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How to get a job as a blockchain developer or engineer

Matthew Finnegan | May 25, 2016
Why demand for distributed ledger expertise is on the rise.

Seamus Cushley, who joined PwC to lead the blockchain team as part of its Bitnet acquisition, says that knowledge of specific blockchain platforms is an advantage - though not essential.

"There is a demand for people with strong technical background, who are curious enough to want to understand this blockchain technology and can demonstrate that they understand at least the principles of bitcoin, possibly running an Eris node, having looked at Ethereum," he explains.

At the same time, the ability to adapt to new technologies in such a fast evolving area of technology is valued highly.

"You can't just say 'I am a highly specialised blockchain guy' because that actually doesn't really mean anything, or say 'I am really good at Eris'," explains Cushley.

"Eris may not be here tomorrow: it may become the underpinnings of the globe or they may not. So it is the ability to change which is important."

Blockchain jobs: Salary expectations

As with any emerging technology, the low supply and growing demand for expertise means that many businesses are willing to pay a premium.

According to Opus' Zeth Couceiro, the rate of pay for blockchain specialists "varies considerably". Startups will typically pay somewhere between £40-60k for someone without experience and then look to give them training. In some instances they may offer equity in the company too.

For large corporates such as banks this can be significantly higher, ranging from £100,000 for a developer with five years experience or more, up to £150,000 in some cases.

"There is definitely a premium," says Zeth. "In order to get your head around the complexities of blockchain you have to be a pretty smart programmer anyway, it is not just like knocking a website together."

From a business perspective, accessing skills can be a significant challenge. Some estimate that - in the UK specifically - there are in the region of 250 developers who truly 'get' blockchain.

Attracting potential employees from this small pool of experts is tough.

Many of those who first got to grips with blockchain in the form of bitcoin's open, permisionless ledger, may have been attracted by the cryptocurrency's libertarian ethos. So switching to building private ledgers for a multinational bank may not be their aim.

Furthermore, considering that blockchain technology remains fairly niche, even getting into contact with the right people can be tough.

"The really good ones start up their own businesses and there are quite a few that will go over to these organisations," he says. "But the obstacle that employers have is that these guys don't widely publish themselves.

Couceiro says that attracting the right talent means attending blockchain meetups and conferences to see who is contributing code to blockchain projects on GitHub.

 

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