This 19-year-old earns $54,000 a year mining bitcoin as a full-time job — here’s what it’s like
Nick Sears was 17 years old when he helped build a bitcoin mining farm in Dallesport, Washington. He was 18 when he was legally allowed to buy bitcoin for the first time. And now, at 19, Sears has doubled down on his life as a bitcoin miner, saying “no” to college and “yes” to living in a room inside a data center that houses 4,500 whirling ASICs.
“My room is sound-locked,” said Sears of the acoustic retrofitting of his living quarters. “So I can’t hear the machines when I close my door, but they are definitely noisy if I have my door open.”
The machines generate about 80 decibels of noise apiece — but Sears says he likes being as close to the action as possible. It also beats making the half hour commute each way from his parents’ house in White Salmon.
The 19 year-old has spent pretty much every single day for the last two years teaching himself the nuances of how mining machines work – and crucially, how to fix them. He believes his education in soldering and electronics is worth a whole lot more to him than a university degree.
“I don’t think about going to college at all, just pursuing further knowledge in the repairs of the miners,” continued Sears.
CNBC spoke with multiple miners for this story. Many explained that the allure of mining comes from being able to tangibly grasp the power of bitcoin.
“If you’ve been to any of these data centers, the first thing you’ll notice is just how vast and how impressive they are. They’re huge,” said explained Thomas Heller, chief business officer for Compass Mining, which works with Sears’ employer, SCATE Ventures.
“There’s so much noise, and there’s so much heat. There’s just so much action going on. It is quite cool to walk into a data center for the first time that’s mining bitcoin, because you can really connect the intangible aspects of bitcoin as a currency, with the physical nature of these machines consuming power and doing these calculations.” A day in the life of a miner
Mining for bitcoin isn’t a glamorous job.
“When we first got here, we were setting up racks, creating the network infrastructure for the internet, and we essentially had to wire everything,” he said.
Once the physical infrastructure was up and running, Sears got into more of a rhythm. He’s now up at 7 A.M. everyday and works from eight to four. He remains on site afterwards, just in case of an emergency, and there is a technician who works night shifts so that Sears can get some sleep.
But beyond the hours, there is no typical work day for Sears.
“That’s the cool thing about this job – I don’t have a set routine that I do everyday,” he said. “Every morning, I find what needs to be fixed.”
Some days, that means Sears repairs walls and other physical infrastructure. “If we have to repair a camera, maybe I’m fixing a cable.”
But the biggest part of the job is monitoring and managing every one of those 4,500 Bitmain and Whatsminer ASICs to ensure they are running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If even one of those machines goes offline, or is only running at partial capacity, the SCATE Ventures mine loses money.