Cryptocurrency mining is all about performance\u2014that is, getting maximum processing power (\u2018hash rate\u2019) for every watt of energy used. Since that has a direct effect on profitability, just as \u2018search engine optimizer\u2019 was once a new job to help companies win attention on Google, now there are crypto optimizers too. And they\u2019re in great demand, according to Kristy-Leigh Minehan, an expert in the field. Speaking to me from Seattle, Washington, she explained that both the hardware and the software in a mining rig can be tweaked. Working for many of the giants in the industry since 2010, Kristy-Leigh examines a rig and makes many small improvements that add up to better performance: \u201cI\u2019m good at looking for bottlenecks and smoothing them out\u2014or removing them entirely,\u201d she says. The first job is to look at the software: \u201csoftware optimization can occur at a number of levels\u2014there\u2019s the design level, which is all about your architecture\u2014what hardware is the software working with? What language are you using? Then there\u2019s the algorithmic level\u2014my favorite\u2014where it\u2019s all about making the best use of the available hardware. You\u2019d be surprised at how awful most implementations are.\u201d It gets more technical, the deeper into the software you go: \u201cAt the source code level, you can go in and refactor the code all the way down to the compile and assembly level, where you take what the source code was translated into and make sure things didn\u2019t get lost in translation. And if they did? Correct it by hand, in the machine\u2019s native language.\u201d It\u2019s like having a team of engineers working on a racing car at the pit-stop: Kristy-Leigh will go in with her digital wrenches and spanners, fixing problems. Hardware optimization is different. \u201cIn hardware, you\u2019re limited by what you get from the factory. The best you can do is tune the frequency of each individual chip. In some cases, you can do circuit board modifications to increase stability and performance. Very rarely, you can replace the entire software layer that controls it.\u201d It\u2019s a role Kristy-Leigh seems born for. From a young age, she say, she\u2019s been breaking things in order to improve them. \u201cI was mostly into video games early on. With a hex editor, you could see a live view of a video game\u2019s memory and manipulate bytes in real time, which meant you could see the effects instantly. And you could also set breakpoints, which let you overwrite preprogrammed game logic. Video games taught me a ton about basic command lines, Boolean algebra, binary formats, networking basics, and even cryptography. I guess that means I\u2019ve been a hacker from the start of my life\u2014if you take the original definition,\u201d she laughs. Her love of secrets led to an interest in cryptography and from there, she was naturally drawn to the ideas behind the original Satoshi white paper when it was dropped into an online chat room she frequented. \u201cI thought, here\u2019s the kind of technology that\u2019s really going to disrupt the world.\u201d Armed with her limited knowledge, Kristy-Leigh started mining Bitcoin\u2014chasing high scores in hashrate rather than gaming points. When she\u2019d maximized the hashrate numbers, she went into the source code, just as she\u2019d done with video games: \u201cI think I shaved a few instructions down into one\u2014and then I was like \u2018oh, hang on, that actually changed something. It\u2019s faster now\u2019. It was just like a video game. I was hooked.\u201d She started doing odd bits of contractor work under many pseudonyms, often getting paid in Bitcoin\u2014in numbers that looked impressive but at the time amounted to cents. Of course, having a stake in Bitcoin at those values turned out to be a good investment, as long as you hung on to most of it. And yes, Kristy-Leigh admits, she did. It\u2019s provided the initial investment for her own startup companies and worldwide travels. Today, there\u2019s growing demand for people who understand crypto technology as intimately as Kristy-Leigh does. \u201cThere are more and more coins out there, every day, and each of them requires fine-tuning and tweaking,\u201d she says. Kristy-Leigh is bullish about the long-term prospects for crypto and blockchain technology, but believes it will only come of age when it\u2019s been embedded in three big sectors: banks, ecommerce, and gaming. \u201cBanks are easy\u2014the promise of more efficient, cheaper transactions makes blockchain a natural. But the banks that are already pursuing it are less established than their more conservative counterparts.\u201d Once a big bank in the States, Canada or the United Kingdom begins to adopt blockchain, Kristy-Leigh believes, it won\u2019t affect the user experience but will be a big change behind the scenes, resulting in a sharp decrease in fees. \u201cThen, we\u2019ve got ecommerce. When online retailers start to cut out the fees now charged for handling and transacting, we\u2019re going to see the true power of blockchain hitting the biggest markets. And smart contracts will help retailers, too, with inventory and delivery tracking and with warranties and services. Smart contracts are going to revolutionize the retail space.\u201d Finally, perhaps more surprisingly, there\u2019s gaming: \u201cGaming has become a critical part of everyday life for all ages. Every year more resources are put into cyber protection and anti-cheating mechanisms. If you could use the blockchain to track and verify virtual assets in an MMO , you\u2019d cut down on a lot of unnecessary overhead and be able to track purchases and refute chargebacks in a pretty streamlined manner\u2014instead of the current system that costs Apple alone millions of dollars each month.\u201d More stable cryptocurrency prices will help speed up adoption. Kristy-Leigh says their volatility has been like \u201cstocks on steroids\u201d, but notes that values are already less volatile than they have been. \u201cWe\u2019ve got more historical data to play with now. We know that in the last financial quarter of the year, crypto prices swell. Christmas is a big facilitator of that.\u201d When it comes to the inevitable question about being a woman in the field, Kristy-Leigh laughs. \u201cIt\u2019s never affected me,\u201d she says. \u201cThe only people who ever cared about my gender were people who didn\u2019t care about my code. In the space I come from, people only judge you from the quality of your commits*, not the quality of your... sorry, pardon my Australian!\u201d * In software development, a commit is the making permanent of a set of proposed changes. Kristy-Leigh Minehan will be speaking at the CoinGeek Week Conference in London on Friday November 30, along with other industry leaders.