Starting your career in blockchain

If you watched crypto explode onto the world stage in 2017 and 2018, you might have had one of two thoughts. The first is that you should have bought it. The second is that you should become involved. The good news is, there’s plenty of ways to gain a job in the blockchain world.

Blockchain isn’t currency, and it isn’t just about currency. It’s a remarkable new suite of technologies that have the potential to disrupt almost everything. A career in blockchain is exciting, fast-moving, likely well-paid and it could literally change the world. It will give you the opportunity not just to benefit from but to shape the underlying technology and how it’s used. Whatever your skill-set, there’s almost certainly a place for you somewhere. So, how do you get started?

The state of the blockchain recruitment market in 2018

The crypto bubble might have burst in 2018, prompting countless critics to declare it failed, but blockchain is far from dead. In fact, it’s in the bear market that the infrastructure for the next market cycle is built. This is the time when businesses quietly create the tools, software and framework to fulfil all the potential that the more short-sighted are denouncing as broken promises. If you need any evidence of that, then just look to Enterprise. Recruitment for the blockchain sector is alive and thriving.

LinkedIn emerging jobs report
Source: LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s 2018 Emerging Jobs Report offers a wealth of positive information. Demand for blockchain developers in the US is up by a staggering 33x, although the report does warn that it’s too early to know whether the trend will repeat next year (one imagines not quite so strongly). Top skills include Solidity, Blockchain, Ethereum and Node.js, while demand has proven particularly high in San Francisco, New York City and Atlanta. If you’re not a developer or looking for a technical role, fear not, because one of LinkedIn’s key insights is that the largest gaps are in soft skills, and conventional roles within these new companies are growing fast too.

Moreover, flexible working is already on the increase anyway, but the number of unfilled vacancies in key areas is encouraging more blockchain companies to think outside the box and consider remote and freelance workers to plug their skills gaps. Almost half of companies already use freelancers, and most expect their use of contractors to increase.

Companies who hire blockchain specialists

While you might get lucky with a startup or smaller outfit – particularly if you (and they) are looking for freelance opportunities, a number of large and well-known companies lead the blockchain recruitment statistics. Unsurprisingly, major exchanges like Coinbase and Kraken – which are looking to scale after struggling to cope with demand last year and anticipating further increases – are active recruiters. Then there’s the likes of ConsenSys, Joseph Lubin’s blockchain software development company, which (perhaps unsurprisingly) has 214 blockchain-related vacancies according to Glassdoor. IBM, which has over 300,000 employees compared to ConsenSys’s 1,000, has the same number. You’ll also find blockchain development and advisory roles at large consulting and professional services firms like Accenture and KPMG, as well as big tech companies like Oracle. Datamation has helpfully published a list of 20 top blockchain employers, which is worth browsing.

While the technical jobs are swiftly followed by supporting roles as companies expand, what you won’t find is many vacancies for cryptocurrency traders or investment analysts. These companies tend to be ‘blockchain-not-bitcoin’ outfits, interested in leveraging the new tech for a wide range of sectors and applications.

Blockchain jobs in demand

If you’re looking for a technical role, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Glassdoor’s research lists a wide range of specialist tech jobs – but while these are given in the context of blockchain companies and divisions, you won’t always need a deep understanding of blockchain tech to secure one (though it will help).

Blockchain development

  • Software Engineer. The guys who actually write code and build applications. You’ll need to be proficient in a relevant programming language and development methodologies.
  • Front-End Engineer. These create the interface and shape the user experience – the ‘front-facing end’ of the software.
  • Back-End Engineer. The back-end engineer, on the other hand, takes care of the side of the software that remains out of sight, doing the heavy lifting, interfacing with the blockchain, and so on.
  • DevOps. These engineers aren’t just coders: they have an awareness of operations, the big picture of how the software is put together, and will communicate with other key stakeholders.
  • Quality Engineer. These ensure the quality of software by creating testing frameworks, automating performance tests and ensuring the product meets the industry’s required standards.
  • Technology Architect. This role involves project management and articulating the overall structure of the project.

While the big corporations want to get in on the action, you’ll find plenty of vacancies on platforms like UpWork, too, for those looking for contract work or a less formal arrangement.

If you’re not one for corporate life, there are other ways into a blockchain career.

Risk management in blockchain

  • Blockchain Analyst Relations Manager. You will oversee relationships with major industry analysts as part of the company’s overall strategy, communications and marketing efforts.
  • Blockchain Risk Analyst. You’ll seek to understand and mitigate threats to the company from a wide range of quarters.

