Will Talent Scarcity Stop Companies From Seizing Blockchain’s Potential?

The accelerating development of blockchain technology has companies scrambling to find talent with pertinent skills and expertise. The high demand is driving up salaries and forcing organizations to be creative in attracting and cultivating blockchain talent.

"Without a doubt there is a shortfall of talented people qualified enough to call themselves blockchain professionals, making it extremely difficult for companies to find enough people to fill the jobs they have. This extends right across the board from software developers to analysts to marketing professionals," said Gaurang Torvekar, co-founder and CEO of Indorse, a decentralized professional networking platform.

Among the many people trying to get into the industry, some are talented, but others lack the skills and qualifications to provide real value to the organizations looking to hire them, Torvekar told Bloomberg Law.

Blockchain is a digital ledger originally created for cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, but its use is spreading into other areas, such as supply chain and even employee compensation.

Rapidly Expanding Demand

The demand for blockchain-related skills has grown 6,000 percent in the past year, according to the Q1 2018 skills index from Upwork, a global freelancing website.

Because demand outstrips supply, typical recruiting sources such as LinkedIn probably won’t be effective, said Henry R. Steele, editor in chief of BusinessStudent.com. He suggested going where blockchain developers hang out online. "One of the good places is BountyOne," Steele told Bloomberg Law.

The best blockchain careers for the future, according to BusinessStudent.com, are blockchain developer, blockchain engineer, blockchain legal consultant or attorney, blockchain project manager, and blockchain designer.

To attract the talent they seek, companies will need to pay them well and offer a flexible work schedule and great benefits, Steele said.

For successful recruiting, companies "need to offer continuing education, send employees to industry conferences in nice settings, and allow more freedom and autonomy in their job. Some blockchain engineers command $250,000 salaries, which is double what software developers typically make," he said.

The average amounts earned by blockchain professionals vary by job area and type of company, according to a report from HowToToken that sourced data from Indeed.com and AngelList. For example, annual pay averages $110,000 for a blockchain professional working in software development at a legacy firm, versus $85,000 at a startup.

Addressing Skills Shortage

Many developers getting into the field lack the qualifications to be efficient in the blockchain environment, and a lack of expertise can stifle blockchain projects and put them at risk of failing, said Nikola Stojanow, chief business development officer for Æternity.

"There are simply not enough qualified people to match the growing demand for blockchain developers," he told Bloomberg Law. Stojanow is also the CEO of Æternity Ventures, which launched Starfleet Incubator in May to support blockchain education and projects.

Demand isn’t limited to blockchain developers. Growth in this industry also extends to marketing, design, and operations, said Andries Bellemans, HR manager at Lightcurve, a blockchain consultancy.

Despite the demand, it’s unlikely that educational institutions will develop full-fledged blockchain curricula, according to Jacob Kowalewski of Lisk Academy, an online educational platform on blockchain technology that has ties with Lightcurve.

"However, as the need for blockchain developers increases, the onus will be on grassroots blockchain organizations to initiate and execute educational initiatives to ensure the industry continues to grow," Kowalewski told Bloomberg Law.

Blockchain Boot Camps

According to Stojanow, a number of boot camps have popped up, offering the promise of rapid education and training for people who want to enter the blockchain field. But some of them have certain issues, such as instructors who are not equipped with the right knowledge, he said.

In addition, people that apply to these boot camps come from a range of backgrounds, have different knowledge levels and skill sets, and "it’s almost impossible to attend to each person and their needs," Stojanow said.

"As a result, people pay a lot of money and are left without the needed expertise to further pursue a career in blockchain," he said. And if the people coming out of the boot camps secure blockchain jobs but lack the required skills and knowledge, they are either kicked out quickly or end up doing more harm than good by writing bad code.

Internships That Cultivate Talent

Another option is to offer internships, which a number of major companies are doing in order to cultivate blockchain talent, according to Steele.

Internships may be paid positions, allowing people to learn and earn at the same time, according to BusinessStudent.com. For example, a blockchain programmer or developer intern typically earns between $15 and $30 an hour.

"There are other listings for interns in blockchain and the related coding languages online now. It seems to be understood in the industry to a degree that this is a new field and companies large and small do need to invest in junior/entry level developers," Steele said.

People going into the field should have basic skills, such as programming languages C++ and Python, the math and cryptography behind Bitcoin, Steele said.

Creative approaches are necessary because the need for blockchain talent is unlikely to abate any time soon. Among companies responding to a survey from SAP, 92 percent said they view blockchain as an opportunity in a number of areas, such as supply chain, sustainability, and cryptocurrency, which means more blockchain talent will be required.

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