While sancocho’s 12-year career in operations includes stints in the private sector, it’s her extensive nonprofit experience that more closely informs the mission-driven focus of her professional journey. Yet, there was a fundamental discrepancy between what the nonprofit sector promised and the reality it presented to its participants.
“I found there to be so many issues in the nonprofit sector: exploitation of employees, a mismatch of mission and actual work, and toxic environments.”
Sancocho observed these patterns frequently in education while working at startup schools, within the charter school system, and as a special education teacher.
“We imagine that a school setting should be focused on ideals of self-empowerment and education as a tool of enlightenment. But in reality, many charter schools informed by the education reform movement are not child-centric. Instead, they are run by administrators who are hyper-competitive and want to say ‘we're the best school’ at whatever cost to student health and happiness. Teachers are trained to control every aspect of a student's life, from how they sit to how they speak and think.”*
To sancocho’s surprise, her best working experience before Decent was a stint in private equity with the Carlyle Group. She felt most respected as an employee and a contributor there. Even so, private equity was hardly the mission-driven work that sancocho had imagined herself doing. It wouldn’t be until taking a break from teaching that she finally found a place with an attractive vision and a healthy, positive working environment.
For sancocho, joining Decent wasn’t fueled by an interest in crypto; it was simply a promising opportunity that presented itself at the right time.
“Honestly, I had never explored Web3 prior to joining Decent. But after teaching, I took some time off. I was burnt out from nonprofits and from working in general.”
This much-needed break coincided both with the COVID-19 pandemic and some milestones in sancocho’s personal life. She got married and had a daughter, prompting her to view life through a new lens.
Now sancocho was refreshed and ready to pursue a different professional path. Her time off ended when an ex-colleague from the Carlyle Group put Decent on sancocho’s radar.
“My friend was advising Decent, and they were about to start a raise. She told me Parker could benefit from an executive assistant during this time.”
Sancocho trusted her friend’s recommendation and became part-time assistant to Decent Co-Founder Parker McCurley (aka moondog). As sancocho grew, so did her role—from Executive Assistant to Manager of Operations to Director of Operations. Today, she is Head of Talent at Decent.
From the start, sancocho recognized that she found precisely the kind of culture that previously eluded her.
“I trusted the leadership in a way that I've never trusted leadership before. For me, it's always been important that your mission and what you say is your culture actually line up with actions. And [Decent] is the first place where I see that alignment.”
As a core team member, sancocho is part of the ongoing shift from Decent LLC to Decent DAO, though she’s candid about the initial reaction she and other colleagues had to the news of the transition.
“I remember being confused. A lot of us at Decent weren't clear on what a DAO was, even some of the engineers, because we weren't working fully on Web3 projects. It was a learning opportunity for all of us.”
Faith in Decent’s leadership helped her tide over any early uncertainty. The process of figuring out how to best operate as a DAO happens on the job, and sancocho says it’s been fairly smooth.
For one thing—and as other team members would agree—Decent had already built a foundational culture that aligned with the ethos of DAOs.
“Our leadership already operated from a place of being anti-hierarchical and leading by having trust in and respect for their staff. From day one, they wanted to work with self-driven entrepreneurs in the agency. However, the DAO better empowers people to be autonomous entrepreneurs in the space. We strive to be egoless, which allows us to operate in that flat way.”
That’s not to say there aren’t some factors that continue to be challenging. In sancocho’s domain, this largely comes down to how these changes in Decent’s structure affect recruitment.
“I think that was a big mindset shift for everyone [that no one is an employee anymore]. What does it mean to be autonomous? How do you manage your time? How does that impact the vacation policy? How do you attract talent that is used to getting traditional benefits?”
Answering these questions is a continuous process; one that all companies exploring DAOs as a new organizational structure need to take into consideration.
“It's patience on all ends because we're figuring out lots of new stuff. So everyone has to buy into this vision in order to roll with the punches.”
Understanding that there is no one way to be a DAO has helped sancocho navigate this DAO transition. She jokes about times when she’s felt pressure for Decent to move in a certain direction because it is a DAO. Over time, that has subsided, allowing more exploration of what works for Decent.
“There's a lot of gray space here to figure out who we want to be and how we want to operate. We don't have to follow a certain protocol to be a DAO.”
The flip side is that sancocho now has a lot more wiggle room when it comes to bringing on new contributors.
“DAOs are way flexible in terms of how we recruit new contributors and how we pay them. That's the biggest benefit because we want to be able to work with contributors from all over the world, in varying capacities, whether they can offer 10 hours, 20, or 40+. That is a huge benefit where traditional companies don't have that flexibility.”
While expanding the Decent team to a global network might sound daunting, the task suits sancocho perfectly.
“No one is tracking me to make sure I'm on the computer nine to five. I make my own schedule, which to me is the kind of freedom that I've always wanted. I can work when I’m most mentally focused, most motivated, most creative.”
* Follow @blackatuncommon to learn about how harmful these environments are to students and well-meaning teachers.