Blockchain Job Market: Challenges and Opportunities

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By Jasmine Ye Han

Job recruiters, be ready for a wave of requests to hire blockchain talent in 2018.

The number of job postings on LinkedIn related to blockchain, cryptocurrency, and bitcoin increased at least fourfold in 2017, according to data provided to Bloomberg Law. And sources say the number of such jobs is expected to grow this year too.

Workers with blockchain experience are in short supply because the technology is so new, but MOOC (massive open online course) and certification programs are starting to make up for the dearth of degree programs, sources say. To hire the best blockchain developers, recruiters might have to take new routes and be flexible about job requirements.

“A lot of companies have realized that they need to either adopt, adapt and find a place for themselves in a world that is going to run on the blockchain” or be left on the sidelines, Akshi Federici told Bloomberg Law. Federici leads ConsenSys Academy, the education arm of ConsenSys, a venture production studio building blockchain products.

The job volume shows great promise for growth in 2018, said Katheryn Griffith Hill, lead recruiter of Blockchain Developers, a staffing agency focused on blockchain talent. “People are desperate to get into this field, because it’s the direction the technology is going,” Hill told Bloomberg Law.

Blockchain Job Market

A lot of the growing demand for blockchain talent comes from startups, Hill said. By press time, there were at least 1,520 blockchain startups, according to AngelList.

The job titles of CEO, software engineer, co-founder, chief technology officer, and founder were among the top titles of blockchain professionals in 2017 on LinkedIn, according to a company spokesperson. Hill said the high percentage of blockchain professionals holding higher positions reflects the number of blockchain startups.

Big companies are also hiring blockchain talent, often for in-house setups that function somewhat as startups, Hill said. In 2017, IBM had more than 400 blockchain projects going, employed more than 1,600 employees on them, and had more than 150 blockchain-related job openings in October of that year, according to the company.

The technology software industry and the financial services industry are the two largest sectors posting blockchain jobs on LinkedIn. Technology hardware and professional services industries have also seen sharp increases. “Blockchain impacts every industry in the world. In the future, nearly every application, interface, online provision will work on the blockchain, whether people know that’s happening or not,” Federici said.

New business models created by blockchain are also driving a new category of skills that are now in demand, Federici said. For example, there’s a need for skills in designing a token and checking the security of smart contracts, she said. Smart contracts are codified contracts that include provisions to execute themselves when predefined conditions are met.

Gap in Skills, Education

Consensys Academy was created because of a gap in blockchain education, Federici said. There aren’t many traditional four-year degree programs on the subject, because it’s an evolving technology with a short history, Federici said. By the time a degree program is created, the knowledge and applications will have changed extensively. There are also fewer resources and tools available because the blockchain ecosystem is so young.

In addition, it’s hard to offer holistic courses, Federici said. Blockchain is fundamentally an interdisciplinary field and it doesn’t fall cleanly into buckets of computer science, law, or business. Putting real life business processes into codes requires understanding of business, laws, and beyond, “hence it is something that can’t be learned in a silo,” she said. It’s also a field best learned by doing, she said.

Consensys Academy, CryptoCurrency Certification Consortium, B9 Labs, and Byte Academy all offer blockchain certification programs. Academic institutions such as Stanford University, Princeton University, and various MOOC platforms are also offering courses on blockchain and cryptocurrency. The University of Nicosia in Nicosia, Cyprus, offers a Master of Science degree in Digital Currency, available worldwide through an online format.

Find the Unicorns

Although team members usually have a mix of experience levels, some positions do require experience working with blockchain frameworks, or even the ability to build a blockchain from scratch, Hill said.

Experienced blockchain developers are harder to come by, so hiring managers have to be flexible, Hill said. The developers are often already busy with a project and it can be hard to pull them away, she said.

But she offered a few tricks. Go to them instead of having them come to you, Hill suggested. Find their work and reach out to them on GitHub, Stackoverflow, or Reddit; it’s also worth visiting blockchain meetups, developer conferences, and blockchain-specific platforms such as Coind, Ethlance, Bitcointalk. “They love talking about blockchain because they’re passionate about it, and they are excited that people are understanding the need for this technology,” she said.

Also be prepared to have them working remotely, Hill said, because they’re usually further along in their careers and settled in where they live. They’re also usually very busy working on other projects and often contributing to the open source community outside of their jobs.

To lure the best blockchain developers, it’s also important to understand them, show them the potential impact of their work, Blockchain Developers suggests, because they’re in it for changing the world.

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