Meet the Team: Michael Birch, Aurora’s Protocol Team Lead

Meet the team is a series that aims to highlight the work and experiences of Aurora's team members.

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The Aurora team is made up of exceptional individuals that left a mark in the industries they have been part of by innovating and building cutting edge technology. These top-tier professionals have unique stories to share about their journeys that deserve to be talked about as they can provide inspiration and guidance to new builders joining this ecosystem. With this series we aim to do just that by highlighting the work and experiences of a generation of pioneers in the Web3 world paying tribute to their valuable contributions and achievements.

TLDR:

Michael Birch is the team lead of the Protocol at Aurora Labs. With a background in physics and a desire to work in a dynamic and visionary field, Michael found his way into the Web3 industry in 2017. After working for RChain and CasperLabs, he joined NEAR in its early stages before eventually transitioning to Aurora.

A Background in Physics and a Passion for Challenges

Michael grew up in Southwestern Ontario, Canada where he attended McMaster University and received his degree in physics. In September 2016, Michael joined the SWI Systemware Innovation Corporation, a Canadian strategy and consulting firm specialized in big data consulting for the banking sector. Having a taste for challenges, however, Michael soon realized that he wanted to work in a more innovative and exciting field.

After one year at the consulting firm, Michael took his first job in the blockchain industry, first as a software developer for RChain Cooperative, and then as a lead software developer for CasperLabs, entering a space that truly grabbed his interest. By 2019 Michael was in a unique position, he had acquired valuable working experience in a fast growing industry constantly hungry for talent and new avenues for development were starting to open up to him:

“In 2019 I was headhunted by NEAR inc. I immediately got really excited about NEAR. They were working on the same problems that CasperLabs were trying to solve, namely scalability and while CasperLabs had come up with some interesting solutions to it, the NEAR Sharding model was just a more refined approach. Their design was very impressive.”

Michael thus joined the NEAR team to work in its initial development, finding himself descending deeper and deeper into the Web3 rabbit-hole.

From NEAR inc to Aurora

Joining NEAR as Senior Software Engineer, gave Michael the opportunity to dive deeper into its technology and get involved in the very early stages of the Aurora EVM development. Currently, Michael works as the lead of the protocol team at Aurora, a unit that focuses on keeping an alignment between NEAR and Aurora and on identifying ways in which Aurora’s design could be improved. As he explains:

“Aurora is built on top of NEAR and because of this we are able to leverage NEAR’s solutions to distributed systems problems, however it is still non-trivial to find the best way to take advantage of NEAR’s architecture. For instance, NEAR increased the number of shards and, at the moment, the Aurora engine lives only on one single NEAR shard. In the future we want to have multiple instances of the engine and have them communicating with each other. To accomplish this we will have to achieve cross-shard communication in ways that actually improve the overall performance. This communication that minimizes overhead is a challenging problem and one that I’m looking forward to working on.”

Being a passionate problem solver, Michael feels very much stimulated by the challenges he is presented with at Aurora. On a daily basis he has the opportunity to participate in the creation of new pieces of infrastructure that pave the way for the new internet economy.

Michael’s Experience at Aurora Labs

Aurora provides an environment with a clear mission and vision for how it wishes to create true value for its users and businesses. Through the use of cutting edge technology, Aurora is laying the foundation for an ecosystem where people are empowered to reimagine their business model and create communities on their own terms. Being part of this mission to bring Web3 to fruition to an increasing number of people is what makes Michael excited about its work with Aurora:

“When you go to a normal website you don’t need to know anything about the technology they are using. You are presented with a front end and as you interact with it you are happy. Today almost no blockchain is like that. For every blockchain project you need to know at least something about the technical details. At Aurora we want to present this technology to people in a way that is more user-friendly. Aurora + is a step towards that future; you get 50 free transactions a month, you don’t need to have purchased crypto in advance, and in this way it has lowered the barriers to entry. But we still believe in users fully owning their own keys and data. We want to create a user-friendly blockchain experience without compromising any of the security or decentralization. That is the direction we are going.”

When it comes to the company culture Michael also appreciates the effort that Aurora puts into team building activities like the annual offsite company event taking place in Dubai. Michael talked highly about Aurora’s approach to its team which, despite having grown to include 80 individuals,has retained its unity and startup flavor.


About Aurora

Aurora is an Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) based on the layer 1 proof-of-stake blockchain NEAR Protocol. Aurora provides a solution for developers to deploy their apps on an Ethereum-compatible, high-speed, scalable, and future-proof platform with low transaction costs for their users.

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