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Michal Svajlen, former handball player, at Bitcoin Suisse


From Handball to Crypto!

02 / 2023

How did you end up at Bitcoin Suisse?

In addition to my handball career, I decided to study Business Administration with a specialisation in Banking & Finance at the ZHAW.

A lecturer once explained Bitcoin as a “side story”. But I still remember it well because Bitcoin was worth $1 at the time. A little later in my studies, I was introduced to blockchain technology on a technical level. So I started to get more and more involved with blockchain technology and the crypto market in my private life.

For a long time, my main focus was always on handball. But more and more it became clear that my career as an active athlete would also come to an end with the completion of my studies. It was immediately clear to me that I wanted to venture into the financial sector. So I got in touch with the Athletes Network. They supported me in the transition to the professional world with various workshops, such as the position assessment and a personal SWOT analysis. As an athlete, you are aware of your strengths and, at best, weaknesses on the field. Athletes Network, however, helped me to put into words the soft skills that are relevant for an employer. And as the name suggests, Athletes Network also has a large network. That’s where the connection to Luca Iten (Bitcoin Suisse Alumni) came about. After good discussions, I applied to Bitcoin Suisse and was then allowed to attend the interview. I immediately got a good feeling from the employees, which was important for me as a team player. Only a short time later, I was welcomed to my first day at work.


What skills did you learn in sport help you now in your new job?

Resilience: For a long time of my career, we were not able to qualify for any major tournament with the national team. This changed with the qualification for the European Championship 2020 in Denmark, Sweden and Austria. We played the group stage in Sweden, where the tournament ended for us after 3 games. As we did not qualify for the following World Cup, the European Championship was the end of my national team career for the time being.

Due to the COVID pandemic, however, Switzerland was able to go to the 2022 World Cup in Egypt after all. Two seeded teams had too many COVID cases in the and could therefore not take part in the tournament. So I went straight from writing my master’s thesis to the pitch in Egypt. But that story is for another day.😉

Sometimes the reward for hard work doesn’t come immediately, but without perseverance you can’t bag it either.

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

Teamwork: In every group of people, sooner or later there will be friction or disagreements. In sport, I have learned that the solution to these conflicts is based on a very individual basis. You have to shout at one team member, motivate another and simply leave the third one alone, he will find his way back to his performance on his own.


How did you make the transition from full-time athlete to office?

This was a big change for me. The first few months I was overwhelmed by the new impressions, the many processes and the “long” days. At the beginning at Bitcoin Suisse, many “everyday” things of professional life had to be explained to me, such as holiday input. As a professional athlete, holidays are always set, around the same time every year from the end of June to mid-July.

What I also lost was the daily training. During my studies, I also sat in front of the desk a lot, but in between, I always had a rigorous workout scheduled. In the end, I simply needed a short time to get used to the new routine. I am glad how I mastered the change together with Bitcoin Suisse!


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

As a member of the reconciliation team, our goal is to reconcile the internal accounting with external financial intermediaries such as venues, banks and the blockchain. We check all transactions from the previous day and make sure they are posted correctly if necessary. Our daily routine consists of reports and Excel with macros. If the settlement team books cleanly, my days are pretty unspectacular. 😉

Initially, I struggled with not getting immediate feedback on my work. I went home in the evening without knowing if I had made a mistake.

In sport, 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. I lacked this feedback on my performance at the beginning. In the meantime, I’ve got used to it, although there haven’t been many mistakes so far.


How did your experience in sport prepare you for this new role?

For the day-to-day business and for the technical, to be honest, not at all. But that would also be rather unrealistic. Through sport, however, I developed a thirst for knowledge and the will to succeed. So I was convinced that I could acquire anything. What sport, and mainly team sport, teaches you is how to behave and act in a group. Team spirit or the ability to work in a team is what I would call it in an interview.

The “togetherness” impressed me the most at Bitcoin Suisse and in the Business Operations team. And this is the only way to win in handball, which is why I immediately felt at home in the team. From my sporting career I also know that there is not always only sunshine & rainbows in a team and that too much harmony is not necessarily desirable either. So if things ever go wrong in our Bitcoin team, I’m ready for it. 😉

In addition, sport teaches us how to deal with defeat and mistakes. It is in the genes of every good sportsman or woman that he or she gets up after a defeat and learns from it. This trait helped me in the early days to give myself time to learn all the information, technical details and all the relevant processes of the mid-office at Bitcoin Suisse.


What is your greatest achievement at Bitcoin Suisse so far?

For me personally, the successful transition from the world of sports to the professional world is my greatest achievement. The fact that this change was sustainable and that I didn’t have to realise after a few weeks that this job is not for me means a lot to me.


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

I’ve never liked this kind of question, but I’ll try to give a subjective answer here. I think most people would define me as a quiet worker.

Some describe me as an introvert, but always open to a quick chat. Good colleagues might also see me as a jokester.

My former teammates would add that I am very deliberate in speaking up depending on the situation and it is unpleasant to be on a team with me when we lose. As team captain, I have always held back when the team has worked. If the course was not moving in the desired direction, I recognised the situation and took initiative. What counts for me is the team success of every team I am part of.


Besides sport and work, what else do you like to do?

Besides Bitcoin Suisse and handball, if there is any time left over, …I passionately follow sports from the USA, especially American football (NFL) or basketball (NBA). I also like to ride a racing bike or find my swing on the driving range. Of course, I’m also up for a Netflix marathon or a good movie. One of my favourite series is of course «Billions».

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Foto/Video: Platzhalter für Namen