attended a lectures on business economics with a specialization in banking & finance. The lecturer only explained Bitcoin as a "side story". I still remember it so well because Bitcoin had a value of 1$ at that time. A little later, I was introduced to blockchain technology on a technical level. From there on, I started to get more and more involved with blockchain technology and the crypto market.

During my studies, my focus was always handball. More and more, however, it became clear that my career as an active athlete would come to an end with the completion of my studies. It was clear to me that I would like to venture into the financial industry after my studies. My first touchpoint with Bitcoin Suisse was a former classmate from Sportgymi, Sebastian Fischer, who was just starting at Bitcoin Suisse at the time and was very positive about his new employer.

Just a few weeks later, I contacted the Athletes Network. They supported me in my transition to the professional world with various workshops, an assessment of my current position and a personal SWOT analysis. As an athlete, you are aware of your strengths, and ideally of your weaknesses on the playing field. Athletes Network helped me to identify my soft skills and put them into words. As the name suggests, Athletes Network also has a large network. This is how I connected with Luca Iten (Bitcoin Suisse Alumni). After some good conversations with Luca, I applied at Bitcoin Suisse, where I was subsequently allowed to introduce myself.

I already had a very good feeling towards the employees during the interview, which was crucial for me. Only a short time later, I was welcomed to my first day of work.

2. What skills did you learn in sports that help you now in your new job?

Perseverance: During a long period of my career, we were not able to qualify for any major tournament with the national team until we eventually managed to qualify for the 2020 European Championship in Denmark, Sweden and Austria. We played the group stage in Sweden, where the tournament unfortunately was over for us after just three games. At the same time, I considered this the end of my national team career, also because we could not qualify for the next tournament. Due to the COVID pandemic, the qualification for the 2021 World Cup in Egypt was canceled. However, it was also the pandemic that gave us the chance to still go to the World Cup. Two teams had too many positive COVID cases on their team and could not make the tournament. From writing my master's thesis straight to the pitch in Egypt. But that story is for another day (laughs). This story taught me that sometimes the reward for hard work doesn't come immediately, but without perseverance you will never get it.

The will to get better: That's the goal of any training - it's no different in my daily work. Even if sometimes it's only small steps, the important thing is not to stand still.

The ability to work in a team: In every group of people, sooner or later there will be arguments, friction or conflicts. In sports, I have learned that the resolution of these conflicts is based on a very individual basis. You have to yell at one teammate, motivate another and leave the third one alone to find his own way back to performance.

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Michal as assistant coach for Pfadi Winterthur

3. How did you manage the change from full-time athlete to office?

It was indeed a big change for me. The first months I was overwhelmed by the new impressions, the processes and the "long" days. At the beginning, many "everyday" things in professional life had to be explained to me, such as vacation entry. In sports, the vacations are always set, around the same time every year, so you can't decide freely.

What I lost as well was the daily training. During my studies, I also sat in front of the desk a lot, but in between, there was always a rigorous workout scheduled. These years of physical strain have not passed me by without leaving a trace. That's why I don't mind spending my days sitting down a bit more today. In the end, it took some getting used to, but I got used to it relatively quickly. I'm glad how I managed the change together with Bitcoin Suisse!

4. What does a typical working day at Bitcoin Suisse look like?

As a member of the reconciliation team, our goal is to reconcile internal accounting with external financial intermediaries such as venues, banks and the blockchain. We review all transactions from the previous day and make sure they are booked correctly. Our daily routine consists of reports. When the settlement team does its bookings well, my days are pretty unspectacular (laughs).

At first, I struggled with not getting immediate feedback on my work. I went home at night not knowing if I had made a mistake. In sports, you know when you score a goal or defend successfully. At the latest, when the game is over, you know whether you have won or lost. In reconciliation, it can happen that a mistake is only discovered a month or even later. This feedback on my performance was missing at the beginning. In the meantime, I've gotten used to it, although of course there weren't many or any errors until now (laughs).

5. How did your experience in sports prepare you for this new role?

For the day-to-day business and the technical side, to be honest, not at all. But that would also be unrealistic. Through sports, however, I developed the thirst for knowledge and the will to succeed. This convinced me that I could acquire and learn anything. What sports and mainly team sports teach you is how to behave in a group. Team spirit or teamwork, that's what I would call it in an interview.

The "togetherness" impressed me the most at Bitcoin Suisse and in the Business Operations team. This is the only way to win in sports, which is why I immediately felt at home in the team. However, I also know from my sporting career that, firstly, there can't always be sunshine and rainbows in a team and, secondly, too much harmony is not necessarily desirable.

What sport also teaches you is how to deal with defeats and mistakes. It is in the nature of an athlete to get up after every defeat and learn from it. This helped me especially in the early days at Bitcoin Suisse to also give me time to learn all the information, technical details and all the mid-office relevant processes at Bitcoin Suisse.

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6. What is your biggest achievement at Bitcoin Suisse so far?

For me personally, the successful transition from the sports world to the professional world means a lot. Especially that the change was made in a sustainable way and that I didn't have to realize after a few weeks that this job is not for me.

7. How would your colleagues describe you? How would your teammates describe you?

I’ve never liked these types of questions, but I’ll try to give a subjective answer here. I think most would describe me as a quiet worker. Some would also describe me as an introvert, but also good for a quick chat. A couple of colleagues certainly see me as a fun guy. My former teammates would add that I am very deliberate about speaking up, depending on the situation, and it’s not fun to be on a team with me when it is losing. If the team is working, I tend to hold back. But if I see that the course is not developing in the desired direction, I also like to take the initiative. What counts for me is the team success of every team of which I am a part of.

8. Besides sports and work, what else do you like to do?

Besides Bitcoin Suisse and handball, if there is any time left (laughs). I also follow other sports from the USA very passionately, especially American football (NFL) or basketball (NBA). I like to ride my racing bike or train my golf swing on the driving range. This winter I would love to go snowboarding again. Of course, I'm also up for a Netflix marathon or a good movie. One of my favorite series is of course "Billions".

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