Mark Gerhart ‘14 works at Optimism, a crypto startup based in New York City. At M-A, Gerhart had a passion for school spirit, helping lead M-A’s 12th and 6th Man clubs to rally more student presence at games. Outside of school spirit, Gerhart also focused on his academics, describing his experience at M-A as “constantly being pushed academically.”
Gerhart’s interest in friends and community started when he first got to M-A. “I really fell in love with M-A from the first year,” he said. “My freshman year was super fun, meeting kids from all different walks of life.”
Gerhart went on to help jumpstart M-A’s 12th and 6th Man clubs, encouraging all students to show up to football and basketball games and support their classmates. “We called ourselves ‘The Class of Legends’ and I remember writing this cringe Facebook post encouraging everyone to come to the basketball game because we were ‘#legends.’”
Gerhart’s legacy at M-A further lives on in the form of the fourth quarter speech. “Prior to my senior year, nobody went to football games or cared about school spirit. During my senior year, the football team got pretty good, so we did fun things like barbecues before the football games. I gave the fourth quarter speech at a game, and that started the tradition,” he recalled.
One of Gerhart’s most memorable moments at M-A was his senior prank. “For our senior prank, we organized a beach party on the green. I remember during Spanish, I got a call that they were delivering the wacky waving inflatable tube man and slip and slide to the Green, so I left Spanish and went straight there. I remember I plugged it in, and Mr. Amoroso looked at me, smirked, and shook his head.”
After graduating from M-A, Gerhart went to Cal Poly for one year and then transferred to the University of Virginia. “Cal Poly just felt too much like high school, in the sense that everyone was from California. For me, I wanted to see something different. So, I transferred after one year, and I had a great experience and loved every second of it.”
Gerhart studied public policy in college. “I chose public policy because it came naturally to me, I was always strong with analyzing text and writing papers. I never intended to enter into the policy world, but I was just seeing where it might go.”
After graduating from the University of Virginia, he attended graduate school at Brown, where he got a master’s degree in public policy.
He then entered the technology industry with an internship for a company focused on the development of self-driving cars. “I moved on to do sales at a travel software company, but left when COVID hit.” After stints at a payments company doing credit card processing and Meta as product manager, he “caught the crypto bug” and joined Coinbase as an Account Manager.
He said, “When I joined Coinbase, I saw how crypto was an incredibly interesting new technology that had the potential to change the very fundamentals of our global financial system. I saw entering into the crypto industry at this early stage as possibly one of the biggest opportunities of my life.”
Now, Gerhart works at Optimism, a small crypto startup in New York City. “My scope of work is very broad and I have a lot of day-to-day responsibilities, which is great but also terrifying at times.”
Aside from Gerhart’s career in crypto, he is also a DJ. “I was in Berlin and fell in love with this crazy techno-house music scene. From that moment forth, I wanted to become a house music DJ, which became the only thing I wanted to do in my spare time. So when I moved to New York City, I started to DJ for clubs every so often. It keeps my mind working in different ways, keeps me engaged, and allows me to meet lots of cool and interesting people.”
Gerhart’s advice to M-A students: “Take the hard classes, because now is the time to take risks with the consequences being rather low. Put all of yourself into your studies because there will never be another time in your life where your main responsibility is to learn.”
Gerhart’s advice for students interested in technology: “Start networking and learn as much as you can. Network purely to just learn more about the space, because gaining access to people with a lot of knowledge in the technology space will teach you so much.”