Between the Blocks: Emily Pillmore

Between the Blocks: Emily Pillmore


November 2, 2022

Welcome to Kadena’s Personnel Series, where we showcase some of the most brilliant and talented minds behind Kadena! Since its inception in 2016, Kadena has continuously pushed the boundaries of innovation, being the only Layer 1 Proof-of-Work blockchain that has solved the Blockchain Trilemma. Kadena’s extraordinary achievements would not be possible without the hard work, visions and talent of its team members.

Today, we will be taking a deep dive with Emily Pillmore, Kadena Pact Lead. We will be exploring her past experience, her hobbies and interests, and her journey with Kadena.

Tell us about a bit of yourself and what you do at Kadena

I started my programming journey late at the age of 21 as an open source Perl 5 developer, writing small CLI utilities. When I graduated university with a degree in Mathematics in 2014, I entered the Finance industry as a model validator, doing consulting work for various boutique modeling firms around NYC. Disillusioned with finance as a longterm career prospect, I made a leap to Software Engineering as a Scala engineer for the Bank of America, and later with Disney Streaming where I flourished in my understanding of software development and programming as a practice. At this time, I came to maintain the largest (at the time) functional programming open source project in the ecosystem (Scalaz), and began contributing to OSS at an incredible pace.

Through Scalaz, I fell in love with the Haskell programming language, and I decided to pursue a career writing it. I discovered Kadena in 2018, and was a senior engineer working on Pact until 2021 when I took a brief hiatus to work as CTO of the Haskell Foundation, a non-profit I’d raised money for in the previous year. I was providing technical direction for the Haskell programming language and its ecosystem at the Haskell Foundation. I rejoined Kadena as a full time developer in 2022, and have been happy ever since.

I am currently the lead maintainer for the Pact smart contract language. I develop the Pact language along with the Pact Team, managing its feature additions, releases, integrations, and doing a little community engagement on the side. Interacting with real developers using a real product is great fun, and I take joy in seeing the negative and the positive coming from the community considering they’re using something I helped create.

​How did you get into the world of Web3 and crypto?

By chance, actually. Crypto was something I’d been cursorily interested in since 2011, having mined Bitcoin for fun on my university laptop (though, not very successfully considering how underpowered it was), and I knew of blockchain as a distributed system. It was only by chance that I found Kadena through the Haskell connection and was able to fully understand its role as a digital store of value, in addition to the myriad of other benefits provided by the decentralized aspects of the system.

​Who introduced you to Kadena?

Anastasia Bez and Doug Beardsley were recruiting at a functional programming conference in Colorado, and I was there as an enthusiast at my first (!) ever conference. They seemed like great people, in addition to the fact that I know of Doug through the Haskell community. Originally, I didn’t have the kind of experience they were looking for, but Anastasia liked something about me and told me to apply anyway. The rest is history! The interview process was filled with great vibes, and it made the choice to accept their offer easy.

What has your journey at Kadena been like and what have you learned?

I started out as a rather “midling” Haskell developer on a team of extremely talented people. With their help, I felt as though I was on the right track to truly understand what it meant to engineer systems and write code. Kadena is unique in the sense that we are an incredible team producing incredible software — often, you get one or the other, but rarely both. Watching and listening to the way people on the team think about engineering, and seeing all of us grow over the years has really made me grateful to be on such a team, and we seem to be able to keep adding incredibly talented and decent people every year. I’m extremely bullish on our ability to continue pushing the boundaries and innovating in the blockchain space over the next decade at least.

It’s hard to put my finger on what I’ve learned in particular. There’s a bit of magic to producing good work that you can’t really describe except in fuzzy terms. Taste, good judgment, style, productivity — name it what you want, but whatever it is, it’s allowed me to flourish as a developer in ways that don’t just impact the Kadena product line, but the ecosystems I’ve touched as well (authoring and/or maintaining well over 40 well-used libraries in the past 4 years alone!). I tend to think it’s being in proximity with people who are far more experienced than myself, but also that our culture fosters the ability for people to say “I don’t know, let’s find out!”, which is one of the most important things on Earth.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

On the Kadena side, I have “Gigantic Major Huge Big Plans” for the Pact language that are currently in the implementation phase. Some of you may have heard me rant and rave about a “Pact Core” project before, which is something Jose Cardona and I originally conceived for Kadena’s Polkadot integration. We expect this to be a reality in 2023, along with a phased, API-driven compiler that will allow for non-Haskell tooling authors to hook into the language and write integrations as they please. We expect to open up the entire ecosystem to open source development, including alternative syntaxes, interpreters in other languages, and integrations with existing tools.

In short, we want to make the new Pact the language of Web 3.0 — a completely blockchain-agnostic tool for the future of our industry. I’m really looking forward to that.

On the personal side, in 5 years, I’d like to own a house somewhere cute with my partner so I can stop paying rent, hopefully in an area with good hiking trails. I’ve been working towards personal fitness goals and I’m now setting a new one: complete a Spartan race by 2024. Hit me up for general fitness tips and weight lifting cuz we all love squats and oats here on the Kadena team.

​What other fun and interesting things do you do when you aren’t working?

Lately I’ve been getting into making my own EDM music and gaming more than I’d care to admit. Hiking is a perennial activity in my life, and I do thru-hiking when I’m in a good mood and it’s nice out. Other than that, we chillin’.

We hope that you enjoyed getting to know Emily on a more personal level, and be sure to keep up with Emily by following her Twitter and LinkedIn!