Again, there are flexible ways to find your perfect blockchain job.

Blockchain product manager

These individuals manage blockchain projects, acting as liaison between developers and clients so that expectations are managed and met, and ensuring that the product is enterprise ready.

Blockchain marketing

Aside from building great tech, every blockchain company needs to get its message out to the public. There are several roles involved in this process:

  • Marketing Manager. Overseeing and co-ordinating the full range of marketing activities, from PR placement with mainstream media to activities on social media.
  • Community Manager. Particularly important for crypto projects, these individuals foster a healthy, welcoming and thriving grassroots community.
  • SMM. Social media marketing roles use popular platforms including Twitter and Facebook to spread brand awareness.

Blockchain web designer, UI/UX designer

Web designers and UI designers will create accessible, intuitive user interfaces to make engaging with a site’s functionality as easy as possible.

Blockchain Strategy Manager

As companies become aware of the opportunities of blockchain technology, strategy managers enable them to articulate their goals and visions, and implement new initiatives within the overall context of the business’s activity and resources.

Other blockchain job options

Many of these roles will be available for entry-level applicants or as internships, where you’ll get a chance to gain experience and work your way up; the lack of qualified professionals means that such a move in a blockchain company is far more likely to lead to better things that your average internship. And aside from these blockchain-specific positions, most companies will have a fairly typical structure and the same kind of vacancies you’d expect anywhere else.

There will also be roles in legal and compliance departments for experts who can help these new companies navigate the complex landscape for token sales and smart contract-based dApps and platforms.

How to build a career in blockchain: skills to land a blockchain job

Naturally, if you want a career at a blockchain company, it helps to know about blockchain. Specialists are still few and far between, so for tech roles, this will help a lot. It’s not always necessary, since some positions won’t require you to engage with blockchain tech directly, but the more you’re aware of it, the better. That goes for support roles too; obviously you won’t be coding applications, but understanding what the company fundamentally does and being on board with it certainly counts for something – and potentially gives you scope to progress to other roles.

If you’re building tech, then whether or not you’ve got your head into the blockchain world, you’ll need to be a fast learner. You’ll also need to be proactive and forward-thinking: the answers won’t always be handed to you on a plate, since you might be figuring a lot out as you go along. Get used to proposing solutions as well as articulating problems. And for those in customer service roles, you’ve got to know at least the basics of how it works, because the paradigm is so radically different to conventional systems.

In short, educate yourself. For tech people there are plenty of specialist resources, and getting into crypto and blockchain code repos is a good place to hone your understanding. Once you’ve learned the ropes, you can actually start contributing to these open source repos – this is a great calling card for getting known within the community and potentially opening further opportunities. For non-tech roles or total beginners, there are lots of websites, books and articles that should give an overview of what it’s all about.

You can also get involved in grassroots communities (many on forums and Discords), comment on white papers and other content, and learn more from those who are actively building and marketing different solutions. Some universities offer blockchain courses, but bear in mind that there’s no substitute for getting your hands dirty and there are plenty of opportunities right now for those prepared to do so.

Salaries for blockchain specialists

Remuneration for specialists within the blockchain sector is significantly above average, as you might expect – these are typically self-starting individuals who have put themselves ahead of the competition by teaching themselves and becoming experts before a formal structure for the industry really exists. They’re typically highly capable and enthusiastic, as well as being prepared to think outside the box.

Glassdoor sets the median salary for blockchain-related job openings at $84,884 per year, some $32,423 or 61.8% over the US median salary of $52,461. AngelList notes that crypto jobs tend to beat salaries in non-blockchain roles by 10-20%, which typically translates to a five-figure difference – before you factor in any of the other common perks like profit-sharing. And Indeed.com suggests that top salaries for the most coveted roles, like Director of Product Management, can exceed $150,000.

If you’re freelancing, especially for a company based in another country, there’s a good chance you’ll be paid in BTC or ETH. What you do with that is up to you – cash it out to fiat as you receive it, or hold some or all of it as crypto. If you know what you’re doing, making smart choices with your crypto can dramatically increase your paycheque in the long term.

Conclusion

There is huge demand for blockchain professionals right now. If you’re a dev with blockchain experience then you have a good shot at one of the many technical jobs going. If not, there are still plenty of opportunities. For all of them, understanding the basics of blockchain and having already got involved with different initiatives is a big help. Big companies are hiring, but you’ll also find lots of vacancies with smaller outfits and grassroots projects who are more prepared to support flexible working. In short, educate yourself, get your hands dirty and give it a shot.

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